I’ve used rtl-sdrs for many years now for reverse engineering protocols for more specialized implementations as well as general reception of signals around the house that I’m too lazy to build hardware implementations for. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to track planes around my neighborhood and installed the dump1090-fa onto an existing Pi3 that was already handling other radio functions. Installation and integration to flightaware was easy, apart from already having apache on the system and the lighttpd install did its best to interfere with that (Fix: just don’t use lighttpd and symlink the
/usr/share/dump1090-fa/html directory into the apache vhost).
I bought one of the $5 “1090Mhz” antennas off eBay but the range and reported data was even lower than it was using a telescoping monopole that came with one of my rtl-sdrs. Maybe up to 40 miles in a good direction. Raised the antenna up as high as it would go indoors and got it up over 50nm. Then I built a quick spider antenna using RG6 (I think) left over from an old cable TV install, and the range improved dramatically where I’d sometimes pick up signals from 90nm!
Finally, I purchased a FlightAware Pro Stick (orange, non-plus) and slapped it in today so my regular sdr can get back to recording the data it is supposed to. With a gain of 40.2, I’m frequently getting updates out beyond 110nm and seeing intermittent data from as far away as 140nm. It really does a great job and I just wanted to give props to the FlightAware folks for making such a quality device at a great price. Really a symbiotic relationship between the FA service and putting devices in people’s hands to collect data.
I’ve also ordered a theoretical 109MHz SAW filter (25MHz passband -3dB, ‘FBP-1090s’) to stick on it as well which I think will let me jack the gain up even higher without the nasty loud 800MHz stuff around bleeding into my signal. The 800-900MHz here is so powerful, ADS-B traffic barely even registers in rtl_power sweeps so I think it will extend the range quite a bit more. I was planning on replacing the 5m RG6 / F-type connector run to the antenna with LMR-240 or RG-8U 50ohm but I think that will be a lot of money for not much more data.
Just wanted to say thanks for the easy installation instructions, great product, and great service.
2013 generic rtl-sdr with “1090MHz” $5 eBay antenna: 40nm
2013 generic rtl-sdr same antenna, raised 15ft: 50nm+
2013 generic rtl-sdr 8 legged spider antenna made from RG6: 90nm
FlightAware Pro Stick with spider antanna: 110-140nm