Oh shit, there's a horse in the hospital

Getting started with ADS-B

Starting out with gr-air-modes, I quickly saw planes moving about on a map and read this message from my living room:

    (-43 0.00000000) Type 21 TCAS report from a35be8:
        threat ID: 118faf1 advised:  DON'T DESCEND DON'T
        >500FPM TURN LEFT complement:  (multiple threats)
        (resolved) ident a94

(-34 0.00000000) Type 17 BDS0,8 (ident) from aa1add type LIGHT ident N750JM  
(-33 0.00000000) Type 17 BDS0,9-1 (track report) from aa1add with velocity 165kt heading 107 VS -768
I was hooked! I decided to make an antenna, and then another, then the Pi, and further schemes to see what kind of range I'm getting with this.

After a night of collecting flight data, I decided I should relieve my laptop from ADS-B duty and got a Raspberry Pi B+ to take over. After a short period of being impressed with how nice the little pi works, reading and ignoring various lines from this guide, satsignal pi-1090, I was in business.


I'm using Mutability's fork of MalcomRobb's fork of dump1090 which has a lot of nice improvements over the original Antirez source. Fire it up and check out the built in webserver on port 8080 of the host. raspiradar has a nice example of the crowded European skies! Apart from the webserver, dump1090 can post data in a variety of formats, some of which can be sent to ADS-B aggregators.

Airframe databases

While you get a nice amount of information with ADS-B, you don't get specific information about the plane or flights which you can find from other trackers. airframes.org has a very nice searchable collection but also a very kind no bots message. Respecting this, I found that Paul Little has a nice sqlite3 database of airframes and corresponding ICAO codes hosted at the Manchester TMA Overflights group.

The FAA aircraft registry is also a good source to find out more about aircraft in the US.

Here is a quick command line statement to fetch some information about ICAO code A7367F: > te3 -csv basestation_latest/basestation.sqb "select modes, Registration, ICAOTypeCode, Operatorflagcode from aircraft where ModeS = 'A7367F';"


I need to compare the open source 1090 options to see which one reliably gets the best reception.

dump1090 works very well and has a built in httpd and can export to various formats easily.

gr-air-modes seems less stable but shows more messages. modes_gui is a nice starter program.


Most aircraft identification names are the flight number, others are less descriptive. Is this Mike Judge's personal plane?
  Altitude       : 2950 feet
  ICAO Address   : a7367f
  Comm-B BDS     : 20
    BDS 2,0 Aircraft Identification : BUTTAIR
An unofficial database look at the ICAO address shows it's a Jetstream 4101 (JS41) with tail number N564HK. It's also owned by the leasing operator Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA Trustee. 2 days later this plane was Identifying as "BUTTFACE".