Flight tracking with RTL-SDR and Dump1090

One of the interesting uses for RTL Software Defined Radio is to set it up to track ADS-B  data sent from nearby aircraft, this information provides transponder information such as altitude, course, speed and the flight number.

To examine this data I am using a Linux utility called Dump1090, I compiled this from source using the current git HEAD at https://github.com/MalcolmRobb/dump1090, there are other repositories but I hear this is the best. To start on an Ubuntu or derivative, install build-essential and git;

apt-get install build-essential git

Then clone the repository into a folder somewhere:

git clone https://github.com/MalcolmRobb/dump1090

Enter the folder and compile the application:

cd dump1090

Now run the application with the following options:

./dump1090 --interactive --net

I was already running another server on dump1090’s default 8080 so I needed to specify an alternative port 10900

./dump1090 --interactive --net --net-http-port 10900

Now, open your browser and point to the address http://localhost:8080, replacing the 8080 with the alternative port chosen if you needed to.


The application will start finding nearby aircraft and plotting them on a Google map, you can select the planes  to look up their flight plan on web sites like flightaware and flightstats. I live near to Manchester International Airport so I could see a good few flights arriving and departing MAN that would show up as they leave and disappear as they left range somewhere off the coast of the Irish Sea.

2 Replies to “Flight tracking with RTL-SDR and Dump1090”

  1. Hi David, I just found your post about ADS-B. Can you please better explain how this works? I understand that you have a NooElec RTL/SDR so I believe you have to start it first to make it work as a remote I/Q server so that Dump1090 can fetch data on that stream. Is this correct or does the Dump1090 use remote servers from the Internet ?

    1. Hi John,
      Dump1090 directly reads IQ data from the RTL-SDR dongle so you simply start the application on the PC with it connected to the USB ports. As far as I’m aware it does not retreive flight information from Internet sources although it can submit decoded information from the airwaves up to flight tracking web sites.

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