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Author Topic: Your own aircraft Radar System for less than $20.00 and improved antenna.  (Read 60746 times)
av8tor172
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« on: February 20, 2014, 10:28:55 AM »

In October 2013 I wrote an article on how You Can Build Your Own Aircraft Radar System for $20.00, see:
http://milaircomms.com/adsb_dongle_aircraft_radar.html

I just added an article on how you can double your reciption range of the original system with a better antenna.
It took me about an hour to build, test and install with a total cost of $7.00. You can view the article including
pictures here:
http://milaircomms.com/adsb_antenna.html

Enjoy,
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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av8tor172
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« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2014, 08:01:35 PM »

I Got My SDR Dongle and Raspberry Pi computer to successfully see Mode-S data on1090 MHz

I recently got a Raspberry Pi Computer, about the size of a credit-card and runs Linux.  I wanted to make use of it somehow in the scanner/aircraft monitoring hobby.

Today I had success in connecting a cheap $20.00 TV Dongle and a Wireless Wifi adapter to the USB ports of the Raspberry Pi Computer and am now able to log into this little self-contained unit from any wifi device and see decoded Mode-S data!  Ok, yes I'm a total geek here! What's cool is this is almost like a self-contained aircraft radar system no larger than a TV Remote Control!

I wrote up an article complete with pictures which you can find here:
http://milaircomms.com/adsb_dongle_raspberry_pi.html

I hope to hear from others who might try this project or come up with other ideas for using the Pi computer in the scanning hobby.

Enjoy
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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RonR
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« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2014, 07:31:20 AM »

My TV dongle is a n the way to me...I'll let u know how it goes! I cant wait to see what I can see from long island Smiley

Ron

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« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2014, 10:13:51 AM »

If you view the original article http://milaircomms.com/adsb_dongle_aircraft_radar.html and scroll to the bottom you'll see what NYC area looks like.   Shortly after I wrote the article one of my readers put together the system and was on a business trip to New York City.

With the little antenna that comes with the Dongle he captured what you see the picture on my website is what he was looking at in his motel room......you should have a ton of fun....

George
www.MilAirComms.com
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RonR
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« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2014, 01:20:05 PM »

Hey George, got my dongle today and plugged it in right away.  My first shot at this revealed this picture using the little 6" antenna!  Great stuff!

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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2014, 08:27:45 PM »

Super, glad to hear it. 

I had some success today as well.  I hooked that cheap TV dongle up to a Raspberry Pi computer and using the Raspberry's WiFi connection am able to stream audio to the internet!  I have it up and running now, you can see pictures and click on the live link to hear it. The only wire connected to the system is the power cord!  Still have work to do, but pretty good for 1st try.  Just as a test its broadcasting NOAA weather radio just so people can get an idea it really works.  I wrote a howto article with pictures here:
http://milaircomms.com/raspberry_pi_dongle_streaming.html

Keep playing, these cheap radios and computers are fun
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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RonR
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« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2014, 12:02:33 PM »

Hi again George,

Finally had a moment to download and get adsbScope to work!  I find myself sitting and staring at the "scope" watching everything that is happening around here.  It's hard to take my eyes off of it!  I've attached a screenshot from about a half hour ago.  Not bad using the little 6" antenna.  This antenna is currently sitting on a south facing window sill.  Can't wait to see what happens when I use a better antenna.  I'll let you know how that goes when I get to it!  Thanks for making all this information available!
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« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2014, 01:23:24 PM »

Cool, looks like you're having fun!  Did you see my article on building a better ADSB Mode-S antenna? If not here it is:
http://milaircomms.com/adsb_antenna.html

The antenna was easy to build and cheap.  In fact if you have an RG-6 TV Cable jumper laying around the house you're not using, that is all you need to build the antenna.

When I originally got the system working with the 6" antenna, I then was running it for months with a normal scanner antenna in the attic, that was a big improvement.  Then I bought the Mode-S antenna.  Wow, another major improvement.

I see you're still using ADSBScope for your display.  After I wrote the original article you read, I then started using Virtual Radar (http://www.virtualradarserver.co.uk/). I like VR much better as it logs all the Mode-S data to a database you can look at later.  It also allows you to run a report on just Military Mode-S hits.  Every morning when I get up I always 1)Check my Bank Accounts, and 2)See how many Military Mode-s hits for past day, I have my priorities LOL.

Have fun
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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av8tor172
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« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2014, 02:50:13 PM »

I Was just looking at my Mode-S ADS-B map and saw something I've never seen before.

Ok I've seen some funny looking holding patterns, but I've never seen someone doing s-turns while enroute at 9500'.

