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ADS-B Exchange – Co-op of unfiltered flight data (adsbexchange.com)
438 points by AWildC182 on Feb 18, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 196 comments

I have a receiver that I use to feed the ADS-B Exchange network. In return I get an API key that I use to power a collection of twitter bots that tweet whenever they detect, in realtime, aircraft circling over various metro areas:

https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesLA https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesSF https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesDC

The bots have detected police and news helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, military aircraft (https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesSF/status/1227832420918935552), blimps (https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesLA/status/1213310909302493184), autogryos (https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesLA/status/1216464781869121536), power line inspection helicopters (https://twitter.com/SkyCirclesLA/status/1210280545952776193), and helicopters filming race cars (https://twitter.com/lemonodor/status/1228100397337702400).

ADS-B Exchange is the only completely uncensored, global aircraft tracking network. And it's powered by a considerable amount of specialized open source software. Even the multilateration client (https://github.com/adsbxchange/mlat-client) and server (https://github.com/adsbxchange/mlat-server) code that can determine an aircraft's position even when it's not broadcasting its coordinates, using the time-of-arrival information from multiple receivers, is online. tar1090 (https://github.com/wiedehopf/tar1090) is a much more efficient replacement for the old Virtual Radar Server front-end that is currently under development, and can be tried at https://tar1090.adsbexchange.com/

And if you want a view into some of the current status of the ADS-B Exchange multilateration (MLAT) network, check out the sync stats page: http://www.adsbx.org/sync/

Select a region to see the details. For example, here are the feeder health stats for the southwestern U.S.: http://www.adsbx.org/sync/1B/

And here's the map of feeder locations in that region: http://www.adsbexchange.com/coverage-1B/

Glad you are putting that data to good use!

I follow your account on twitter. I love these!

While an unfiltered network is cool, am I the only one who thinks it’s utterly reasonable for aircraft owners to want some basic level of privacy? I always have found it strange that communities of folks who very much don’t want to be tracked themselves are also very interested in aggressively tracking others.

If we're speaking about privacy, then ADS-B is just one element of concern. The FAA is now finalizing new Remote ID regulations that will require all unmanned aircraft over 0.55 pounds to be identified and tracked in real time, with data shared back to authorized data aggregators. This is a major concern to hobbyists (think first person quad-copter racing), because the details of the proposed rules make it virtually impossible for hobbyists to fly amateur built aircraft, while giving cart blanch to commercial drone operators (ie delivery services) to fly anywhere assuming they have the resources to comply with the new Remote ID rules. The FAA is essentially saying they have the authority to regulate all navigable airspace, and since UAVs can fly inches from the ground, they are claiming authority to regulate who flies an inch above your own property. The rules are open for comment right now https://www.faa.gov/uas/research_development/remote_id/. A good summary is to read DJI's point of view. https://content.dji.com/we-strongly-support-drone-remote-id-...

I'm not sure where everyone else comes down on these navigational tracking techniques? Here's my view.

There are times when I do want to let everyone know where I am and who I am. This allows others to avoid running their vehicle into mine and improve rescue efforts if I'm in danger. So I think these sorts of digital beacons and aggregators can be a great improvement to support that mission.

If the nav beacon is mandated for safety reasons, I do not think that I should be required to give my personal information if I choose not to, and if there is a navigational concern, I don't think I should give more information than I need to to enable safe navigation. I think it's enough to provide telemetry (e.g. there is a boat, plane, car or drone at location x, y, and z).

I personally believe that people should own their data and forcing people to give more information than required to accomplish the task (e.g. navigation) is a problem for me. DJI's position is closer to what I'd prefer to see in this case.

(0.55 lb = 240 grams. wow)

Unsurprisingly, there's a difference between tracking any individual and tracking aircraft. Essentially nobody is interested in aggressively tracking aircraft owned by dentists, doctors, skydivers, or whatever. The interest is in things like tracking the movements of dictators (https://twitter.com/C4ADS/status/1156234995876413441), uncovering large scale secret aerial surveillance programs (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9646065), corrupt politicians and money launderers (https://tech.occrp.org/), and exposing rendition flights (https://gijn.org/planespotting-a-guide-to-tracking-aircraft-...).

Tracking aircraft simply is not the same as tracking, say, all my neighbors.

If your neighbors are traveling by personal aircraft then it is very much the same thing. There are a lot of privately owned GA aircraft and many of us don't particularly like everyone snooping on us.

Many in this community get awfully nervous about things like police surveillance of cars, license plate tracking, etc. The Police say they need it just for special cases like crime, but we all know the dangers of dragnet surveillance. This is also dragnet surveillance; it's the same violation of privacy if the mode of transportation is different. Many on this forum think it's fun though because the mechanism is a bit nerdy and they aren't the ones being surveilled.

Your milage may vary but my experience of the GA community is that their concern is more based on being being 'busted' for any minor infraction of airspace rather than their neighbours knowing where they are flying too.

It's a bit like having a box in your car which automatically alerts the authorities every time you exceed the speed limit.

Wow, when can we have those boxes for cars please?

In theory, there doesn't have to be a power differential between the average car owner and the average aircraft owner. In practice, there is.

This is sousveillance, not surveillance.

I'd wager that the HN demographic skews just as wealthy as the hobbyist GA community. Indeed, your friend or coworker with a brand new Model X is probably wealthier than the person taking the occasional weekend flight in their used Piper Cherokee.

I think this situation is closer to corporations and other companies having to list an address in a public catalog. Anyone can start a business, even my neighbors. It's much cheaper than buying an airplane. But we've decided it's in the public interest to have that information available.

