ADS-B Receiver For Less Than 20 Euros

How to use a DVB-T Stick to feed ADS-B data to Flightradar24 and get Flightradar24 Premium for free.

Figure 1 - ezcap DVB-T USB Stick

Did you know that for less than 20 Euros you can buy a digital TV USB stick that can be used as a low cost ADS-B receiver? These won’t perform as well as a dedicated Mode-S receiver, but for a fraction of the price it’s a good place to start.

With suitable software, these readily available, low cost devices can be used to track aircraft and feed data to Flightradar24.com. And since all feeders get a free Flightradar24 Premium subscription, you can recover the cost of the receiver in less than 12 months.

Here’s how.

Choosing a DVB-T Receiver

Not all DVB-T receivers can tune to 1090 MHz. Make sure you buy one with either the RTL2832U/E4000 or newer RTL2832U/R820T chip/tuner combinations.

Buying a DVB-T Receiver

Recommended suppliers

If you’re prepared to wait a bit longer you can save a few Euros by getting one on eBay from China with 2 to 4 weeks delivery. Below are links with search results of products to consider.

TV sticks on Amazon

TV sticks on EBay

Setting Up

To use the DVB-T receiver for ADS-B there are some important things to bear in mind.

  1. You need to use a particular USB driver. Do not use the supplied drivers or software and do not let Windows install the drivers. You must use Zadiq to install the USB drivers. See below.
  2. You also need software to tune and decode the received 1090 Mhz data to track aircraft and to feed the data to Flightradar24.

Please avoid the temptation to plug the receiver into a spare USB port and use it as intended – a digital TV tuner. Throw away the supplied software CD.

Installing the USB Driver

We need to install the USB driver for the port being used. For this we need a small software utility called Zadig which can be downloaded from Sourceforge.net.

The download files are compressed using 7-Zip, an open source file compression utility, similar to WinZip or RAR. You will need the free 7-Zip to extract the downloaded files.

Create a folder for the extracted files.

Insert your USB stick into your USB port. Ignore and cancel any Windows messages asking to install the drivers.

Now run the Zadig.exe for your Windows version.

Under Options select “List all Devices”.

Figure 2 - Zadig List All Devices

Now choose “Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)”, or else your device name if different.

Figure 3 - Zadig Bulk-In, Interface (Interface 0)

Make sure you choose the “WinUSB (v6.1.7600.16385)” driver.

Figure 4 - Zadig WinUSB Driver

More detailed information is available at github.com:
    https://github.com/pbatard/libwdi/wiki/Zadig

Installing the 1090 MHz Receiving and Decoding Software

We recommend using RTL1090 from Jetvision.

    http://rtl1090.com/

Create two folders – one for RTL1090 and another for the SDR files.

Download these two zips and extract the files:

    http://www.jetvision.de/download/rtl1090.zip

    http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/raw-attachment/wiki/rtl-sdr/RelWithDebInfo.zip

Copy the files below from the rtl-sdr-release/x32 folder (even if you have a 64-bit machine) to the folder containing the extracted RTL1090 files:

    libusb-1.0.dll
    rtlsdr.dll

You should now have the following files in your RTL1090 folder (possibly without the rtl1090.ini):

Figure 5 - Files

Using RTL1090

With an antenna connected and your DVB-T Receiver in a USB port, launch rtl1090.exe from the folder.

Figure 6 - RTL1090 FR24

Click Start for RTL1090 to find the DVB-T receiver and open the output ports.

Figure 7 - RTL1090 Started

Depending on your location and antenna position, the RTL1090 window should display decoded Mode-S messages. Please refer to the RTL1090 Online Manual for more information.
If you toggle the List option you will see a list of received messages by ICAO code. This will include messages without positional data. Those with positional data will display an asterisk in the right-hand column. These are the messages that Flightradar24 uses.

Figure 8 - RTL1090 Aircraft Messages

Feeding Flightradar24.com

As a Thank You, those who share data receive a free subscription to Flightradar24 Premium. Premium has an enhanced website with no adverts or timeouts plus new features such as bookmarks and additional map settings. Premium also includes free use of all the available Flightradar apps and the highly customisable RadarView. The free feeder software can be downloaded from:

    http://www.flightradar24.com/software

Just follow the instructions to create an account and obtain sharing key.
The feeder software will not issue a sharing key unless it detects decoded data on TCP port 30003 with positional messages from two or more aircraft. If the RTL1090 window has less than two aircraft with asterisks, please move the antenna to a better location where it can “see” more sky. Or consider using a high performance ADS-B antenna such as the PCB-1090-MCX Mode-S /ADS-B antenna which includes an MCX-plug to connect to your DVB-T stick.
By default, RTL1090 outputs TCP data to port 31001and this must be changed to port 30003 to use our feeder software.
If you are using RTL1090 Build 100 released on 17 MAR 13, you must use a command line parameter to change the port to 30003. The simplest way to implement this is to create a Shortcut to RTL1090.exe and include the “/30003” parameter in the Target.
Make sure you use the correct folder path with a space between “exe” and “/30003”:
rtl1090.exe/30003 = Incorrect
rtl1090.exe /30003 = Correct

Figure 9 - RTL1090 Shortcut Parameter

If you are using RTL1090 Beta 2 Build 100 released on 29 JUN 13, you can set the port 30003 option in the Config option.

Figure 10 - RTL1090 Beta Config Option

In the Config window check:
"/30003 - Basestation type TCP port"

Figure 11 - RTL1090 Beta Options - Port 30003

Then Save + Close.
With RTL1090 outputting data to port 30003, you can download the feeder software to create a sharing key and start sharing your positional messages to Flightradar24.

Figure 12 - Feeder Software

Now create a free Premium account with the same email address used to create the sharing account to get a free subscription.

Figure 13 - Premium RadarView

External entenna?

Most receivers come with a small internal antenna but in order to get better coverage you will need to get a dedicated, externally mounted 1090 MHz antenna, low loss coax cable and an adapter to connect the cable to the DVB-T Receiver. We recommend you check out 1090Mhz.com's PCB-1090-MCX Mode-S/ADS-B antenna as it comes with an MCX-plug that allows for direct connection to the DVB-T stick.