Tag: virtual radar

Aircraft Virtual Radar

In previous articles I have discussed receiving aircraft position data Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS–B).
You can read about 1090 MHz antenna and ADS reception here.

As the HF bands have been so poor recently I decided to try out Virtual Radar, and open source program that can visualise aircraft locations on a Google style map. The program can be used with a number of receivers including RTL SDR, but I opted to press into service the rather old Kinetics SBS1. The SBS1 is a dedicated 1090 MHz receiver, USB powered so no external supply required.


You can often pick these up second hand for around £100 on eBay and the receiver sensitivity seems very good. The program is free to download from their website and simple to setup, I used it with Windows 10 and it was simple to setup, running in a few minutes.

I configured the program to take its location data from Kinetic SBS-1 Base station program. This does provide some basic location and trail information, but to fully appreciate the data it really needs presenting in Google maps.

Coupled with a 5/8 wave antenna in a poor UHF urban environment I was able to achieve reception ranges of 150 miles. This could be further improved with a Low Noise Amplifier (LNA), band pass filtering and better positioning of the antenna. Virtual Radar can be configured to provide local and internet access to your aircraft data, letting people from around the worlds access your data. Virtual Radar also has the option to aggregate flight data to build up a picture of your reception radius. The data can be presented based on the altitude of the aircraft.VR_Range_HQ

This option can be a little hard to locate in the software. You need to ensure you have a receiver location defined menu Tools/Options/receiver location and then you must have that location selected under Receivers, look for the box “Location”  and then select the name you gave your receiver from the previous steps.

Once this is complete a new option will be available from the aircraft browser map, click on Menu, and look for receiver range. If you don’t have this menu option, then one of the previous steps may be incorrect. You also can’t access receiver range by default from a remote connection, this has to be enabled. You will find some further guidance on the virtual radar forum.

Virtual radar will if connected to the internet display other details about selected flights, routing information and pictures of the aircraft type.

Virtual Radar Server is an open-source .NET application that runs a local web server, and full credit goes to the development team.

virtual radar map










ADS-B Reception using 5/8 wave 1090 MHz aerial.

I recently purchased a 5/8 wave antenna for 1090 ADS-B Reception from eBay. At the time the antenna are being sold by stranislavpalo130 in 2 versions from a 30cm 5/8 wave to 60cm 2x 5/8. The are priced between 20 to 25 pounds and are really well constructed.

1090 5-8 waveThe 30 cm 5/8 wave version is shown here, and comes complete with waterproof raydome and radials. The mounting bracket will take a standard small pole, although the antenna is so light its never going to present much of a load. I mounted mine for this test on a 12 m spiderbeam roach pole, and if its not too windy it can easily be mounted near the top.

I this time configured virtual radar to work with the Kinetic SBS-1. You can download the manual for the SBS-1 or visit their website for more information on their product range. If you havent see or used virtual radar I would suggest you review the setup information described earlier.

I compared the 5/8 wave with my home brew co-linear and the 5/8 wave won ! To be fair the co-linear I built was never vswr tested or even checked for a 50 OHM match as I have nothing that operated on that frequency. The home brew antenna worked out to a range of around 60 to 80 miles, the 5/8 is 80 to 100. The number of aircraft tracked (I know this varies by time / day) seemed to increased from 80 to over 100. The indications are the 5/8 wave represents an increase in range and number of aircraft received at anyone time.

Virtual Radar Screen

virtual radar map

Kinetic Base Station Radar

kinetic base station radar



1090 MHz ADS-B Aircraft Radar Reception

ADS-B Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast. The system broadcasts on 1090 MHz and with a suitable antenna and receiver the position of each aircraft within range can be downloaded and displayed on a map. Broadcast data may include.

  • Flight Identification (flight number callsign or call sign)
  • ICAO 24-bit Aircraft Address (globally unique airframe code)
  • Position (latitude/longitude)
  • Position integrity/accuracy (GPS horizontal protection limit)
  • Barometric and Geometric Altitudes
  • Vertical Rate (rate of climb/descent)
  • Track Angle and Ground Speed (velocity)
  • Emergency indication (when emergency code selected)
  • Special position identification (when IDENT selected)

ADS-B dedicated receivers typically cost £100 to £600 pounds, although recently low cost TV style SDR dongles have been used to good effect. The 820T2 dongle seems to be most sensitive on 1090 MHz and these can be purchased on ebay or ham goodies for around 7 to 15 pounds.

You can build a coax based co-linear antenna by following my homebrew guide.


Its best not to install any of the standard windows drivers, just plug in and follow the instructions below. I have only tested these on Windows 7 and Windows 10 but both worked without any fuss. Be sure to check the version of software / driver you select is compatible with your operating system.

An excellent quick start guide is available here.


The basic process is to configure the dongle via Zadig and install the correct drivers, once thats working install RTL 1090 and then virtual radar.


You can download the software needed Zadig,   RTL 1090 and Virtual Radar. Reception will depend on a number of factors, but having the antenna correctly built and mounted high above local obstructions while keeping the coax run as short as possible.

Virtual Radar will provide the visualizations of the aircraft locations, and best of all the software is free.  You may find the following supporting documentation helpful. Guide to setting up RTL1090 and virtual radar.

You can see an example of how Virtual Radar will look once its tracking aircraft location here.


Hopefully the following articles and links provide you with a basis to experiment, building the antenna and then putting it to good use receiving ADS-B signals.

I have included a couple of youtube videos on antenna construction and signal reception. Please leave me any comments, would be interested to see how others get on.


Virtual radar usage with Kinetics SBS-1

Using RTL Dongle 1090 and Virtual Radar