Here's a screen capture of my display:
http://milaircomms.com/images/drunkpilot.jpg and I've attached the picture to this message.

Drunk? You be the judge.
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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RonR
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« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2014, 07:18:01 AM »

Hey George,

Got a question: have a look at the attached picture.  There are a lot of entries that seem to be meaningless, namely all those that start with "C".  Any idea what that's all about?  It's clear they're not real transponder signals, at least as far as I can tell.  A few minutes later, all that disappears.  Is it possible I'm receiving sporadic transponder signals from aircraft on the ground at JFK (25 miles away)?  ADSBScope lists registration numbers for some of these signals and flightaware tells me they are aircraft taxing on the ground at JFK.  That just doesn't seem likely...Thanks  smiley

Ron
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« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2014, 08:31:37 AM »

Wow, I've never seen that on my RTL1090 display.

One think you need to remember is that if you're looking at FlightAware, they data is delayed 5 minutes.  FlightAware says they're on the ground at JFK however in real-time (as your RTL1090 will display) they could already be in the air.

If you figure out the C code let us know.  I'll do the same if I see it while searching the net.

Thanks
George
www.MilAirComms.com
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RonR
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« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2014, 10:05:22 AM »

I forgot to mention that some of those ground signals include lat/long coordinates and actually show up on adsbscope. Can that be a false signal? Doesn't sound like it to me. And the fact that the aircraft registration numbers next to these weird signals represent an actual flight, I believe they are real signals from aircraft on the ground. The question is, why is it so interrmitent? One moment it's there, the next it's gone. I might have the answer: could these ground transponder signals be reflecting off of airborne aircraft passing close by? That would explain why it's there one second and gone the next...adsb scope even says they're on the ground so what else could it be? What do you think?
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« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2014, 10:47:36 AM »

And here's a screenshot of adsbscope showing a JetBlue flight (N794JB) that was on the ground at JFK (JBU2) - it had just landed.  A minute later this signal was gone.  Fascinating, isn't it?  grin

Ron
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« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2014, 04:05:29 PM »

This really sound like a neat project. I must go and read your articles.
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Marty
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av8tor172
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« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2014, 06:24:05 PM »

Ground reflections are possible. I know a ham in a condo, he gets on 1296 MHz SSB but to work stations south of him he goes out on this balcony and aims his yagi at a water tower to the north to reflect signal back south.  It works....

George
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« Reply #15 on: March 02, 2014, 01:36:43 PM »

George,

I read your articles and really appreciate the time you took to provide these.  I think I am going to give this a try.

I have a question and maybe this is another article.  How would one take the received ads-b data and send it to a host site, such as Host Monster, HostGator, etc?  I can write a php script to recieve the data and insert it into a hosted database, but what is needed to take the gathered data and then call the host site's php script?  I guess it would be different if one would be gathering the data on a PC or a Raspberry Pi.

Thanks!
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Marty
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av8tor172
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« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2014, 03:16:51 PM »

DUMP1090 (the adsb program that runs on the Raspberry Pi) is written in C.  So as a quick and dirty setup I would just go into the DUMP1090 "c" code and every time it received a new mode-s message have the c code send this to a website/php as a long URL.

Have a webpage on your gator host (or who ever you use, I use Hostway, been there for 13 years and love them). Call the PHP something like process_mode_s.php.  Now modify DUMP1090 to then access the website http://www.yourdomain.com/process_mode_s.php?hexcode=AEFF09&altitude=36000&lat=29.32&long=80.23

Then process_mode_s.php can take the variables just to it and store them in an SQL database to be displayed on your website.....quick and dirty but might work.

I never tired to pipe any text from DUMP1090 to a file, might look into that too. Kinda just thinking out loud and brainstorming. Tell me more of what you would like to do with the data....sounds interesting as I do a ton of PHP and SQL stuff with my website.  Heck, most of the .html files are actually generated by PHP code...

George
www.MilAirComms.com
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Flyingnut
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« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2014, 04:36:39 PM »

George,

Thank you for the Dump1090 suggestion for sending the data to a host site.  My use would be to use the data on a google map.

I have done this for a flight sim organization and thought I could try it with real ads-b data.  The flight sim scenario uses FS2004/FSX and FS Flight Keeper to send a user's flight data to the website. The data is received via a php script that stores it in a MySQL database.  Other scripts pull the realtime flight sim data and plot it on a google map.  Really no different than what Plane Finder or FlightRadar does.

