Raspberry Pi Tracks Planes With ADS-B Receiver

Raspberry Pi
(Image credit: _G4M3R_)

The Raspberry Pi is a great tool for all sorts of hobbies and one area we’re fascinated by is its integration into the world of aviation. Today we’re sharing a cool project put together by a maker known as _G4M3R_ over at Reddit. Using our favorite SBC, they’ve created a cheap ADS-B receiver that’s housed in their attic and is capable of tracking plane locations in real time.

If you aren’t familiar with ADS-B receivers, these are antennas designed specifically to interpret radio signals from nearby aircraft. We can extrapolate plane locations based on the data in the signal. The data is easier to interpret when using an application such as Flight Radar 24, which is what _G4M3R_ uses in this build.

According to _G4M3R_, this project is fairly affordable. The project is built around a Raspberry Pi Zero W and includes custom 3D-printed components. All in all, _G4M3R_ claims to have spent around just $60 for everything. After testing the setup, _G4M3R_ confirmed a support range of at least 85 nautical miles.

In this project, _G4M3R_  uses a Pi Zero even though Flight Radar 24 specifically recommends a 3B+. In addition to the Pi and its normal supplies (power adapter, micro SD card, etc), you’ll need an ADS-B USB dongle. Flight Radar 24 recommends an RTL2832 or an R820T2, which are USB-based adapters that work with the Raspberry Pi.

Flight Radar 24 specializes in tracking flight data using ADS-B antennas. They have a special package created just for the Raspberry Pi called Pi24 that you can install onto any Pi to get started. You’ll need to download it from the Flight Radar 24 website and do a custom install using the Raspberry Pi Imager.

If you want to recreate this Raspberry Pi project or just get a better idea of how it goes together, check out the original thread shared to Reddit by _G4M3R_. You can also read more about Flight Radar 24 and devise your own setup using their instructions.

Ash Hill
Freelance News and Features Writer

Ash Hill is a Freelance News and Features Writer at Tom's Hardware US. She manages the Pi projects of the month and much of our daily Raspberry Pi reporting.