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:
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.