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Having fun with my ADS-B tracker project

How it started

Some years ago, I bumped into an article on Mashable about Jeremy Merrill using a Raspberry Pi ADS-B tracker to detect aircraft flying over his house and display the origin or destination of that plane (see article here and github there). As my place is just on a busy plane corridor, that gave me an idea. I decided to work on a similar project based on Piaware.

Looking at how he did it and at the long literature you can find on the web on ADS-B, I created this site, my own software in Python to run on my Pi and other fun stuffs. I also ran into this site by SonicGoose and that gave me many new ideas (including the basic structure of this site – I never had any experience of html or php before).

One key part is getting access to aircraft databases to get more info from the ModeS hex code you get from the Piaware tracker. I am sharing my own database of planes, airports and routes I detected with one of my trackers (I have a fixed one at home, another one in Briancon in France (solar powered and connected by SigFox!) and a mobile one I take with me during my trips over the world).

When I started few years ago, I didn’t know that it will become such a fun project!

Updates

[2019/02] Update of installation script and new links
[2019/05] Update of the Radar page that now use my own positions database. Added aircraft silhouettes and Airlines logo.
[2019/05] Changed the domain to FoxtrotCharlie.ovh !!!
[2019/06] Changed landing page and reworked index for Google
[2019/07] Added Great Circle tracks between origin, destination and seen positions on Radar
[2019/09] Added Airports data, API page, better sitemap for Google index
[2020/01] Added a solar powered ADS-B tracker in Briancon, with a SigFox interface by SNOC to send new / special planes to this database when Wifi is off – works great!

Running an ADS-B tracker on a solar panel is quite challenging. After some research, I believed a 20W solar panel would be enough, but the stick consumption is very high, and solar energy production is far from stable… after few month using it, I would need about 80W to be able to power the system for 24h (Raspberry Pi 4 + Flightaware Pro Stick Plus + SNOC SigFox). SigFox is a great solution to replace a 4G modem which would also take too much energy. The limitation to 6 messages per hour is manageable, as I am only reporting new or special planes to this website, while the detailed data are stored and shared when the device has access to wifi.

The biggest issue I didn’t plan for was that the Pi doesn’t have a RTC, so time was wrong (it only progress when the Pi is on, about 8 to 12h per day… after few days, it was completely off). Hopefully, I could also use the downlink SigFox messages to get the network time and update the Pi time at each boot.

Here the limitation is at 4 messages per day. It is controlled by the callback feature so it is quite easy to be sure you will not exceed the budget, even with a Pi with no idea what is current date or time. Next step is to work on shuting down properly the Pi when battery is low in order to avoid memory issue. So far it works with multiple wild shutdowns per day, but I don’t know for how long.

[2020/02] Updated the stats page to show more details
[2020/03] Added tweets on Sigfox interface with Briancon tracker
[2020/07] Working on adding MoPi-2 on the solar powered tracker to allow clean power down. Changed all the time in UTC. With trackers everywhere, it doesn’t make sens anymore to be on Hong Kong time.
[2020/09] Added a new blog. Let’s hope I will post regularly from now on![2020/10] API optimisation – reduced the errors from 2% to 0.05%

[2020/11] New landing page with a RSS feed reader to get up to date links to my blog posts. Let’s see the impact on Search ranking!
[2020/12] Upgraded all my Raspberry Pi code to Python3. I have been delaying that for a long time, but it was much easier than expected. Further optimisation of the API to reduce the error rate further. Some trackers are now at 0 errors, some still at 0.05%, still struggling to understand why.

[2021/02] Added tweets for key aircraft on ADSBexchange and daily’s catch of special and military aircraft, with screenshot. Adding tar1090 on all my trackers.

Interesting links on ADS-B trackers

The Mashable article that started everything,
Flyover github, a great place to start,
Piaware from Flightaware,
Raspberry Pi,
SonicGoose, that inspired me to create my own database of aircraft, flights, airports…
ADSB-Exchange which has great APIs and a true global, unfiltered coverage,
The very good adsb-receiver on github,
The awesome OpenSky, with it’s great interface,
The excellent AboveTustin, if you want to tweet the planes flying over,
Radarspotting for its aircraft silhouettes and forum always full of resources,
tar1090, the interface used by ADSBexchange,
And for sure Foxtrotcharlie!