Small aircraft can be surprisingly affordable; many small used GA aircraft cost about the same as a nice car does new and they generally don't depreciate very quickly -- there are lots of perfectly safe small aircraft from the 1960s and 70s still flying.

You'd be surprised how many middle and upper middle class americans fly.

Government tracking (Prism etc) are generally not about tracking actions taken by dentists, doctors, skydivers, or whatever. The interest is in things like catching terrorists and criminals.

As you can see the same argument can be applied to any form of mass surveillance.

I don't want this to be taken as a blanket claim that there is no merit to considerations of privacy in this realm, but there is a critical distinction between flight tracking and license plate vehicle tracking. Am infinitesimally small proportion of people have to fly private planes without option. American society has become such that the same cannot so be definitively said about automobiles. For large segments of the population, their cars are, for better or worse, a necessity of their daily lives and opting out of their use would be tantamount to opting out of society as it is. Yes, people can move to places where cars aren't needed, either because other forms of transportation can fulfill they're requirements or because life becomes hyper localized and there's no need to travel the distances licensed vehicles are required for. But not everyone can do that, literally; hyper localized loves are typically underpinned by other people bringing crap to you in vehicles with license plates being tracked. For many people, getting between a job they need and a neighborhood they can afford to live in, requires a private car. Having those people movements tracked it's more of a concern to me than done rich person who decides to take their personal plane to Aspen for the weekend.

Not at all.

No, sorry, the world doesn't operate how you wish it or were told it does. And I don't think you yet comprehend the Snowden revelations, the military-industrial complex, the nature of powerful elites, inverted totalitarianism or reality. Please stop peddling the party-line lies of manufactured consent and educate yourself outside of the mainstream media and the many others who are also brainwashed but don't realize it.

I think you may need to re-read my post, my point was exactly that it's not a good argument :)

This (air)ship has sailed long ago. Even without ADS-B - which in effect will broadcast your location to any receiver, internet or not - there are many other sources. From flight plans, to radio communications, which are not encrypted in any way and can be listened to by whoever bothers to have a receiver (and not even counting liveatc.net)

There are likely to be other information sources that are out there in the open. I assume there's extensive paper trail, starting from the point someone decides to purchase aircraft, to aircraft maintenance. And even more if they want to pilot themselves.

Even without zero technology there are plane spotters, although they will likely not be interesting in every Cessna 172 that flies by.

None of this is very surprising though. The aircraft industry thrives on transparency. Which is a good thing for safety.

Note that you'll be tracking the aircraft, not who is flying it. For instance, we know that Elon Musks' aircraft tail number is N628TS (btw - N, or November, also tells us it's from the US). I just did a quick google search for it. So now you can track it. Whether or not there's anyone else other than the pilot is another matter entirely.

If you want privacy, owning an aircraft is not the way to go. Renting or chartering one might be better against casual observers, but there is still a paper trail. You may be able to add some more levels of indirection.

That said, you are correct that there is a slippery slope. For aircraft, the above is understandable, as you are dealing with human lives, including on the ground. However, now the FAA wants to add even more strict requirements for _drone_ operators(even recreational), including broadcasting your own position at all times while operating a drone. At least one can argue that you are safe while flying an aircraft, no such thing if you are on the ground. https://www.thedroneu.com/blog/faa-announces-drone-remote-id...

> If you want privacy, owning an aircraft is not the way to go. Renting or chartering one might be better against casual observers, but there is still a paper trail. You may be able to add some more levels of indirection.

But that paper trail cannot be accessed through ADSB. If you charter a plane, there's no way someone can deduct who you are via ADS-B signals alone. And agencies with access to the paper trail don't need ADS-B to know where you went.

Running aircraft has significant externalized costs on society so it's probably not unreasonable that people should be able to keep track of that.

> I always have found it strange that communities of folks who very much don’t want to be tracked themselves are also very interested in aggressively tracking others.

I totally get this, but don’t think in terms of good and bad. Think in terms of power (empowerment and disempowerment).

I know how powerful mass surveillance is. I know how powerful knowledge is.

Therefore it isn’t surprising in the slightest that I should want to tear down every last shred of privacy in service of my own intelligence (empower my future self). Simultaneously I advocate to protect my own privacy (disempower future enemies).

It’s totally reasonable for anyone to want privacy. It’s also totally reasonable for me (or the Kremlin, or NSA) to want to thoroughly dismantle yours.

It's a kind of interesting point. At the time ADS-B was conceived they would have been aware of the lack of security I'm certain. However, the privacy element has, for the most part, only become relevant because of practically disposable Software Defined Radios being mass manufactured (actually repurposed TV dongles). At the time they created the spec I'm sure they considered the cost of buying a niche set of radio hardware a barrier to the general public having access.

Want, perhaps. Expect, no way. Flying is not a right, it's a privilege, and the FAA makes sure you know that.

Hurtling tons of steel through the sky at hundreds and hundreds of kilometers an hour above my head is a massive privilege to have, and a huge responsibility to take on. Letting the world know that you are doing it is very much a lowest-baseline expectation.

It's extraordinarily rare that a plane crashes into a house. What actions do you take if you learn that a plane is flying overhead? My guess is that even with this tracking data available you're completely unaware of air traffic near your house the vast majority of the time and that when you are aware you don't do anything at all in response.

And it is so rare because of the incredibly strict regulations and limitation on it happening. And I feel safe to ignore that data because I can trust that my safety is taken care of by those same limitations.

Those regulations and their effectiveness have nothing to do with your being able to personally track flights around you. Indeed those regulations were in place and effective long before there even existed a means for you to obtain the tracking data you now regard as somehow essential to those same regulations.

