To increase coverage, FlightAware is offering a FREE enterprise account to anybody who feeds them local ADS-B flight data. FlightAware is a website/service that allows anybody to track flights around the world. Need to know if your sweetheart’s airplane will land on schedule? Check FlightAware. Curious where are the planes whose pilot’s you’re listening to on your handheld aviation transceiver? FlightAware. Okay, that last one might be me and a handful of other avgeeks, but hopefully you can see the utility.
To make it easy for aviation nerds to set up a feed to FlightAware, they’ve posted a shopping list for the requisite parts and made the software freely available. Here is how I did it:
- Raspberry Pi Model B+ – This is the tiny computer that does all the work. It has 512 MB of memory, full HDMI, audio, 4 USB ports, ethernet, and micro-SD.
- ADS-B receiver and antenna – This captures the signals from the airplanes.
- Nano WiFi USB adapter – Enables me to SSH into the computer remotely and to feed the incoming signals to FlightAware without the needs to make a hard ethernet connection.
- 32 GB Micro-SD card – This is an order of magnitude more storage than is required, but storage is cheap, so why not? This card holds the PiAware program and WiFi configuration files.
- Micro USB charger – Because the Raspberry Pi doesn’t run on magic.
- Acrylic Raspberry Pi case – I can’t speak highly enough about this beautiful case. Everything fits perfectly.
The instructions on the Build A PiAware ADS-B Receiver page are excellent. The only problem I had was configuring the WiFi adapter. I was in a hotel room and had no way to directly access the device, which would require a display and keyboard. When I got home I plugged the Raspberry Pi into my tv via HDMI and used an old wired Apple keyboard. Then I was able to follow instructions I’d found online to configure the WiFi adapter for my home network.
Once configured, all that is required is to plug in the Raspberry Pi to power. Neither a display nor a keyboard are required. It silently received ADS-B data from airplanes flying near my house and transmits that information to FlightAware to strengthen their network coverage. I can see which airplanes my device is tracking as well as statistics for my device over time.
It has been a fun project.