Have fun with your ADS-B trackers!

A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2)

100+ ways to track commercial, private and military aircraft around the world. Commercial trackers, community aggregators, Virtual Radar Servers and other websites.

Plane tracking websites with global coverage

ADSBexchange“World’s largest source of unfiltered flight data”
ADSBexchange
adsbexchange.com

ADSBexchange is an aggregator of ADS-B feeders, relying on a community of volunteers. It is showing unfiltered data, meaning all aircraft are visible (including private jets and military aircraft). This is a great tool for OSINT, plane tracking enthusiasts and journalists.
Feeders have access to all aircraft visible on the network through API, after requesting an API key. Others have access through a map. They have a MLAT solution, which means that airplane which are not broadcasting their position may still be positioned by triangulation if they are in range of enough feeders.

NameADSBexchange
TypeAggregator, map
URLhttps://www.adsbexchange.com
Twitter@adsbexchange
Data sharinghttps://www.adsbexchange.com/how-to-feed/

Adsbhub“Free ADS-B data sharing and exchange”
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
adsbhub.org

ADSBhub is an aggregator of ADSB data. It relies on a community of feeders. All their data is accessible to feeders in the same SBS format you can get from the receivers. This is more for enthusiasts with a technical background as there is no interface to track a specific aircraft or flight number, but this is a great tool if you want to increase the coverage of your own receiver. Their coverage is sort of global, but with less receivers than ADSBexchange.

NameADSBhub
TypeAggregator
URLhttps://www.adsbhub.org
Twitter@adsbexhub
Data sharinghttps://www.adsbhub.org/howtofeed.php

Ads-b.nl“Tracking Military Aircraft”
ads-b.nl
ads-b.nl

ads-b.nl is a site dedicated to tracking military aircraft. It is relying on ADSBexchange data. It is listing all available military aircraft on ADSBexchange at a given time.

NameADS-B.nl
TypeMilitary aircraft
URLhttps://www.ads-b.nl
Twitter@adsbnl1

Airnav Radarbox“Disrupting an Industry. Revolutionizing Air Traffic Surveillance.”
Airnav Radarbox
radarbox.com

Airnav Radarbox is also a commercial website, based in Tampa, Florida, USA, relying on a network of feeders that they deployed, a community of feeders, but also some different sources of data (FAA radars, Satcom ACARS, HFDL…). Airnav was a pioneer in that industry as they started as early as 2001. As usual you can share your data. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. They are also selling a ADS-B dongle and one to listen to ATC. They have one of the best coverage of the market thanks to the aggregation of data from different technologies.

NameAirnav Radarbox
TypeCommercial, map, commercial flight tracker
URLhttps://www.radarbox.com
Twitter@RadarBox24
Data sharinghttps://www.radarbox.com/sharing-data

AvDelphi“One place for all your aviation data requirements”

AvDelphi is an aviation data provider based in Switzerland. They propose more than tracking, with a lot aviation related data available on their site (ACARS data, NOTAM, aviation news, airframes data…). They also propose some spotting tools so that you can log your observations and store your pictures. A little less well design than the other websites, they still are a great source of information.

NameAvDelphi
TypeAviation data
URLhttps://www.avdelphi.com/track.html
Twitter@avdelphi
Data sharinghttps://www.avdelphi.com/addsource.html

A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
FlightAware.com
FlightAware“Live Flight Tracking”

FlightAware is one of the pioneer in the industry, based in the USA. As a commercial website, they started in 2005, focusing first on North America, and step by step increasing their coverage to the world. They now have one of the best global coverage, thanks to their access to satellite ADS-B technology, that allow them to track cross ocean flights that are not visible to normal ADS-B trackers (to be able to track a plane, the receiver has to be “in view”; as the earth is round, even with receivers on high points and aircraft at cruising levels, it is difficult to track planes beyond 250nm).

FlightAware deployed its own network of feeders and they also made it possible for enthusiasts to share the data of their own receivers. FA is also making some Raspberry Pi software available, to make it pretty affordable and easy to build your own receiver and start with plane tracking. One of the great feature is they give you access to MLAT positions, which means you can track some aircraft that do not broadcast their position, as is often the case with military one. At least you can see them on your tracker, even if they may not be visible to the general public.

