Receiving ADS-B transponder data for flightradar24

Receiving ADS-B transponder data for feeding to flightradar24. A fun side project with the benefit of a free flightradar24 business subscription.

Receiving ADS-B transponder data for flightradar24
Photo by Kevin Woblick / Unsplash

Websites like flightradar24 always fascinated me. A significant amount of the data fr24 is based on, is actually coming from crowdsourced receivers of ADS-B transponder signals. fr24 even has a dedicated section with information for building your own Raspberry Pi based receiver.

The benefit of having your own receiver and providing the data to fr24 are besides the fun project that you get a free business subscription for fr24. More than enough reasons to launch a small side project.

Note: flightradar24 recommends to have the antenna mounted on a roof top with  unobstructed 360° view.

My personal experience is that it can work well but with limitations, close to a window - but your results may vary.

Building a Debian 11 based receiver

1 - Hardware

As recommended on the fr24 page I ordered the NESDR SMArTee v2 Bundle from Nooelec which is an USB SDR receiver that costs around 50$ including shipping to EU.

Nooelec - Nooelec NESDR SMArTee v2 Bundle - Premium RTL-SDR w/ Aluminum Enclosure, Bias Tee, 0.5PPM TCXO, SMA Input & 3 Antennas. RTL2832U & R820T2-Based - Software Defined Radio
<p>This premium RTL-SDR was <b>designed, developed and fabricated by Nooelec in the USA and Canada</b>, and <b>comes complete with a full 2-year product warranty.</b><h4><p><b>We designed this SDR from the ground up in order to develop the best low-cost

As I have a virtualization server I use a standard Debian 11 VM instead of additional hardware such as Raspberry Pi and passthrough the USB device to the VM.

2 - Software installation

Note: On Debian 11 Bullseye it seems to be necessary to install dump1090 manually and before the flighttracker software. Normally this shouldn't be required and happens behind the scenes automatically. I have not investigated why this is but likely because Bullseye is still quite new. Therefore we deviate a bit from the proposed standard installation procedure by this additional step.

2.1 - Installing dump1090-mutability

# Install dump1090-mutability package
sudo apt install dump1090-mutability

Important: If you're asked whether it should start the server automatically, answer No since this would otherwise interfere with the fr24feed I observed on my installation.

2.2 - Installing fr24feed

Download the latest version of the fr24feed package from fr24 https://www.flightradar24.com/share-your-data.

There is also a PDF manual available with more information https://repo-feed.flightradar24.com/fr24feed-manual.pdf should you require more detailed information or thorough trouble shooting.

# Download the latest fr24feed release
wget https://repo-feed.flightradar24.com/linux_x86_64_binaries/fr24feed_1.0.25-3_amd64.deb 

# Install the fr24feed package
sudo apt install ./fr24feed_1.0.25-3_amd64.deb

# Run fr24feed manually and signup for a new key
sudo fr24feed --signup

The Nooelec receiver is of type 1 -DVBT Stick (USB) otherwise no special settings are required. I chose to have the additional feeds running.

For the initial test run you may want to run fr24feed directly from the console to observe the log output live. Alternatively you can also just observe the log output from /var/log/fr24feed/fr24feed.log.

Once everything is up and running you can enable the systemd service in order for the fr24feed to be started automatically.

sudo systemctl status fr24feed

# Enable autostart and start the service
sudo systemctl enable fr24feed
sudo systemctl start fr24feed

# Verify the service is running
sudo systemctl status fr24feed

Check the output of your machine with your browser on http://ip:8754/.

It should look like this:

At least the UDP ports 8099, 19788, 48786, 56171 must be open for the tracker to fully work with MLAT.

That's it. Enjoy your new ADS-B ✈️ flight tracker and your new and free flightradar24 Business account.

I am able to see around 1k aircrafts a day with this setup here.