> folks who very much don’t want to be tracked themselves are also very interested in aggressively tracking others.

You're thinking of Page, Brin, Zuckerberg, Bezos? Yeah.

If they want to cover their tracks they can just charter aircrafts. Hedge funds like to use ADS-B to track movements for information about upcoming mergers, they're probably a bigger threat to privacy than some hobbyists.

You only need a transponder when flying an aircraft in controlled airspaces (Class A, B, C). You can fly without a transponder in a lot of places as long as you are in VFR conditions and not within 30 miles of most airports. It's just not a good idea. This is why gliders and paramotors can fly without a transponder in VFR conditions.

This is just basic safety for vehicles that can't see each other traveling at 100-1000 miles per hour in conflicting space.

Although it's a little concerning that ADS-B makes it so much easier to identify WHO is flying the planes.


Because the folks doing it are doing it for hobby and therefore it is good but corporations are doing it for profit so it is wrong.

Tracking others is okay for me but not for thee.

I'm only saying this partly in jest but I think it is conceivable that this line of defense is used by these communities and is absurd.

I do agree with you: a basic level of privacy should be there for everyone from (almost) everyone. In this particular case ATC should track aircraft and ensure that not everyone is going in any airspace willy-nilly.

> I always have found it strange that communities of folks who very much don’t want to be tracked themselves are also very interested in aggressively tracking others.

It fundementally comes down to information asymmetry, which is only growing. Any step that makes public knowledge available, especially when focused on areas predominantly used by the economically, socially or politically dominant classes help push back against this growing information asymmetry.

The same question applies to capturing, storing and distributing the AIS data from boats and ships.

At least under our (Finnish) legislation capturing and distributing this information might be illegal. Law says you may not disclose captured radio transmissons unless they were ment for public use or you were the intended recipient.

I believe OpenSky also doesn't censor their data, although in some areas I've looked at their coverage isn't quite as good as ADS-B Exchange. IIRC OpenSky is also a lot more permissive if you want to use their API

Unfortunately OpenSky does filter data (donors and sponsors to name a few) and is nothing more than a tax dollar black hole and front for commercially selling data while supporting the for profit Sero Systems.

ADSBx offered to share data, a data swap. Opensky was not interested and told us - "go fuck yourselves".

I know that there's a big financial incentive to censor aircraft data, and I haven't seen an explicit statement from OpenSky on their policies, so... I'm not sure.

Why am I not surprised to find this here?

Quite a bit of volume on those feeds given that it's specific cities. Colour me surprised

tar1090 pleases me. Thank you for bringing that up!

Context: As of the beginning of 2020 all aircraft are required to have ADS-B out capability. This means that they periodically broadcast their GPS position unencrypted, along with their speed, altitude, heading and tail number.

Most networks like Flight Aware allow owners to blacklist aircraft such that their tracks do not appear on the site. This is typical of corporate aviation departments and private jet owners as they don't want their movements to be available to rivals/hedge funds or the media. Additionally military aircraft are typically not reported.

Edit: also, for those who are unaware, unlike license plates which are generally unsearchable, tail-numbers as reported by ADS-B are publicly searchable with registration and history information available on the FAA website:


Not quite all aircraft are required to have ADS-B in all situations, there are a number of edge cases out there. But close enough, I suppose, and most planes people would want to track are required to have it.

However, there's also a new privacy initiative that allows aircraft to fly under temporary ids. The FAA will still know who they are, but for 3rd parties it will become much more difficult to determine.


Also, the US allows using UAT on 978 MHz for ADS-B requirement for planes below 18,000 ft.

Most SDRs only decode 1090 MHz signal. It is possible to decode 978 MHz but requires more work to support both.

I know what you mean, you mean the software for SDRs is mostly geared towards tuning to 1090 MHz and decoding ADS-B pulses there.

But to be clear: the SDR's tuners are rarely limited that way. Most can tune to 978 MHz even easier than 1090 MHz. Covering the entire VHF to UHF range is pretty typical.

When I've set up P25 receivers, it's common to use 2-4 RTL-SDR's to do the bulk of listening. Each rtl-sdr gets set with a different center freq, and the control channel tells when and where to listen.

You can build a P25 listener for less than $100.

which software do you use to demodulate P25? gnuradio?

I use https://github.com/robotastic/trunk-recorder

You'll use https://www.radioreference.com and get the appropriate control and voice channels for your area. You'll also get the talkgroups and put them in a CSV.

From there, you'll use http://garvas.org/trunk-recorder/ to determine how many RTL-SDR dongles (or others) you'll need, along with their respective center frequencies. Note that you'll copy/paste the relevant control/voice line for your p25 from radioreferece.com

From there, just define where to store the files on the drive, and off it goes. There's a python webserver ( https://github.com/ScanOC/trunk-player ) you can install for on-prem, and/or you can also upload it to openmhz website ( https://github.com/robotastic/trunk-recorder/wiki/Uploading-... ).

Not OP, but thank you! I recently got a SDR dongle and was going to set it up. This will help.

Good points all around. I figured the exceptions were esoteric enough to not bother with immediately but are very valid.

I'm interested in seeing where the proposal goes. I'm not sure where I stand on the issue but I'm curious of others opinions.

I hope not. Unlike car license plates, if you own a plane what you're doing with it is very much in the publics interest to know, especially if you don't want people to know.

They can have their privacy while they aren't flying polluting multi-million dollar planes through the country and above our buildings.

First, airplanes come in a lot of different sizes, and many don't cost anywhere near millions. A quick search online shows that you can find a used Cessna 172 starting at $35k - and is about the same size as a car.