They also provide some hardware, with some great USB dongles, filters and antennas. If you are a feeder, you have a free access to their business account. They also make a lot of data available for free for the general public. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Don’t expect to find many military aircraft. Some private jets are also filtered. They also provide a lot of services to the aviation industry.

NameFlightAware
TypeCommercial, map, commercial flight tracker, mobile app
URLhttps://www.flightaware.com
Twitter@flightaware, @FlightAwareADSB
Data sharinghttps://www.flightaware.com/adsb/piaware/build

FlightRadar24“Live Air Traffic”
flightradar24
flightradar24.com

FlightRadar24 is one of the best commercial websites, based in Sweden, relying on a network of feeders that they deployed and also a community of feeders. They started in 2006, just one year after FA. They gain a lot of exposure in 2010 during the explosion of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano that disrupted the flights over Northern Europe.

If you share your feeder’s data, you have a free access to their business account. Many great features are also available for free. They have one of the best global coverage, you should find what you are looking for with FlightRadar24. As other commercial websites, they are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Don’t expect to find many military aircraft; private jets are more covered, but also filtered.

I also love their mobile app with an AR feature that let you know which flight is the plane above your head.

NameFlightRadar24
TypeCommercial, map, commercial flight tracker, mobile app
URLhttps://www.flightradar24.com
Twitter@flightradar24
Data sharinghttps://www.flightradar24.com/add-coverage

flight-radar.eu

flight-radar.eu is embedding Radarbox map.

NameFlight Radar EU
TypeEmbed
URLhttps://www.flight-radar.eu
Twitter@Flights_EU

Opensky-network“Improving the security, reliability and efficiency of the air space usage”
Opensky-network
opensky-network.org

The OpenSky Network is a non-profit association based in Switzerland. It relies on a community of feeders. Researchers and academics have access to their historical data. They claim they keep all the data ever recorded in their database. If you feed your data, you have access to a great dashboard with a lot of statistics about your receiver.

NameOpenSky Network
TypeNon profit, research & academics
URLhttps://opensky-network.org
Twitter@OpenSkyNetwork
Data sharinghttps://opensky-network.org/contribute/improve-coverage

Planefinder“Live Flight Tracking”
planefinder.net
planefinder.net

Planefinder is another commercial website, relying on a network of feeders that they deployed and also a community of feeders. They are filtering some aircraft for privacy reasons. Their main focus is on their mobile app.

NamePlaneFinder
TypeCommercial, app
URLhttps://planefinder.net
Twitter@planefinder
Data sharinghttps://planefinder.net/coverage

Planeflighttracker“Live Flight Tracker”

Planeflighttracker is embedding PlaneMapper.

NamePlaneFlightTracker
TypeEmbed
URLhttp://www.planeflighttracker.com
Twitter

PlaneMapper
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
planemapper.com
NamePlaneMapper
Type
URLhttps://www.planemapper.com
Twitter@PlaneMapper

RadarLive“Airplane radar map”

RadarLive is embedding FlightRadar24 map.

NameRadarLive
TypeEmbed
URLhttps://www.radar-live.com/p/flight-radar.html
Twitter

RadarVirtuel
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking

You need to create an account to see the planes.

NameRadarVirtuel
TypeWorldwide but better coverage in Europe
URLhttp://www.radarvirtuel.com
Twitter@radarvirtuel, @Openskymap

Skyscanworld“Aircraft Transponder and Satellite Tracking”

Skyscanworld is a new comer in the industry. The radar is behind a paywall, except if you are a feeder.

NameSkyScanWorld
TypeNew site
URLhttps://skyscanworld.com
Twitter@scan_sky

VariFlight“Your Live Aviation Data at Hand”
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
variflight.com

This is the website of the Variflight mobile App. They have great data on the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry.

NameVariFlight
Type
URLhttps://flightadsb.variflight.com
Twitter@VariFlight
Data sharinghttps://flightadsb.variflight.com/share-data/script

Plane tracking websites dedicated to commercial flights

Flightstats“Global flight status”
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
flightstats.com

Flightstats is dedicated to track commercial flights by flight numbers or by route. This is the website of the Flightstats mobile app.

