If you’re looking for an application to receive ADS-B signals in AVR format using your RTL-SDR while running Windows, be sure to head over to SDRSharp.com and check out ADSB#. It can be quite a bit of fun to track the Aircraft that may be flying over your home or office at this very moment. Aircraft from all over the world are equipt to emit signals in this mode. ADSB# should be compatible with the majority of plane plotting software (ex. PlanePlotter, Virtual Radar Server, adsbSCOPE, etc…).
“ADS-B, an acronym for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast is a technology that allows tracking aircrafts using high speed radio transmissions. I have never had much interest in this technology until recently. While I was fiddling with this mode with Ian, we discovered a very simple way of demodulating this digital mode using the cheap DVB-T/FM (rtlsdr) dongles. This diagram explains how it works:”
“The final application, ADSB# (read ADSB-Sharp) is released under the MIT license and looks a bit like this:”
Over on the RTL-SDR Facebook Page, Boris Lukac has shared a link to an Instructable by tigers58 for a omnidirectional fractal HDTV antenna. The simple build covers 50-1100MHz making it perfect for general use with a RTL-SDR and for grabbing some extra HDTV channels when not hooked up to your dongle. The supplies needed to build the antenna may already be laying around your home or workbench:
A piece of poster board or suitble material
Printer with paper to print out the pattern PDF
Thumb-tack (or other sharp pointy tool)
10.5 ft of 22-24 AWG copper/aluminum wire
Crimp connector and tool to crimp with
A length of 300 Ohm Twin Lead, or, an in-line 300 Ohm to 75 Ohm matching transformer (tigers58 also states he has had success with just directly connecting RG-6 coax to the antenna leads)
Other tools such as a screwdriver for attaching the antenna leads to the matching transformer and craft knife or other small sharp blade for cutting slots into poster board.
“After reading an article about the use of fractal mathematics in the design of cell phone antennas that have incredible bandwidth in spite of their extremely small size, I began to experiment with using a very simple fractal pattern, the Koch Snowflake, as the basis for an easy to build indoor HDTV antenna. The result of that experimentation is presented here as what I believe to be not only the best DIY HDTV antenna, but the also the simplest to build, not only in terms of the materials needed, but also in the labor required. As the holder of an Extra Class amateur radio license, I know there is no such thing as a “magic” antenna, but I started referring to this antenna as the magic antenna when I discovered that it had such amazing bandwidth, covering digital channels 2 through 60. So, with that in mind, let’s get started.” — tigers58
With many people already having these items on hand, this could be a quick cheap project to help increase the signals you are able to pick up with your RTL-SDR Dongle. Be sure to check out the Instructable page for all the steps needed to build this antenna. Keep in mind, with a wideband antenna like this, it may introduce more noise. Depending where you live and what is around your antenna, your results may very. Keeping the antenna flat may also allow for more directionality while reducing noise from sources out of the direction you wish to receive.
lui_gough from Gough’s Tech Zone has a new post featuring his interest and progress in improving the reach of his ADS-B reception and plotting ability. His recent project involves using his ADSBpi (Raspberry Pi, RTL-SDR & dump1090), his home PC and another remote PC controlled over the internet. A diagram of this setup can be seen below.
In order to get the most coverage as I can sensibly get, I leveraged my ADSBpi, my main desktop and another machine I have access to which is geographically much closer to the airport via VPN. — lui_gough
This allows him to receive signals from a much larger area than would be possible with a single antenna, single location setup. He does mention a few caveats however, like the increased chance of occasional false decode which can mess with the plotting by visualizing a plane that is unrealistically far away. A big boost to the usability of his project was using Cygwin to compile dump1090 under windows. This allows him to use the dump1090 ADS-B hub features (decoding appears broken under Cygwin compilation) without having to dedicate a machine to linux or use a virtual machine.
Click here to read the full story on his blog. Be sure to check out all of Gough’s Tech Zone as he has few other interesting posts involving the use of RTL-SDRs to receive ADS-B
User Superphish over on YouTube has posted a video of a discovery made over on Reddit by Anonofish involving tuning your RTL-SDR to a high frequency below the range normally accessible by the dongles tuner. It does appear this is for dongles with the E4000 tuner.
“By using a E4000 RTL-SDR and tuning to 3686.6 MHz and above, you can receive a small part of the AM band without the need for an upconverter or direct sampling mod.” – Superphish
Over on YouTube, user radiosification has posted a video showing how to go about setting up the SDR#Scanner plugin. This is a great way to get your RTL-SDR to function as a radio scanner so you don’t have to manually tune the bands. It assumes you already have your RTL-SDR installed and configured to work with SDR# but walks you through the rest of the process of installing and using the plugin. The download page for the plugin is in Russian but the video shows how to translate the page and find the download link. If you’ve used this plugin before, leave a comment and let us know any tips or troubles you may of had.
Radiosification has also posted another video showing the SDRSharp scanner plugin being used to scan the airband which is located between 108mhz to 137mhz.
NeedSec just posted on YouTube a video illustrating how to use a RTL-SDR to decode Flex 1600 pager traffic using PDW, VB-Cable and SDR#. It is always surprising there is still pager traffic as when is the last time you can remember seeing someone with a pager in public. We’ve shared videos showing this sort of thing before, but NeedSec gives a great overview of what you need to do to accomplish successful decoding of Flex-1600.
aunumero73 Over on YouTube has posted a video illustrating the difference in FM Selectivity on the FunCube Dongle Pro+ and a R820T tuner based RTL-SDR. The FunCube Dongle has an expected performance advantage over the RTL-SDR but one must consider the price difference ($190 vs ~$20) between these two devices.
If you’re looking for a dongle to use as an RTL-SDR, check our page on where to buy rtlsdr tuners.