Second, just because an airplane is over your building, doesn't mean it's going to crash into it. Even in an emergency, airplanes can keep gliding. A car is more likely to hit you while you're on the sidewalk - does that mean you get to know the name and address of every person driving local streets?

Third, I don't see how pollution has anything to do with privacy.

I can see an argument for being able to report an airplane doing something unsafe. But that's literally what the FAA exists for, and they have ways to look up who's flying an aircraft — anonymous or not. I don't see a good argument to releasing owners' names and addresses publicly so people can do law enforcement themselves.

I brought up pollution to point out that, although certainly worth it, society is paying a pricy to let people fly aeroplanes around as they wish. Since people owning planes are not just regular citizens, society should hence have some level of visibility into what people are doing with them.

Similar things apply to e.g. Amateur Radio. We've given people a big chunk of spectrum, and in exchange we expect transparency on what it's being used for. With few planes being owned by individuals, the case should be even stronger for aeroplanes, since the privacy argument applies less.

Personally, requiring a public address for amateur radio is a big problem and I'd argue needs to be changed.

It makes you a target for doxing and swatting, and causes an unending amount of spam mail that you can't unsubscribe from.

It made sense in the older days when people routinely mailed paper QSL cards. The FCC also relies on amateur radio operators to self-police each other, which is relatively unique as far as enforcement goes (see: ARRL official observers - but even in that case, if you do something sufficiently wrong then the FCC will get involved and could look up your address).

On the other hand... QSL cards are pretty cool.

In the US the address you give the FCC when you apply for a ham license does not have to be the address of where you live. It just has to be an address where you receive mail. I used my PO box.

When I found out Tim Allen has a ham license, I looked up his callsign record. He uses his production company's address.

There was actually a situation where a person who was feeding the ADS-B Exchange network used their amateur radio callsign as their station ID, and another feeder looked up their info and called them to complain that their raspberry pi's clock was out of sync and screwing up the network.

> does that mean you get to know the name and address of every person driving local streets

That might be a thing when self driving cars proliferate.

You can register an aircraft to an LLC / company. Doesn't always have to be registered to a person.

Private Crop dusting pilots flying over cornfields in southern Nebraska aren’t flying over your buildings mate.

Well put.

I also don't want my location broadcast as I move around on foot, or in my car, so why would I want to be tracked in the air?

And if you don't like being tracked, what makes you think that others want to be tracked all the time?

Do you own an personal aeroplane with ads-b transmitter? Do you think it's likely you're going to own one anytime soon?

This isn't the private data of your neighbor. This is either data from corporations which, despite being people in some senses, don't have any privacy rights, or individuals so rich that what they're doing with planes that they really want to keep secret should be everyone's concern.

I think you misunderstand how much planes cost. Many GA pilots aren’t rich. You can by a Cessna 150 for $16k as an example:


The pilot of this is likely not some rich individual undergoing clandestine operations.

... I know of several people nearby (relatively speaking, same metropolitan-ish area) with pretty middle-class salaries and jobs who own airplanes- not jets or anything, just smaller prop planes (like itty bitty Cessna things) and a couple people with ultralights they can land in their (fairly spacious) backyards.

Meh? As a passenger, I don't want to be tracked the way we do cattle.

Maybe I'm missing the point here, but more tracking feels more invasive and more likely to lead to abuse of said information (information imbalances equate to power, too!) and I don't want any more of that than is absolutely positively unavoidable.

> or individuals so rich that what they're doing with planes that they really want to keep secret should be everyone's concern.

You know a used Cessna is within the range of a new car, right? Is anyone who owns a townhome also in your "so rich they can't have privacy" category, because the cheapest junky townhouse around me is easily 6x the cost of a cheap personal aircraft.

Um, Yes. How do you know I’m not your neighbor? I’m middle class in the tech world and built an airplane. It cost less than a lot of luxury cars probably parked outside your workplace.

There are 600,000 GA pilots in the US. It’s ignorant if you think we all have Gulfstreams.

> How do you know I’m not your neighbor? I’m middle class in the tech world and built an airplane.

My dad was a pilot and engineer, and we built many things together in my childhood (go-carts, computer video games, an automotive speedometer, more).

But there was one thing that I always wanted to do with him: build an airplane. As a 13 year old, I found different plans from vendors, created a budget, put together a basic timeline, but could never convince him to do it.

In fairness, building a plane is a huge multi-year commitment, and almost certainly more expensive than buying a used Cessna. But the price is not completely out of reach for many folks (<$100k). The real draw is the amount you learn during the process and seeing your handiwork.

I'm still sad we never did it, but it was a big ask of a dad with a full-time job from a twerp son. As a consolation however, he did buy a small wing-section kit and we got to rivet a few panels together over a weekend. First time I ever used rivet fasteners!

What did you build? Working on an RV8 myself.

8A, of course my dad helped

I think this kind of comment (“it doesn’t affect you personally, so why do you care at all?”) suggests a shocking lack of empathy.

Flying also isn’t a prohibitively expensive activity; I know high school teachers who fly small aircraft.

I think you have an incorrect understanding of who owns planes. You'd be surprised how many of your neighbors own or rent aircraft at your local GA airport.

It's not just something multi-millionaires do. In many cases it's cheaper than owning a Tesla.

Heck, one can buy a sport plane[0] for less than the MSRP of a brand new Honda.

[0] http://www.zenithair.com/zodiac/ch650/650-price.html

A sport plane sans engine. An aircraft engine is like $30,000.

Private Crop dusing pilots aren't trying to hide themselves from the airplane maps, so this is irrelevant to the point.

I'd say they're more likely to be hiding themselves from the map than your average commercial flight.

