Computers and Aircraft

Do you like computers? - silly question
Do you like aircraft?

If the answer to both is yes then here is a hobby that can combine both interests.

ADS-B is a radar system that uses ground stations and aircraft to plot their positions on a map, most people have heard of FlightRadar24, their aircraft movements on the map are created using data from thousands of volunteers who run a simple program on their computer and buy an additional and cheap piece of hardware. The set up can be very simple, or, as with most hobbies, can become quite complex.

The most popular computer setup is using the well known and cheap RaspberryPi, these are convenient as they use little power and can be left on 24/7. One can of course use any computer running Linux or Windows, probably even Mac. I use a Raspberrypi Zero W, cost around £15. This device is quite adequate for the task unless of course you become very enthusiastic and want add on graphs and pie charts in which case a more beefy Raspberrypi 3, 4 or the later Zero 2 W may be better. Of course, run on a conventional computer there will be no issues.

The software is free and the most popular site for downloading and installing the software is

Once installed the software includes a small web server which enables you to view the data collected by your antenna on a map, I have nothing special, just a stock aerial sitting on an empty can (stabilises the magnetic antenna plus acts as a ground plane) and positioned by a window. I usually record 1700+ aircraft daily and ranges up to 70 miles. I am however close to a Heathrow flightpath and am also reasonably close to Luton and Stanstead.

Most users will share this data with various companies or organisations such as Flightaware and Flightradar24 who then supply services to the airline industry.

What do we get out of it when some companies profit from the data we supply? Well, support for an interesting hobby, software (all open source) support and updates, we also get extra facilities from the individual web sites members page, various bookmarks, filters, plus flight notifications.

I recently, on a trans Atlantic flight had internet access, logged on the FlightRadar24 and followed my own aircraft, quite novel.

Hardware, the tuner has gone up a fair bit since I started, the device listed shows it includes tuning for the 1090 aircraft range. The flightaware branded tuners are around £50, I have listed a cheaper Amazon link and the data shows it covers the 1090 aircraft range.
Pi devices available from many outlets, I tend to use Pimoroni or The Pi Hut.

Last edited:


Well-known member
21 Jun 2023
102 (0.34/day)
Is that the same as ADS-B? Seems similar explanation.

ADS-B is what you would say newer but from your topology they would be very similar. So You could Say ADS-B got alot of stuff from Tacan/dme.

I was in the Air Force as an avionics troop or 5 years from 2005-2010, I got out in 2012 because the feds were being stupid then and still are today.
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