I recently had the need to track the arrival of a flight into the airport near my house. Of course, I could use any of the online services available for this, but being a HAM radio operator, I wanted to track this data myself. I discovered that with a $30 RTL-SDR dongle, this can easily be done.
First, I built a co-linear antenna for this. This is a simple antenna made by connecting stub pieces of coax together. I opted for a 4 element co-linear which is not the best configuration. I will at some time build an 8 element and place it within a PVC pipe. This is just a proof of concept.
Using the plans here https://www.balarad.net/ I made a 4 element antenna.
I fed this into my home TV antenna wiring using an off the shelf satellite diplexer.
This is then carried on quad shield RG6 to the SDR receiver in the other room.
For this project I used the open source software ADSBox which can be downloaded here: http://diseqc.alh.org.ua/projects/hard/adsb/
Since the site is in Russian here is how I built the program. Download the adsbox current version (very bottom of page) and extract it to a folder called adsbox. In the same root directory as adsbox (not within the adsbox folder) download and extract sqlite3 amalgamation (current version worked fine).
Edit the Makefile and set “WITH_RTLSDR = yes”. You can then compile and run adsbox.
Once up and running the application looks like this. You can see a “flight board” showing each airplane your software has decoded.
Or, if you’d rather, you can click on GMap and see this data overlayed on the Google Maps interface.
Very neat program!