Pilots of small aircraft are just as sensitive about giving up their privacy as anyone else.

Would you want your name, address, and position broadcast on the internet every time you get in your car?

Not just sensitive about their privacy, but there is a particularly ornery set of opinions among rural pilots regarding the government “telling me how to tend my own farm” which I think is at the root of what we see at the surface as being “privacy concerns”.

So when someone says these types of aviators aren’t trying to hide themselves I’m highly skeptical on just how well-versed the speaker is with the issues and perspectives this class people have with more and more expensive operating requirements being put on them with diminishing returns for their compliance.

Then again, this perspective isn't in line with "rich moguls and their private personal jets" and represents a blue-collar voice that gets left out of discussions in this community with a frustrating frequency; so I'm really not surprised, either.

Hell go talk to some ground-based truckers how they feel about having their routes tracked by logistics companies who book them for loads. There’s videos all over YouTube from long haul truckers complaining about faceless entities demanding they install tracking systems or download GPS enabled apps and the constant complaint is “don’t tell me how to drive my truck"

These operators want autonomy.

I would beg to differ and could probably accurately guess that several ag pilots I know would as well.

You can track my plane when I can track your car. Both are capable of nefarious deeds -- as is a bicycle, backpack, or hoodie.

The only thing special about private aircraft is people picturing some high-dollar gulfstream, and aiming a bit of jealousy at the people who own and operate them. Some of us fly planes that cost less than your Tesla and would prefer not to be painted with that broad of a brush.

I mean, barring legal limitations I'm unaware of, you're surely free to set up your own ALPR ("automatic license-plate reader"), set it up aimed out your window/balcony and collate the data with other fellow ALPR-constructing individuals on a website like the OP.

Certainly. And I doubt I would annoy many people due to locality, odds of them simply not driving past the thing, and of course, only a few people knowing I'm doing plate scanning and posting it online.

This is a government program, mandate even, with easily-downloaded data feeds.

My 'you can track my plane when...' was hyperbole for the moment. ADS-B compliance cost me a few thousand dollars. Getting off of the public 'radar' with my plane is on my 'get to it eventually' list of things to do. Somewhere around refinishing my deck and swapping my winter tires back for all-season. I'm bothered philosophically, but my actions say I'm not that bothered.

But to your point, if the government required all car owners to pop a GPS tag onto their honda, at a cost to them of a few hundred bucks, then gave the 24/7 surveillance data to the public freely, I can see a few noses being tweaked for a few different reasons.

Edit -- I guess this thread is getting too deep for more replies. Aircraft have registration numbers painted on their side. That's the analogy to license plates which are publicly visible, and systems do exist to video-capture those numbers (usually for billing purposes -- Vector is one I know of). ADS-B is automatic reporting/broadcasting by the aircraft itself. It is collected and distributed by government, and it is also capture-able by anyone with a receiver. I am not aware of any cars which broadcast their movements 24/7 to government, nor any initiative to make that happen at car-owner expense, nor the ability for one to capture that data freely on radio bands.

But I think the 'of interest to society' argument against cars is equally strong. Which was the original idea I was replying to. :)

> This is a government program, mandate even, with easily-downloaded data feeds.

Hang on. The ADS-B requirement is a government program, like car license plates. The data feeds are privately collected, and similar things absolutely exist for cars.


> DRN is a private surveillance system crowdsourced by hundreds of repo men who have installed cameras that passively scan, capture, and upload the license plates of every car they drive by to DRN's database. DRN stretches coast to coast and is available to private individuals and companies focused on tracking and locating people or vehicles.

Why do you need to know exactly who is in a plane? How does that help you at all? What do you do with this information to improve your life?

This data directly led to the discovery of a large scale, secret aerial surveillance program by the FBI, which led to Congress demanding information about the legal and privacy issues: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/congres...

> Most networks like Flight Aware allow owners to blacklist aircraft such that their tracks do not appear on the site.

Do you know more about how this is done? Is there a fixed price list for this service? Can one "buy" it online? Is there some sort of registry that is shared between networks?

> Additionally military aircraft are typically not reported.

While I'm sure the military can turn off transponders at will, I presume (?) they often fly with them on. Can these signals be tracked with "standard" gear when they are on?

The FAA runs the blocking programs, there's no fee https://www.fly.faa.gov/ASDI/asdi.html https://ladd.faa.gov/

A copy of the ASDI block list is on https://www.muckrock.com/foi/united-states-of-america-10/faa...

The FAA also has a new program to hand out pseudonymous aircraft identifiers via commercial providers so there probably is a fee for that https://www.faa.gov/nextgen/equipadsb/privacy/

FlightAware sells blocking services and dashboards. Don't be fooled, the privacy lobbying is only to make more money for FlightAware and FlightRada24.

Feeders sending them free data for fake enterprise dashboards and fake "$89 value" accounts have made David Baker a multi-millionaire.

*Daniel Baker

I've heard that the first few years of flightaware they made most of their money in taking requests for not publishing specific aircraft.

As for military stuff - they have additional capabilities for their transponders that provide for responding to interrogators (think identify friend or foe - IFF systems). They're not supposed to disable transponders in the required airspace - they've got to comply with the FAA rules too. There are situations where ATC transfers control over to the military where they are free to do more things. Like in a hot military operating area (MOA) or when ATC transfers traffic separation to the military (MARSA).

I wonder whether those hedge fund people have smartphones and if they do whether they choose Apple, Android or do not care. That would be pretty valuable information in the wrong hands, all it takes is one silly game with a permission too many and your goose is cooked.

On apple at least there's a lot of repeat asks these days. It doesn't just ask "can X use location data", it asks you a day later "hey X has been using location data while in the background do you still want to allow this". Then again more days later, and again.

