Automatic dependent surveillance—broadcast (ADS–B) is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked.
It’s really easy and fun to see what planes are flying near you with a software-defined-radio dongle and dump1090.
After installing dump1090, you can see nearby aircraft information like the flight number, altitude, lat/lon, and speed. Here’s what I saw one afternoon near Memphis, TN:
./dump1090 --net --interactive
After just a few seconds on starting dump1090, planes start to appear. To view this information on a map, launch a browser and go to localhost port 8080.
It even provides links to FlightAware, so you can see even more information about a particular flight.
I have a commercial FCC license (general radio operators license) as a requirement for my current position. I also have a general class amateur radio license, KD5UUU, but I’ve never had any equipment. That is, until I bought a $20 rtl-sdr radio dongle.
It’s pretty amazing what you can do with it. Recently, I’ve been capturing and decoding automatic packet reporting system APRS packets. AX.25 frames are broadcast on 144.39MHz that generally are used to track vehicles by sending their gps coordinates.
There are several high-quality graphical SDR applications out there, my favorite being CubicSDR.
CubicSDR allows for recording live traffic. I set it up to record a wav in mono at 44.1KHz, and to only record if a signal is breaking the squelch threshold that I set.
Here is a recording of the packets I captured. Pretty slow day. Recording for around 10 minutes only captured 8 discernible frames. I received transmissions from Jackson, TN all the way to Harding University in Searcy, AR (I was located in Wynne, AR).
So what’s in there? You need to install direwolf to see. Once you have that installed, go to the directory where the audio is saved and use atest.
Here are the decoded frames from the recording above.
You can see that most frames contain gps info. APRS can also be used for short text messages. Frame #8 contains one such example ‘Wht RAM 4X4 pickup’.
You can see live and historical APRS traffic at arps.fi on a map. It’s pretty cool to see amateur operators travel across the screen.