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Rekindled interest

Discussion in 'Technology Advice' started by HaloHalo, Nov 28, 2017.

  1. HaloHalo

    HaloHalo Administrator Staff Member

    One time when I was a kid my dad took us, I think it was, at my request, to Manchester Airport when I was 10 or so. I wanted him to take us because I wanted to watch the planes taking off and landing. I think sometime later that year I bought a book (unfortunately I don't have it anymore) that basically covered all the technicalities of aeronautics in layman's terms, I read it many times.

    My first flight was to Spain in '77 when I was 9. The flight was part of the trip, certainly in those days at least, a marvel of technology and engineering, the flight that is. The Holiday was good too of course.

    Recent technology allows to watch in almost real-time, flights on a global scale, it's almost scary how many flight are taking place yet we are almost oblivious to the fact.

    I decided that I wanted to contribute data to a few services that provide us with the ability to track flights. I already have a few Raspberry Pi's, they were used for streaming services but that has dried up so I have commissioned one to be the mini-computer running the flight tracking data feeds. The Pi uses Raspian, a flavour of Linux. On top of that I have used Flight Radar 24 and Flight Aware data feeds.

    So the software is a straight forward process but in order to make use of it we need some additional hardware, namely a wide-band receiver. You can buy USB RTL-SDR's for £20+ on Amazon, here's the one I bought:-


    The device can as I say be used as a wide-band receiver but they are of little use without a decent antenna covering the relevant frequencies. This SDR covers 25MHz to 2000MHz or thereabouts. For me I just wanted to receive data at 1090MHz, though I did load some SDR software when I first got the device to listen to Airband radio, though I'm not close to an airport and the antenna isn't sufficient for that. I was surprised at the SDR software, very useful piece of kit indeed. I may buy another SDR and use another Raspberry Pi as an SDR Server and connect to it over LAN at some point.

    Anyhow back to the project. Once I got the device connected to the RPi it was just a case of registering with FR24 and FA. When you provide data for these you actually get a business account meaning you get all the full featured version of Flight Radar 24 and Flight Aware.


    As you can see you get data analysis so you can see your own contribution, in this case FR24. Though FA also provide their own analytics of your data.


    The good thing about FlightAware is that I can Web host my own data directly from the RPi. I have set up Dynamic DNS (DDNS), which means I can view my own Flight data on a web page which is accessible from anywhere.

    The RTL-SDR antenna is just a 68mm antenna that is sat in my upstairs bedroom window. This 68mm antenna, although very simplistic can pick-up ADS-B & MLAT signals from more than 150 nautical miles, which surprised me a little, however I suppose a plane at 35000 feet does help to radiate the line-of-sight signal.


    Geeky, well yes I suppose, but I'm grateful to my father for taking me on that trip to Manchester Airport, an interest that has never departed me, even now.

    I'll take my kids one day to Manchester Airport to watch the planes and have a look at Concorde that sits in the viewing area, though I doubt them, being girls, will take the slightest interest :D
    • Like Like x 3
  2. DJB

    DJB Active Member

    Uber geek methinks :D
  3. Drunken Max

    Drunken Max Active Member

    Epic Level achieved
  4. HaloHalo

    HaloHalo Administrator Staff Member

    Yea a bit sad I know but curiosity gets the better of me on occasion.
  5. Markham

    Markham . Lifetime Member

    FlightRadar24 is useful when you're meeting someone at the airport so that you can time your arrival more easily to reduce hefty meet-n-greet or parking charges.
  6. Drunken Max

    Drunken Max Active Member

    Completely irrelevant at Manchester Airport as you still have to negotiate the queues at customs and incompetent baggage handling. Landing is the only predictable part
    • Agree Agree x 1
  7. HaloHalo

    HaloHalo Administrator Staff Member

    It would seems so but I guess most comments are made when someone has received poor service.


    I always though LHR was worse than MAN in regards to security staff manners.

    I remember once landing at MAN and was concerned about whether to declare or not to declare, so I went to the office to enquire, (just right next to the declare doors), there was no one in the office!
    • Like Like x 1
  8. graham59

    graham59 Well-Known Member

    This is the first plane (Hermes) I flew on... to Singapore, in 1955, from Heathrow , after a steam train trip down from Doncaster. The flight took 3 days, including 2 overnight stops and 6 or 7 for refuelling. :)

    Hermes Pic..jpg
    • Like Like x 1
  9. Markham

    Markham . Lifetime Member

    I also flew that same route in '55 but on a BOAC Super Constellation:

    From London the route was Rome, Athens, Cairo, Karachi, Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok and Singapore with overnights in Cairo and Calcutta.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. graham59

    graham59 Well-Known Member

    Yes, that route sounds familiar... but I think we also refuelled at Nicosia in Cyprus.

    Your plane was a bit 'flashier' than our little 75 seater too, by the look of it. :D
  11. Markham

    Markham . Lifetime Member

    That BOAC plane carried around 80 passengers and was an early model. I flew back to the UK three months later on a stretched version that had just entered service with Qantas; it had wingtip auxiliary tanks which gave it an extra 1100 mile range and so completed the route with just one overnight stop (in Delhi). Filled with planters' families and civil servants as I recall.

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