On iOS at least I think this door is closing.

I think you’re misunderstanding. Hedge fund people want the locations of CEOs, CFOs, mergers and acquisitions lawyers, etc because they can infer a lot about potential deals (or issues). Nobody usually cares where the hedge fund analysts themselves are.

I don't believe private owners are the most interesting black-listed things. Military aircraft anyone? Who doesn't want to see those :)

I noticed a helo circling with a huuge spotlight a mile or so from my house, and the skies were empty according to flightradar24, but ads-b exchange showd me that it was a police helicopter. I can see the reason for blacklisting those, so the people being chased cant easily track the helicopter? Otoh theyre bloody obvious due to their noisiness imo so I dont think it would matter one bit for the 1% of criminals aware enough to use flightradar24 to somehow evade capture..

This will be an interesting wrinkle for US college athletics. Coaches defecting to another university after secret negotiations has become very common. Watching the flights of university owned aircraft and those of prominent boosters has become a way of detecting that such negotiations might be taking place. While public universities would have a difficult time justifying paying to hide their flight data, private universities and boosters have both the means and motive to do so. A source like ADS-B Exchange neutralizes this tactic.

I wonder if any of the security threats brought up in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXv1j3GbgLk has been addressed. (Fun demo at 42:00)

Correction Context: As of the beginning of 2020 all aircraft in the United States are required to have ADS-B out capability.

This is not true. ADS-B OUT is required to fly in certain classes of airspace, above 10,000 feet, etc. -- anywhere a transponder is currently required. That's all.

That leaves a lot of airspace in the US. Someone flying his C182 in eastern Wyoming may not bother with it as he does not see any benefit. Here in western Oregon, I see the benefit (weather and traffic via ADS-B IN) and have equipped my aircraft even though I (mostly) avoid the airspace where it is required.

Thanks for the info. I had read it was becoming mandatory in the US in 2020. That was in the context of Australian regulations where aircraft still aren't forced to have ADS-B.

some exceptions: As such, we have concluded that the same aircraft excluded from the transponder requirement are excluded from the ADS-B Out equipage. Accordingly, an aircraft that subsequently has been installed with batteries or an electric starter would not be required to equip for ADS-B Out. The FAA may consider a technical amendment in the future to remove any confusion due to the discrepancy between the language in§ 91.215(a)(5) and§ 91.225(e).


see also


If one is not using the services of air traffic control (ATC) by flying either IFR or using flight following, i.e., flying VFR, and if one's transponder supports the functionality, it is possible to fly in an anonymous fashion (while still giving position information):

* https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2019/february/p...

What happens is that the transponder generates a random self-assigned temporary ICAO ID number. This is for UAT only.

* https://www.avweb.com/aviation-news/faa-acts-to-preserve-ads...

So people can tell that someone is flying in a particular position, but not who.

And if anyone wants to help contribute data, there are a few ways to get started.

1. The minimal: Raspberry Pi and an RTL-SDR dongle. You can even use the small stock antenna that often comes with a dongle, if you put it near a window.

2. A real 1090 MHz antenna, plus filter + amp will greatly increase your performance, and cost less than $100.

Weidehopf has a shopping list: https://github.com/wiedehopf/adsb-wiki/wiki/adsb-receiver-sh...

As does flightaware: https://flightaware.com/adsb/piaware/build

Software-wise, you have a couple nearly-turnkey solutions. The easiest thing is just to follow the guide at https://www.adsbexchange.com/how-to-feed/ You can even use their custom Raspberry Pi image, and instantly have dashboards and maps and all the cool stuff.

Any “one click buy” resources where I can simply pay for a device to be shipped and put it on my network to ship data back? I have several locations in the US I could colocate such devices.

There are a number of places, ADS-B Exchange sells a preconfigured kit on their website. If the location is one with weak coverage they may even send one to you for free, definitely worth reaching out to them if nothing more then to ask about a bulk discount.

Thank you!

AFAIK they don't allow you to pay for it. They'd pay if they need your location. Otherwise they won't send you anything.

What's the difference between the dongles on the Wiedehopf buyig guide and a "generic" RTL-SDR dongle?

Both dongles he lists have integrated 1090 MHz filters and amplifiers, to improve reception of Mode S/ADS-B signals.

also C4ADS seem to offer receivers for free: https://twitter.com/C4ADS/status/1143160239132479488

I think I'm willing to take one of my RTL-SDR dongles, hook it up to the Raspberry Pi, and start giving them a regular feed. If only just to identify a few pesky helicopters that fly over the house that aren't showing up on flightradar24 like everything else. I can appreciate this service.

This was actually how I stumbled upon it. There was a helicopter with a camera gimbal and what appeared to be a radar pod of some sort circling my city. I wanted to see if it was related to our local dystopian-augmented-reality-aerial-imaging-startup and lo and behold, their similarly unlisted cessna caravan covered in camera and weapon pylons was flying nearby...

Tail number? That sounds like something interesting to watch!


I wonder if that will change.

(If it can change? Probably yes...)

I did this a few months back and was pleased with the amount of traffic I could see, even with my amateur setup.

Yeah I tried it on my Windows PC a while back and could see dozens of planes within quite a large distance! Very cool to "watch" the planes - via direct radio reception - as they follow their route to the airport, etc. !!

I'm in the ORD flightpath. So cool to see thousands of airplanes every day.

Yeah I paid for FR24 and notice a lot of aircraft “flying under the radar” and aren’t marked. This is neat.

Does anyone know if it's possible to tee the data into multiple feeds? I'd like to feed to fr24 just for purposes of getting the better account, but also to this because the info is better. I could run two dongles i guess.

