Hello, I’m thinking about doing ADS-B flight tracking just to see what is up there. Trying to do this as cheaply as possible. I’ve seen several USB dongles for less than 50US. including a small indoor antenna. The software I’m thinking about using is Planeplotter. Any opinions about this setup?? any suggestions for better performance?
I would like something that has nice visual display of any aircraft I might pick up. Also is this relatively easy to setup? Lastly, I’m in south central Wisconsin, near KMSN, would I find many aircraft that are ADS-B equipped in this area? I’ve read the U.S. is not changing to this technology quickly.



Hi Dan722
Your contribution to the FlightAware (and Planeplotter) system would be greatly appreciated as sharers in your area are few and far between. The more there are the more people benefit.
The dongle is an excellent entry into this providing you have an aerial suitable for the frequency used (1090MHz) as the supplied one is more suited to lower frequencies. It should be mounted as high as possible for best results.
Many US flights don’t show their positions but with the Multilateration system their locations can be plotted on the Planeplotter chart if there are enough sharers sending raw data.
Regards Richard


Thanks for the information. Am I correct that all I need is a ADS-B receiver, that would be the dongle, the planeplotter software, and an antenna? I am pretty sure getting the correct antenna would be rather easy. What would a better receiver cost?


That’s about it. Plus Internet connection of course. Here in the UK the cheapest dongle is about 8GBP but you can pay up to 400GBP for a “proper” ADS-B receiver.


The FlightAware receiver might be available for sale in 2014. Still waiting for more news on it.

Plus the FA box would be able to do MLAT with other FA receivers in the area.


thanks for all the information and suggestions. any idea what the FA box will cost?


Question on this subject to mtnbiker2005 :

FlightRadar 24 have a very hard policy when they “give” a receiver. In this case, the person who receives the equipment will pay the connexion, the electricity, and will be “premium member” of FA24 but this one prohibits any other ADS-B activity, even for free (Plane plotter). Do you plan to forbid any PP feeding in the future ?


We haven’t worked out all the models yet, but the initial focus will be free receivers for locations where we don’t have coverage. We don’t intend to go out of our way to prevent sharing of ADS-B data.


Do you know of a receiver that does MLAT at a price under 100 U.S. ? I can find lots of information on receivers but very little with the price.

I used to do lots of HF DXing and I don’t want to start spending like that again.


The rtl2832u + r820t usb dvb tv dongle works with MLAT and is very cheap in comparison with dedicated 1090MHz receivers.
Information on software for feeding Planeplotter / FlightAware at
A decent aerial is a good investment though.


could you be more specific as to what a decent aerial is? I’m thinking of a home made 1/2 wave groundplane.


There’s a discussion on the Kinetic forum that gives some good ideas for co-linears which I tried reasonably successfully. … 0&start=24


Could anyone suggest a cheap ADS-B receiver? I live about 50km from MEL, there is someone who feeds from Geelong but i am the other side.



I like to do things on the cheap, so I run a NooElec R820T and I built my own 1/4 wave ground plane. I did add an inline amplifier and a power injector and my range and performance are very good. You can see the antenna I built below. Also below you can see 4 days worth of ground tracks received with this antenna. The orange line is the theoretical limit of my reception. I created that line using mapping softwarecalled GlobalMapper which allows me to bring in a terrain model, set my receiver and transmitter heights and then check limits of reception. You can see I am pretty close to the limit at the far ranges. In case you aren’t familiar with the Colorado area, the mountains limit my reception to the west and my range is around 225 to 250 nm to the east.



I know theoretically the co-linear should have better performance, but I (very carefully) built a 12 segment co-linear and tested it in the same manner as my QWGP and found that the performance of the co-linear was similar, but just slightly worse. Given that it was a lot harder to build I would recommend the ground plane.

Here is the co-linear performance:


Thanks for the information. Am I correct that all I need is a ADS-B receiver, that would be the dongle, the planeplotter software, and an antenna? I am pretty sure getting the correct antenna would be rather easy. What would a better receiver cost?

I picked up both for about US$270. The pro’s are, there is no line loss because the receiver is directly connected to the aerial. The data is converted, and sent to the computer or router via CAT6 cable from the receiver. Depending on your local conditions (hill versus valley, tall buildings, ect) you should get 150-200 nm coverage. There is one drawback to this particular set up to which I have yet to find a solution. It is blind in the 25 mile center of your location. I have not given up … yet!

The receiver works for both Mode-S and Mode A/C at the same time, and is capable of MLAT on both. The link is:

Indeed, you would be able to share with two other users in Iowa, and one near Peoria, IL on PlanePlotter. Only one user (myself) is currently sharing with FA. So you would be a welcome neighbor.


Once I get everything together we can try sharing. I’m new to all of this but it sounds pretty doable. I’m thinking of a quarter wave ground plane for an antenna. what do you use? I will have to keep it inside til spring. I would consider a cheap commercial antenna but I don’t think they exist. It’s nice this forum has so many helpful people.


I use option #3 at this link.

You really do not need a commercial antenna for this application. Also on antennas, the closer to the receiver you get (meaning use as little coaxial cable as possible), the better your range. If you go the route of the Dongle type of receiver, I would recommend using a USB extension cable, and the antenna included with the kit. A USB that long could get spendy, so perhaps using a USB to CAT 6 adapter would be the ticket. Be mindful of cable lengths and voltage drops over excessive runs. A cheap waterproof kitbox is needed if installed outside.

Good Luck.


I noticed the guy selling it is in Bulgaria. did you order from Bulgaria???

I installed planeplotter but I didn’t have the dongle connected so it skipped a bunch of steps. any opinions as to if it’s better uninstall and reinstall or install over the current one? I have a registration number from FA and if I did a new install would that still be valid?

thanks, too many questions…


No need to do a reinstall just go to Help Setup Wizard in Planeplotter (before you start it processing) and go through the setup stages again choosing the correct receiver type.