FlightAware Discussions

Not sure what i'm doing here!

I wanted a Raspberry Pi and bought one with a FlightAware Plus Pro stick. I have an interest in aviation, so I thought the FA might be useful.

Having connected it up to a suitable outdoor antenna and got it working successfully, I can’t see how it’s any better than free Android Apps like FlightRadar24, etc (I appreciate that some apps are limited unless subscriptions are paid for (£1.50pm).

It seems to me that I’ve paid to gather data for someone else to use for profit! I’m tying up the Raspberry Pi and committing to keeping it connected 24/7.

AM I MISSING SOMETHING? Unless I’m doing something wrong, I think the User-Interface is poor relative to the likes of FlightRadar24, which on a single page gives you a detailed map, live tracking, etc, etc. Click on a plane and you instantly get a photo of the actual aircraft, its height, speed, schedule, type, reg, COO, weather and can even see it moving around the airport run/taxi/ways. You can also click on it to show you its full route!

PLEASE DON’T THINK I’m here to diss FlightAware - I’m here to find out what I’m possibly doing wrong or not understanding.

Many thanks for any responses.

Tom (M7MCQ)

I think that the reasons for doing this are personal.
For me it’s about seeing what’s not shown by Flightaware (or any of the other commercial sites), military aircrafts. Living close to the Baltic sea there’s things happening in the airspace that seldom are reported by media and never shown on public sites. I have seen air-refueling by NATO forces, numerous fighter jets ferry flights (to and from exercise areas), the occational UAV, B-52 bombers and so on. Most people living in Sweden are not aware of what’s going on in our airspace.

It’s also about the technical challenge, getting the best performance from the equipment. How well can I get my stuff to perform? What happens if I raise the antenna another meter or move it 4 meters south? Is the airspy mini better at my location than the FA dongle, etc.

For me, the benefits are not the free accounts, it’s the added knowledge of what the military are doing and the intellectual challenge of creating a well performing receiver without spending too much money.


You can use something like VRS to view the local data which you might like better.
Or you can use a 3D view: (which isn’t perfect)
dump1090 3D Viewer

FR24 and other services like planefinder and Flightaware use the data you collect if you feed it to them.
By now most places have pretty good coverage so your feed isn’t necessarily improving what you see there.
But for some people it still does.

The data are much more fine-grained if you like looking at virtual aircraft actually flying circles and curves :wink:

The data are actually much more current.
Without the interpolation FR24 applies you have a delay of around 20 seconds i’d say.

You can get premium memberships from several of the flight tracking sites if you feed them data.

Also it seems your range and reception is rather poor, that might color your perception.
Improving reception is probably one of the only reasons some people pursue the hobby at all.
(A bit like DXing)

Also this glider close to me is not properly displayed with it’s trail by FR24:

(Granted most don’t have ADS-B and so are not visible on my local map)

Also military aircraft and some business aircraft tend to be filtered on FR24. No filter for your local view.

any specific interest ? I think ‘usefulness’ is directly related to ‘specific interest’

i.e I 've been working in many areas of aviation industry, I love flying, computers and electronics.
so pilot/dispatch-wise, flight following needs, charts and mapping are met with this hobby to an extend.
atc / electronics-wise, I keep torturing myself building antennas and never satisfied :wink: and use the dongle(s) sometimes for acars other times listening to atc (things unable to do due cost mainly, few years back).
civil services-wise, ability to monitor police etc.

other than price, those apps are limited as compared to the raspberry or PC power, and are meant for people on-the-go needing to find-out info about their next flight.

for those of us with a ‘base station’ it is lot better, convenient and detailed, knowing what happens around us 24/7/365 in the airspace around us, creating stats, playing with code, trying ‘what-ifs’ that you can not easily do with android (closed system) as opposed to Linux (open system).

My PiAware setup is much closer to real time tracking than FR24, PlaneFinder.net, and FlightAware.

It’s my “go to” site if I want to check out who is flying low over my house.

Multilateration is probably the other missing piece. If you feed data to FlightAware, the quid pro quo is that we’ll return multilateration results that we generated from your data. Running your own multilateration system is certainly possible (there are various hobbyist groups that do it) but it does require hardware + software investment and coordinating your own receiver network.

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Thanks for the responses guys - appreciate it. My interest in aviation is nothing serious - I just like listening to the Airband and I have a love of Civil and Combat Flight Simulations.

I’m also an Amateur Radio operator, so experimenting with anything to do with radio is always entertaining (even if it’s only for a short time). I’ve got my FlightAware connected to a discone which was originally in the loft, but yesterday I mounted on the roof and reception has improved such that I can now reach 250ml contacts (WNW).

If my interest in this stays constant, then I might consider investing in a 1090Mhz antenna at a higher position.

Just in case you are curious about range:

What is the Maximum Range I can Get?

It’s all about radio and aviation combined for me. I actually don’t look at the map too often but it’s good to know it’s there when I want to. I run two receivers at home which are linked together via VRS and I’m also responsible for running the feeder at the local amateur radio group.

Radio fascinates me, I’ve been licensed for over thirty five years now and I’m still learning new stuff. Playing with ADS-B receivers is another way for me to experiment and learn more about radio in a way that can be productive. Personally, I have no issue with sharing my data and happily upload to FA, FR24, PlaneFinder and ADSBHub.

73 Keith.