Yes, you can feed several places. My raspbian is feeding adsbexchange as well as flightaware, fr24, radarbox, planefinder and open sky network.

Sweet. I just googled everything at the end there and found this, look reasonable?: http://gordon.celesta.me/2018/04/13/raspberry-pi-real-time-f...

Skimming those instructions, they don't look bad. The github repo linked above is James' from adsbexchange, so between the two you should be set.

There's a nice script that will set up a bunch of feeders and run a web interface:


No. Do not use this buggy mess. Please!

It sounds like you know a lot about this topic, but can you please share what you know in a more informative way? Shallow dismissals and name-calling are against the site guidelines. We're trying for a different sort of discussion in which people can really learn from each other, instead of putting others or their work down.

If you wouldn't mind taking a look at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and posting in that spirit, we'd appreciate it. I'm sure HN readers have a lot to learn from you.

Just look at the code there. The author goes MIA and bugs are not fixed. There's really no reason to use it at this point - as there are better alternative and modern setups.

https://github.com/wiedehopf/adsb-wiki https://github.com/wiedehopf/adsb-scripts

https://github.com/mikenye/docker-adsbexchange https://github.com/mikenye

Much better. Thanks!

Yes, see ModeSMixer2


In my previous house, there were a large number of helicopters flying. Partly due to a tour company nearby. But the ADSB picked up very few of them.

I think in certain areas they have a different frequency for an ADSB equivalent.

Not a different frequency, just a different protocol. Mode-S doesn't transmit position information so location can't be easily determined unless several receivers collaborate.

My receiver was mainly setup for MLAT where no mode-s is usable. Its works fairly well, but at times adsbx has had very bad receivers sending faulty MLAT data corrupting all the nearby tracks. But it seems to work well for now.

Damn, this is probably the best idea I've seen all week (I have my pi zero with pi sugar and a eink display just sitting around doing nothing.


ADS-B Exchange also gives data to the Center for Advanced Defense Studies' (C4ADS) Project Peregrine, with the goal to "expose the airborne movements of corrupt global elites, dodgy public officials, and a vast array of illicit and criminal actors including wildlife traffickers and conflict financiers."


There's a similar open sharing service for tracking ships in the water: http://www.aishub.net/

AIS technology works similar to ADS-B, but the details of being on the water make reception a different problem than for planes. There's three or so major ground-based AIS tracking services out there that compete, and while AISHub isn't the biggest it is the most open.

I've been participating in AISHub for a few years and really enjoy it. One of my projects is @sfships, a Twitter bot that announces major ships entering and leaving SF Bay: https://twitter.com/sfships

I also built a Python AIS parsing library with a bunch of command-line tools (e.g., aisgrep, ais2json): https://github.com/wpietri/simpleais

If anybody ends up using this, please let me know. On Twitter, I'm @williampietri. I have also been keeping a copy of all the AIS data for the last few years, and am happy to share it.

Very cool Twitter feed! Would you consider adding a second account that doesn't include cargo/tanker ships so I can follow and turn on notifications?

Interesting! Which kinds of ships do you want, then? Just cruise ships? Tell me a bit more about why you'd want to be notified about them.

Military, search and rescue, police boats, cable layers, fire boats, icebreakers, etc.

The sort where I could subscribe to notifications and get a few messages a day and go "huh, that is cool".

The trouble here is that AIS is a pretty blunt instrument as far as ship classification goes. If you go here and scroll down to Table 11, you'll see what they transmit: https://gpsd.gitlab.io/gpsd/AIVDM.html#_type_5_static_and_vo...

Ships like you describe are also often weirder with what they transmit. Cargo and cruise ships go from known port to known port in reasonably predictable ways. (Reasonably predictable meaning that 50 or so regexes can usually extract a little sense from what some sailor types into a bridge console.) But a lot of data from smaller, less predictable ships is much less regular.

Now that it has been running a while, I should definitely go back and see what else I can extract from the data. But one of my problems is that this stuff is poorly documented. What I really need is connections to maritime experts who can look at the data and say, "Oh, that ship is..."

Are you keeping ALL AIS data, or all data for the SF Bay area? Curious if there are some fun research opportunities with that data.

I just recorded everything. There are some gaps, but I have something like 3 years at 50 million AIS lines per day. I keep 90 days locally, and then throw the rest in S3.

I should say this isn't all AIS data, just all that comes through this particular network of receivers. For truly global coverage, there are satellite AIS receivers, but I don't have access to that.

Interested in adding ADS-B to some of those AIS devices? ADSBx is always looking to partner for win-win installs!

I only have one receiver myself, on the north edge of SF, but I'm happy to set up ADS-B if you aren't covered here yet. Contact me via email or Twitter if you'd like.

Out of curiosity, how is reception different? Basically, I'm wondering if it would be worth adding an AIS receiver to the ADS-B that I'm feeding to a couple sites already.

E.g., do you need line of sight? I'm a couple km from water, not quite 100m elevation.

It’s surprising to me that AOPA and NBAA have still been pushing the privacy angle on this stuff so much still. I guess that’s part of their lobbying mission though.

As someone else pointed out all of these executives carry cell phones and as the recent NY Times series pointed out the things are leaking out location data everywhere. Competitors and hedge funds likely aren’t using ADS-B data to track movements when they can get significantly better data elsewhere.

I wonder if high level executives have any kind of training and protocols for avoiding cell phone location tracking.

You don't need to be a high level executive to not want to broadcast your location and identity in realtime for anyone to see.

This isn't about your choices with mobile devices, this is mandated by the government, and the broadcasted data is literally open to anyone.

