FlightAware Discussions

Upgrading from RTL-SDR to FA Prostick Plus on PiAware. As easy as swapping them out?

I’ve got an FA Prostick Plus on the way, which I plan on replacing my RTL-SDR with that I am currently using with my PiAware setup. Will I need to manually reconfigure anything once it arrives, or will simply swapping the two devices work as intended and without headache?

Hi Curtis,
It will work out of the box.
You will need to reboot the RPI.

You may need to adjust the amplifier gain to get the most out of it. Search the forums for how to do this.

If you are in an electrically noise environment then you may want to put the dongle in a metal case.


https://www.rtl-sdr.com/buy-rtl-sdr-dvb-t-dongles/

I use 6"(15cm) USB 3.0 cables so that the dongle isn’t so close the the RPI. A good quality USB 2.0 cable would also work.
Power supplies are a common cause of problems. Make sure it is a quality 2.5 Amp model. I have RF chokes on the USB and power supply cable, but this may be overkill.

73
Jon

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@jonhawkes2030, awesome, thanks. Curious to see if there will be any noticeable improvement in logging afterwards.

You can tell when I switched from an indoor, quick/dirty homebrew antenna to FlightAware’s own 1090Mhz antenna that I have mounted outside in a temporary location. After a couple days with the new dongle running I’ll hopefully get the antenna mounted to it’s permanent location, about 6’ above my roof line.

You should definitely see a difference very quickly.

As mentioned in the previous reply, adjustment of gain is a likely, and sometimes even adding filters might be needed due to the added sensitivity of the receiver.

All depends on you local conditions, and proximity of things like some cellular transmitters that are adjacent to ADS-B frequency that can overload the receiver.

In my personal experience, as with several others on the forum, we found the need for external filtering along with the filtering built into the Flightaware Blue dongle.

Once that was dealt with and gain was tweaked, I am getting up to 247 NM range, and, can see aircraft taxiing at an airport that is more than 20 kilometers away - via my antenna that is located at 15 meters above ground. Perfect.

This forum is full of great advice, and lots of knowledgable and helpful ADS-B users/hobbiests who share their ideas and findings so we all benefit and learn.

Also there is strong support from the Flightaware technical staff to advise and guide us on technical matters.

A great community. Enjoy !

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In case you want some thoughts on optimizing gain: Thoughts on optimizing gain

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Plug and play. Literally swapped the dongles and rebooted. Went from about 250 messages received per second to north of 700.

May mess with the gain settings but I’m content with it as is. I have a LNA I may put in front to see if that does anything meaningful, but for now, can’t complain.

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If you are in an electrically noise environment then you may want to put the dongle in a metal case.

I bought one of these for my FA stick. It does fit after removing the plastic cover.

Can you post a photo of the PCB? I can compare them to the models I have.
I did buy my PS and PSP a few years ago.

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I took the pcb out of an orange dongle a couple of years ago and it fitted into the rtlsdr-blog case. I anything, maybe it was a bit to small. Would be really intersting to see if the design of these dongles has changed…

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I bought 2 (I have a blue and an orange dongle). They don’t fit, clearly. The blue dongle is the same size as the orange one. As you can see, it is also too short.


You need to take off the plastic :slight_smile:

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oh… That explains it… :woozy_face:

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Does placing the PCB in the metal enclosure actually make any noticeable difference? I’m curious as to what you all have found.

Unfortunately I live in a very RF noisy area. All HF bands on my Yaesu transceiver are more or less at a S7+ noisefloor with my existing HF antenna.

I suspect that the local RF noise impacts my SDR stuff as well but I’m unsure how much swapping enclosures would help.

The metal enclosure probably only helps if you are using other electrical stuff nearby that is noisy.
Or if the switch mode power supply is placed in proximity with the dongle.

The overall noise in the area will be coupled in much stronger via the antenna unless the field is very local to the receiver.

I will observe and see what happens. It may be much ado about nothing. Though I do live in an area with lots of area noise from cell tower and a hospital nearby.

Are you me? I literally can see a hospital from my yard and a cell tower is less than 2 miles away. Haha. -_-

ha! I live in the SF Bay Area… Not that close.

I have a dozen cell towers with 300 yards(metres) of my house.
I think I have a few within 100 feet(30m).
I benefited from metal cases on the Dongle and RPI(prevents RPI from interfering with dongle), 6" USB 3.0 pigtail(separates dongle from RPI), RF chokes on RPI usb power lead and USB pigtail(this may be overkill). I did it 3 years ago so don’t recall the details.
My Wireless system also sees 120 other SSIDs on 2.4Ghz (a handful on 5Ghz). Granted a few dozen are buses that go past and maybe some cellphone hotspots.

How easy is it to open the FlightAware plastic casing without destroying it? I’ve got several RTL-SDR dongles, one of which is unused, so I can use it’s metal housing for the FA Pro + PCB.

I did it a few times without damaging them. I think it is pretty easy. Use a small screwdriver with the tabs.

The ones online are designed to be generic(they also include a heatsink pad). Not sure about the cases on the rtl-sdrs but it is worth a try.