NameFlightStats
TypeCommercial flights, mobile app
URLhttps://www.flightstats.com/v2/
Twitter@FlightStatsTech

FlightviewReal time flight tracker
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
llightview.com

Flightview is dedicated to track commercial flights by flight numbers or by route. It is managed by AOG, one of the major aviation data provider.

NameFlightView
TypeCommercial flight, mobile app
URLhttps://www.flightview.com
Twitter@flightview

Google
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
google.com

Google is able to give informations about most commercial flights.

NameGoogle
TypeSearch engine
URLhttps://www.google.com
Twitter@Goggle

Plane tracking websites with a regional focus

AussieADSB

AussieADSB is focusing on Australia.

NameAussieADSB
TypeVRS, Australia focused
URLhttp://aussieadsb.com/VirtualRadar/desktop.html
Twitter

DonnyRadar

Watching the skies over Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

NameDonnyRadar
TypeList, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, UK
URLhttp://www.donnyradar.co.uk
Twitter

eSky

eSky is focusing on Europe.

NameeSky.eu
TypeEurope
URLhttps://www.esky.eu/radar
Twitter

Freedar.uk

Freedar.uk is focusing on UK, with a global coverage thanks to ADSBhub data.

NameFreedar.uk
TypeVRS, UK focused
URLhttps://freedar.uk/
Twitter@freedar_uk

GliderRadar

GliderRadar is focusing on gliders.

NameGliderRadar
TypeGliders
URLhttps://www.gliderradar.com
Twitter

Itamilradar – “Monitoring military aircraft movements over Italy and Mediterranean Sea”
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
itamilradar.com

ItamilRadar is focusing on military aircraft above Italy and Mediterranean Sea. It is aggregating data from other websites.

NameItaMilRadar
TypeMilitary aircraft
URLhttps://www.itamilradar.com
Twitter@ItaMilRadar

LiveGliderNet

LiveGliderNet focused on gliders.

NameLiveGliderNet
TypeGliders
URLhttp://live.glidernet.org/
Twitter

LiveMilitaryModeS

LiveMilitaryModeS focused on airborne military aircraft.

NameLiveMilitaryModeS
TypeMilitary aircraft
URLhttps://www.live-military-mode-s.eu
Twitter@MilitaryModeS

NASA Airborne Science Program Tracker
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
airbornescience.nasa.gov

NASA is tracking its airborne science projects, generally over the USA.

NameNASA Airborne Science Program Tracker
TypeNASA, map
URLhttps://airbornescience.nasa.gov
Twitter@NASAAirborne

PlaneRadar.ru
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
planeradar.ru

Planeradar.ru is focusing on Russia.

NamePlaneRadar.ru
TypeRegional, silhouettes
URLhttps://planeradar.ru
Twitter@ua4wiy_

WebTrack
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
webtrak.emsbk.com

WebTrack is providing plane tracking service for airports all over the world.

NameWebTrack
TypeAirports, maps
URLhttps://webtrak.emsbk.com
Twitter

WestWeather

WestWeather is a tracker in UK.

NameWestWeather
TypeVRS
URLhttps://www.westweather.co.uk/aircraft.php
Twitter

360Radar

360Radar is focusing on UK.

Name360Radar
TypeRegional
URLhttps://www.360radar.co.uk
Twitter@360radaruk

Plane tracking websites of Airports and Airlines

Many airports and airlines have their own plane tracking page on their website. They generally use services from a major tracking website such as FlightRadar24, FlightAware RadarBox or WebTrack. The list would be too long to add here, but you can check your local airport or favorite airline website if you are interested. Airline websites generally focus on their own fleet.

Plane tracking websites by enthusiasts

Clanlawrence
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking

Clanlawrence is a tracker close to Edinburgh in UK.

NameClanlawrence
TypeTracker
URLhttp://radar.clanlawrence.co.uk
Twitter

Jeroen Steeman

Receiver in Eindhoven, NL.

NameJeroen Steeman
TypeVRS
URLhttps://jeroen.steeman.org/ADSB/Virtual-Radar
Twitter

PlaneWatch
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking

Plane.watch is a tracker close to Perth, in Australia.

