If you’ve ever looked up at a plane and wondered where it’s headed, this simple project is for you. Thanks to cheap, miniaturized electronics, you can now build a receiver that connects to your smartphone and shows details about all the aircraft in the sky around you. It takes less than an hour and costs about $115.
The device receives and decodes ADS-B, a data broadcast from aircraft that transmits a callsign, location, altitude, speed and a few other bits of information. If you live near an airport or under a flight path, there’s a good chance you can receive these transmissions easily.
A commercial ADS-B receiver can cost $1,000, but the Stratux project receiver we’re building uses a Raspberry Pi 3, the low-cost mini computer that’s become the basis for hundreds of electronics projects.
ADS-B transmits on two frequencies, 978MHz and 1090MHz, so we’ll need two radios. We can repurpose a couple of digital TV dongles as wideband software defined radios to pick up the broadcasts. A couple of antennas finishes off the radio portion. The Stratux page has the shopping list.
Decoding software can be downloaded from the project website and installed onto a MicroSD card, which is inserted into the Raspberry Pi.
And that’s about it. It really is plug-and-play construction. The parts cost a total of $115. A GPS dongle is optional and only needed if your phone or tablet doesn’t have built-in GPS.
The Raspberry Pi connects to your phone or tablet over WiFi and there are several pieces of software that will make sense of the signals and show planes on a map. In our tests, we used FltPlan, which was free through Apple’s App Store. We downloaded detailed maps for our area through the app.
Each Friday is PiDay here at Adafruit! Be sure to check out our posts, tutorials and new Raspberry Pi related products. Adafruit has the largest and best selection of Raspberry Pi accessories and all the code & tutorials to get you up and running in no time!
Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here: adafruit.com/editorialstandards
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.