FlightAware Discussions

What's YOUR range?

It seems that I can pick up planes at about 190 NM using a FlightAware antenna. I’m just wondering what other people are getting and how high your antenna is.

Lets say I had a good line of sight for 360 degrees, maybe a small part of that to the horizon, what would I expect to get? Surely there is a point where the signal starts to degrade or mountains and other things play a factor?


You can also use the heywhatsthat outline with dump1090-fa by changing the folder appropriately, but tar1090 with /?pTracks gives you a good way to compare to actual coverage.

After reading posts in this forum, the conclusion is very much like in real estate: Location, location, location. Using a tiny 22cm indoor antenna, I get 270 km (145 NM). My elevation is low, with lots of low-rise buildings and trees around and close-by mountains. I just learned that the FlightAware brown antenna gives me much smaller range (205 km/110 NM) because of frontend saturation from off-band signals. (Some stations in the same area do get >400 km, perhaps from rooftop. I hope bandpass filter will improve performance from the rod.)

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160NM, that’s also the maximum i can get based on my geographical location.

Antenna outdoor

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It’s very much about location and how good your view to the horizon is. The higher the aerial, the better your reception will be. However, there is a point where diminishing returns really kicks in and it’s not worth going any higher.

It really is about location, if you can get a clear view to the horizon then you’ll receive more aircraft, it’s as simple as that. My aerial is at 44’ AGL and I have a very clear 360° view. According to my graphs, my average max range over the last seven days is 241NM but that’s exceptional.

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Well the better your horizon the more your receiving setup will also be important to get more range.
So if you’re already completely limited by terrain a better antenna / coax / filter / LNA / SDR combination will often add very little.
On the other hand if your terrain limit is basically a flat horizon the signal chain mentioned above will often be the limiting factor.
Then with reasonably good gear and a flat horizon you’re mostly limited by the curvature of the earth. (always plays a role obviously :slight_smile: )

/tar1090/?pTracks with rings at 100,150,200 nmi:

As you can see i only get the max range in a very small portion of the sky.
I should make something similar to pTracks that excludes MLAT, you often get MLAT results / positions from FA a couple of minutes after you last received that aircraft.

I average about 150 miles range (max 222 mi) with FA antenna, 20’ LMR200 coax, FA filter, Nooelec broadband LNA. The antenna is in my attic 11’ AGL. My building is surrounded in every direction by 60’ Live Oak trees and 25’ buildings.

To the left my max range per heywhatsthere (blue line set to 11.000 Meter), to the right my real range (documented on Radarbox).

Raspberry 4, blue FA Pro Plus Stick, Jetvision ADS-B Antenna.
No additional filter, no additional LNA.

Tests with an Airsquitter (Radarcape variant) showed no improvement. So it seem to be that i maxed out my setup.

Look into possibility of using an oak tree as your antenna mast. :wink:

That would be nice. Unfortunately the condo rules don’t allow anything outside. I’m fortunate to have an attic with an 8’ plus height.

What is the easiest way to get average over a given interval? FA doesn’t display this. FR24 shows max and avg in a dated table but obviously values are not calculated from that date.

My 24 hour plot filtered to 40,000. It hugs heywhatsthat pretty well I’d say.

I’ve done just that - not an oak but a tea-tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia). The combination of moving the setup about 40m uphill and into the tree gave me an extra 8 metres in height amsl and an unobstructed view out to sea to the south. This significantly improved the range at which I first pickup the few aircraft in that direction.

I think another factor affecting range that’s worth mentioning is atmospherics. I’ve only had the antenna relocated for a week, but the maximum range seen in the last 24 hours has been exceptional relative to previous six days:

No changes to my setup (or the number of distant aircraft as far as I can tell). The thing that has surprised me has been the altitudes of some of the most distant aircraft:

The southern-most track starts at 10775 feet, around 300 NM from my location.

(Note that the 40,000ft heywhatsthatcom-range-outline is from my old location, but I don’t think it will change much.)


Nice picture of Tasmania. I’m also in Victoria and get the top of Tassie, but that’s my max.

Due to local building regulations the top of my antenna is not allowed to be higher than 11½m (=38 ft) ASL. My house is 1m below sea level.
At the moment the antenna is at 11m ASL and the view is slightly obstructed by surrounding buildings (esp to the North).

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Max range sits around 230nm pretty much all the time. It’s pretty flat where I live and my antenna is on a short mast on the roof of my 2 story house.

A pretty clear show off of what hi-rise can do to your reception when you live in a city center (Groningen, NL). Not much from the west up to the north / over the North Sea and parts in the east.
Official FA antenna is on the third floor (in Dutch: tweede verdieping) outside, I’ve configured tar1090 with PTRACKS=24.
Rings at 100,150 and 200NM.


I occasionally go beyond 200NM, for example in northern Denmark and around Frankfurt, Germany.

Previous imagery Thoughts on optimizing gain

Complete novice here…

I’ve got two pi’s front and back of the house. Front one is top floor of my house, 230ft alt - about 30ft up from ground level. Rear one is floor below - unfortunately with some obstructions by houses. My house is tall, but getting an antenna up needs a cherry picker to get high enough for front and rear…

Both antenna’s are home made spider antennas.

I’ve got RPI 4B, RTL-SDR v3, generic LNA and flightaware filter on the front. A RPI 3B, RTL-SDR v3 back, flightaware LNA with filter.


Reception/range has degraded over time (months). Used to have coverage 200 NM + - Now only close
by planes/helicopters. I use a SDR USB ADS-B Receiver w/Built-in RF Amplifier 1090MHz Bandpass
Filter Pro Stick, and antenna directly connected to receiver. Have repaced with identical antenna, and
connector look fine, no corrosion etc., but same result. Nothing changed in SW for the RPI
(Before today 17th Nov 2020) Could it be receiver part in dongle is damaged ?

I have a very simple set up, indoor magnetic base antenna. Live around 14 miles East of Heathrow. Normal range for aircraft 8000 feet plus up to 50 miles.

Couple of years back visited Oceanside in California, took the PiAware. On one occasion took system to coast, antenna on roof of car, power from 12V to USB adapter. Wow, the amount of aircraft seen on the map was amazing. Due to screen glare couldn’t see screen well so didn’t note distances but yes, location and view to horizon the main factor.


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