Thanks!
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Marty
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« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2014, 06:34:12 PM »

Hey George,

Here's a question for you: if you start SDS# and then adjust the RF Gain within that program through the Configure button, is that setting saved when you close it out and start up RTL1090?  In other words do you happen to know if RTL1090 uses that gain setting?

Ron
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« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2014, 06:53:52 PM »

Here are some screen shots from adsbscope since increasing the gain...seems to be much more on the screen than before and they seem to be further away too!...woo hoo!  And this is still with the little 6" antenna!
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« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2014, 10:22:44 PM »

So at the moment my little 6" antenna is sitting on a south facing window sill.  Just for kicks and giggles I came up with the idea of taking a sheet of aluminum foil, curving it around the little antenna at about 6" away from the antenna and taping it to the window.  The foil is acting as a reflector.  This seems to have enhanced the range such that I can see planes to the south on the "scope" at a distance of more than 100 NM.  Nice!

Update: I watched two JetBlue flights go southbound.  One at FL380 went out of range at 128 NM and the other at FL360 went out of range at 143 NM.  And a northbound USAirways flight came on the "scope" at 137 NM.  Amazing.
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« Reply #21 on: March 03, 2014, 07:44:51 AM »

Hey George,

Here's a question for you: if you start SDS# and then adjust the RF Gain within that program through the Configure button, is that setting saved when you close it out and start up RTL1090?  In other words do you happen to know if RTL1090 uses that gain setting?

Ron

I don't think so, the rf gain is not stored in the dongle. Its stored and remembered by SDRSharp.  When you start dump1090 I believe it uses some default gain value based on what the make and model of dongle can support.  I'm sure there is an option when you start dump1090 to change the gain.  You can try typing "dump1090 --help" for a list of options and how to set them.

George
www.MilAirComms.com
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« Reply #22 on: March 03, 2014, 07:51:57 AM »

So at the moment my little 6" antenna is sitting on a south facing window sill.  Just for kicks and giggles I came up with the idea of taking a sheet of aluminum foil, curving it around the little antenna at about 6" away from the antenna and taping it to the window.  The foil is acting as a reflector.  This seems to have enhanced the range such that I can see planes to the south on the "scope" at a distance of more than 100 NM.  Nice!

Update: I watched two JetBlue flights go southbound.  One at FL380 went out of range at 128 NM and the other at FL360 went out of range at 143 NM.  And a northbound USAirways flight came on the "scope" at 137 NM.  Amazing.

Here's a thought for you.  Find a UHF TV antenna, possibly one with the mesh parabolic reflector on the back, mount that on a mast and turn the mast with some low speed motor. Since the signal on the various ADSB software will still display a plane 5 minutes after signal drop the fact your antenna is turning lets say 1 RPM you shouldn't have dropouts when the antenna is in other directions during its rotation. Oh, did I just describe the transponder interrogator antenna for a poor mans apartment LOL....it might work to get good signals from all directions.

George
www.MilAirComms.com
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« Reply #23 on: March 03, 2014, 10:26:14 AM »

Well, I just watched a JetBlue flight go southbound out of JFK.  He dropped off the "scope" at 169 NM.  Wow.  You can see it in the attached pic.  The second pic is of my homemade reflector  smiley

I actually have a long-range UHF TV antenna mounted on the roof on a rotor Smiley  I will definitely have to give that a try!  I'm just waiting for my antenna adapter to get here.  Thanks for that idea.
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« Reply #24 on: March 03, 2014, 04:48:20 PM »

If it were me (and it might be in due time), following George's suggestion for slow rotation I would see if I could find an old Raytheon Pathfinder 2500 or 2600 marine radar scan head like I used to have on my boat, or the Furuno equivalent from the early 80's. The scan head has plenty of real estate in it once you remove the magnetron and related electronics, and the drive motor could be replaced with something much slower or driven at lower voltage (they had 12 & 24vdc models). The rotating antenna is fed via central waveguide, meaning it simply rotates around the fixed waveguide, and you could just put your dongle below and let the motor spin the head around above it. I seem to recall they were s-band rigs (2-4 gHz) but I think the gain and directivity of the array would probably more than offset any wavelength dependent characteristics. Mine was a 2600, which had 50mi range, primarily a function of transmit power, but as a receiver it should easily get those ADS signals out to the radio horizon. Could probably get one of them out of a dumpster at a marina or from some old codger who repairs antique marine electronics for free. If neighbors ask about that thing rotating on the top of your house, just tell them you might need to move at night. Of course you could always do the same thing with a domed unit because they probably have a similar internal setup. The great thing is that it's already weatherproof and could contain everything you need including the PI.

Just another odd-ball project idea served up for you from a certifiable oddball.
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