FlightAware Discussions

RadarBox FlightStick vs. FlightAware Pro Stick Plus

RadarBox24 has decided to sell their ADS-B dongles at a loss, pricing them at only US$9.95

https://www.rtl-sdr.com/radarbox24-specialty-ads-b-rtl-sdr-reduced-to-9-95-shipping/

Discussion about the sale price in the Facebook “Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS–B) Group” compared the RadarBox24 dongle to the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus because the RadarBox product page description claims “integrated filter, amplifier and static protection for maximum range”.

At $9.95 from Amazon including 2-day Prime shipping it was an impulse purchase so I ordered one Tuesday and received it this afternoon. I simultaneously compared it against a FlightAware Pro Stick Plus using identical antennas (abcd567 Cantenna) mounted about 60 cm apart and standard PiAware SD card images. The apparent gain of the two dongles as measured by dump1090 “percentage of strong messages” was essentially the same (~6%) so I used the same rtlsdr-gain for both.

The number of aircraft received and the VRS range plots were virtually identical when I ran the RadarBox dongle WITH an external 1090 MHz band-pass filter vs. the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus WITHOUT any external filter. When both dongles were run WITHOUT any external filter the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus received many more aircraft than the RadarBox FlightStick.

Conclusion: either the internal filter in the RadarBox FlightStick is not comparable to the internal SAW band-pass filter in the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus, or else the internal amplifier in the RadarBox FlightStick is more susceptible to overload from strong out-of-band signals. The RadarBox dongle appears to perform more like the orange FlightAware Pro Stick than the dark blue FlightAware Pro Stick Plus.

Note 1: my location is less than 2 km from a major multi-tower cell site; cellphones register 5 bars signal strength here. Note 2: I used a FlightAware external 1090 MHz band-pass filter with the RadarBox dongle to improve its performance in the above test.

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Well this is price of a Generic dongle. If anyone wants a generic dongle, this is a better bargain, even if its filter or pre-amp is not good enough.

Not available at amazon

image

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Purchased from RadarBox24

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I did not need to purchase any more dongles as I already have enough spare dongles. I purchased it because:

  • Out of curiocity
  • I like its color and slim shape.

image

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Continuing the discussion from RadarBox FlightStick vs. FlightAware Pro Stick Plus:

Received FlightStick

FlightStick-ProStick

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Open it, open it, open it… :joy:

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Did you just order from the site, or did you use a UK site, cant find any here in the uk

From their website, and it was shipped from Milton Keynes.

Ordered @ AirNavSystems on Monday, 25th stick arrived today. Disconnected my RTL-SDR stick (had no additional filter connected) and put the AirNavRAdarBoxFlightStick instead, restarted dump1090-fa & piaware: everything works fine.
First impression: as expected more a/c and a little bit more range
For 9,95 US $ (plus 4,99 for shipping from UK to DE) = 13,71 EURO it’s a bargain I think …

AirNAvRadarBoxFlightStick_1
AirNAvRadarBoxFlightStick_2

May have a punt on one, not a lot to waste if I don’t like it

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From the pics is nothing special, just a generic dongle with a SAW filter in front. Used as such it won’t give too much improvement, because of the insertion loss of the filter.
It would need an amplifier in front to compensate for that and… that’s exactly what FA Prostick Plus is.
By the time you pay for that amplifier you end up paying more than the FA Prostick Plus (at least in US that’s the case).

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Looks to me like they have an LNA behind the SAW filter. (small 4 legged package)

Has the advantage that it won’t give really bad results when you have strong mobile signals or other noise.
(Which is why some people absolutely need to put another filter in front of the prostick plus.)

You might be right, hard to see, looks something with “504”, it might not be a LNA but a transistor?

Anyway, in this case, looks like it’s a good deal indeed.

Find the LNA on this picture of a uputronics amp:

Apart from the SAW filter in the signal path and the voltage supply coming in from the top, the part with the biggest number of legs has 4 :wink:

So yes i believe there are LNAs which come in these packages.

Also they specify it in their product description:

Includes an integrated Amplifier, Filter and Static Protection for maximum reception range.

You’re correct.
The three legged at input is the static protection diodes. Then the next black thing it’s the LNA (or transistor, don’t know, this days they make all kind of things), and then the silver thing is the SAW.

This is the LNA in my amplifier (SOT-89 package):
https://www.qorvo.com/products/p/TQP3M9008

Another LNA by former Philips in SOT-89:
https://www.nxp.com/products/rf/rf-amplifiers-low-medium-power/wideband-amplifiers/general-purpose-amplifiers/500-2800-mhz-15.9-db-24-dbm-e-phemt:MMG15241H

From 11:10 am to 11:40 am: FlightAware Pro Stick PLUS

From 11:40 am to 12:10 pm: RadarBox24 FlightStick

FOR BOTH DONGLES, NO EXTERNAL FILTER WAS USED

dump1090-localhost-aircraft-1h

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dump1090-localhost-local_rate-1h

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dump1090-localhost-range_imperial_nautical-1h

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Don’t you have enough pis and other small computers that you can test them side by side?

You could swap antennas after an hour so everyone can cancel out any antenna differences in their heads :wink:

Also which gain is that on? Seems in your location every stick needs an external filter …
The advantage using two rigs is also that you can tweak each to its optimal gain.

Apart from that thanks for the comparison but you know me, i have to nitpick!

That needs everything (Antennas, Antenna Locations, Coax type & length, gain settings etc) to be identical for both systems.

In the method I have used, the only uncontrolled variable is Air Traffic. At this hour of day here, the air traffic is fairly constant, so this practically eliminates that uncontrolled variable. Rest of things (Antennas, Antenna Location, Coax type & length, Pi and its software, gain settings etc) are common for both dongles.

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You can just swap the coax connections after 1 hour.
So if one outperformed the other in the first hour should the antenna/coax be a disadvantage, the next hour will reverse or not.

My experience is that traffic and other factors are very fluent, just as the graphs show by the way.

The gain setting could be optimal for one, not for the other dongle. So the same gain is not always a fair comparison.
(Also i guess this was pretty much maximum gain, maybe a gain of 40 or 42 would be different with the noise maybe not drowning the mixer so much)

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