NamePlane.watch
TypeTracker
URLhttps://plane.watch
Twitter

RadarMaarssen

Receiver in Maarssen, Stichtse Vecht, NL.

NameRadarMaarssen
TypeVRS
URLhttp://www.radarmaarssen.nl/VirtualRadar/desktop.html
Twitter@RadarMaarssen

RadarVolfheze

Receiver in Volfheze, NL.

NameRadarVolfheze
Typedump1090-fa
URLhttp://www.radarwolfheze.nl/dump1090-fa/
Twitter@FWolfheze

RealADSB
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking

RealADSB is focusing on New York area. It is also providing lots of tips if you want to make your own tracker.

NameRealADSB
TypeTable
URLhttps://www.realadsb.com/data.html
Twitter@RealADSB

Santa Barbara Wireless Foundation
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
Santa Barbara Wireless Foundation VRS

The Santa Barbara Wireless Foundation shares the VRS view of their receiver near Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

NameSanta Barbara Wireless Foundation
TypeVRS
URLhttps://www.sbarc.org/ads-b-aircraft-tracking/
Twitter@K6TZ

Sonicgoose“Words for Nerds-A blog of things I’ve learned as a geek”
sonicgoose.com
sonicgoose.com

Sonicgoose is displaying data from his own tracker in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada. He is also giving a lot of interesting tips in his blog.

NameSonicGoose
TypeEnthusiast, blog, tips
URLhttps://sonicgoose.com
Twitter

Foxtrotcharlie“A journey to ADS-B tracking with Raspberry Pi”
foxtrotcharlie.ovh
foxtrotcharlie.ovh

Foxtrotcharlie is displaying data from his trackers in Hong Kong and Briancon, France.

NameFoxtrotCharlie
TypeEnthusiast, database, free API, blog
URLhttps://www.foxtrotcharlie.ovh
Twitter@Foxcharlie

Virtual Radar Servers

I also found many Virtual Radar Servers without being able to attribute them. Don’t hesitate to comment if you have more details about them.

VRS Servers
Eindhoven, NL
Switzerland
Australia
Toulouse, France
Berlin, Germany (1)
Berlin, Germany (2)
Denmark
Phoenix, AZ, USA
Dresden, Germany
Chicago, USA (1)
Australia
New Zealand and Australia
Astrakhan, Russia
London, UK
Toulon, France
Toronto, Canada
Limoges, France
http://www.radarvirtuel.com
Canada
Saint John, Canada
http://csiapf.ddns.net:62628/VirtualRadar/desktop.html
Nimes, France
http://pembsmarine.ddns.net:8080/VirtualRadar/desktop.html
Glasgow, UK
Portugal
Montreal, Canada
Johnson Creek, USA
Dallas, TX, USA
Leipzig, Germany
Aberdeen, UK
Chicago, USA (2)
Israel
List of Virtual Radar Servers without clear attribution

Twitter bots

AboveTustin ADSB Bot
A comprehensive list of plane tracking websites (1/2) - plane tracking
@AboveTustin/Twitter

Thanks to Kevin Brandon an its AboveTustin software on GitHub, many plane tracking enthusiasts are sharing some data from their trackers on Twitter. I created a list on Twitter with those I found.

NameAboveTustin ADSB bot
TypeTwitter Bot
URLhttps://twitter.com/AboveTustin
Twitter@AboveTustin

Other Twitter bots
NameADSB geeks/bots
TypeTwitter list
URLhttps://twitter.com/i/lists/1314536773247098880

Special flight trackers

SimAware

This is a special plane tracking site, dedicated to flight simulators. It won’t provide any data on actual flights!

NameSimAware
TypeFlight simulators
URLhttps://map.vatsim.net
Twitter@vatsim
Disclaimer

Despite all my efforts to make this list of plane tracking websites and Twitter bots as complete as possible, I may have missed some. Don’t hesitate to comment if you know others, I will be happy to add them.
Some links may stop to work, specially VRS servers.
Mobile apps will be covered in part 2.

COVID-19 impact on aviation industry

COVID-19 impact on aviation industry

COVID-19 impact on aviation industry

COVID-19 impact on aviation industry – Data and analysis by Airsavvi. Interesting case study on how China internal flights are almost back to normal, while the rest of the world suffer a strong decrease in number of flights and passengers.