Remember that a lot of folks use fractional air charters for their business needs which provide basically no information about whose in the planes. I know of a few large corporations that own their own jets that when they have to go for something sensitive (M&A activities) they go on fractional operators (netjets, etc.). Last year was talking to a crew who told me all the diff M&A related flights they flew.

But more data, and more data types = more precision and accuracy.

Eric Rosenwald used this information to track the movements of Jeffrey Epstein's plane. Among other things, he found that the plane was in Riyadh on the eve of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, at the same time Jeff Bezos was there to meet with MBS:



The TrueAnon podcast had an interesting discussion with him where he speaks at length about ADS-B:


I ran across an administrative way to hide the ownership of an aircraft today. Something showed up as blocked on one of the other trackers, ADS-B Exchange gave me an N number that was for an aircraft owned by some sort of trust company. That trust company listed anonymity as one of the features of their service.

Yeah I see plenty of jets flying into Atlanta that're owned by Wells Fargo Trust

Fortunately, more and more of them are owned by DAL instead of a bank.


Setup a reliable feeder sending data to ADSBexchange.com and get a REST API key that would cost you $100,000+ a month from FlightAware or FlightRadar24. Non-commercial enthusiast use only. And please be kind to API, no sending 10,000 requests a second.


All this data at your finger tips, are you hackers or not!

Let's make something useful and fun!

Oh, this will be fun. We somewhat often get Helicopters near my house. Setting up a dongle / tapping the feed will let me build a heads up tracker so I can anticipate them and prep daughter to spot them (because she loves aircraft).

For anyone interested in something similar but for sea vessels check https://www.aishub.net/rpiais

Also...the DCSA (Digital Container Shipping Association) recently published the first API spec for shipping lines to provide tracking info to the public https://github.com/dcsaorg/DCSA-OpenAPI

Glad to see industries moving towards more open standardized API.

I would like to set one of these up. Is there an extensive guide that explains where to put the sensor, how to setup the pi, etc?

I've been using a Pi for a while to track ADS-B and AIS. If you haven't purchased the hardware yet head over to https://www.nooelec.com/store/ to get the SDR dongles. And then grab the latest Dump1090 https://github.com/antirez/dump1090

As for guides. It's a pretty big community so just use the keywords from above [RTL-SDR, ADSB, DUMP1090] and you should get a lot of guides on tracking aircraft.

Please don't use antirez dump1090, that is the original code base and has long since been forked into much more thorough projects.

This is a popular and up-to-date fork: https://github.com/flightaware/dump1090

As a newbie to all this radio fun, I setup my little rig using antirez's dump1090...Why? ...Because on github the antirez repo actually has instructions on usage (not only installation/setup). Also - and likely more important - upon conducting online searching for dump1090 setups, the search engines point to (or at least did back a few months ago when i first set my rig up) tutorials that used/referenced antirez's software. Sure, those tutorials might be a little dated...but hey, at least they helped me - again, a newb with all this - to get going. I don't mean any offense to the flightaware folks, but if they included usage instructions (and other info) that might go a long way with other newbies like myself. (The irony is not lost on me that all of this software is free, and I'm politely asking for "more info"...but hey ;-)

The forks are functionally better but missed the point. Dump1090 created this large community because the code was well written. Forks have a lot of mess inside. Anyway I updated my code a few weeks ago to switch to open street maps.

Thanks for the link. I typically link to the original project and leave it to the user to discovery forks that may be better tailored for their use.

LOL link to 12 year old code that is not updated :D

Whens someone asks for a glass of water, do you also drive them to the mountains and point at the rain clouds?


Thanks! There are a lot of receivers there. Do you have a recommendation? I'm expecting it's one of these: https://www.nooelec.com/store/sdr/sdr-receivers/nesdr.html

Although it out date I was amazed, after using the original dump1090 after work for a few years, that is 'the' antirez, the author of redis that I used during work. :)

Thank you!

You can also pick up a flightaware dongle, they have extra hardware inside of them that lets you pick up aircraft a bit further out/with more information. Benefit if you pick up one of those normal sdr kits from nooelec is that it comes with antennas. Easiest way to start is to take one of the antenna and trim it down to 14cm and stick the magnetic base on the roof of a car.


I use a raspberry pi, a couple cheap USB radio receivers, and use it with my tablet to show the weather and nearby traffic in the air. On android, you can link the flight data via wifi (from the pi) to a tablet running Avare (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ds.avare&h...) or some of the other flight tools on a moving map. Super helpful, as when flight following says there is someone somewhere, you stand a chance of being able to find them faster. It also pulls weather information in the air... which with moving map near real time is fantastic.

This is very cool. Plus I love building things. Thank you!

This site has a getting started section: https://www.adsbexchange.com/how-to-feed/ but I want to know the hardware to buy, the right place to put the receiver etc. Last time I did this (broadcasting police radio to broadcastify) it was a lot of forum searching and I'm hoping to avoid that this time.

ADS-B Exchange has a very active Discord channel where they will help you pick the right equipment and walk you though the setup process. https://discord.gg/JJ6QC4c

Also for those interested, check out the FAA's SWIM streaming API. it's a firehose but lots of cool stuff you can do with it.


The license plate of an auto is clear-text and can be visible by any individual happened to be around. Is it okay to deploy a network of cameras with real-time plate detection software ($100 setup) to record and broadcast positions of all cars in the world? Is it at least legal?

The collection is already being done by a private company, just not broadcasting it freely, you have to pay for access. And they do sell it on to other actors ofcourse :-)

Crowdsourcing data.


A license plate is akin to a person talking on the street — audible to a few others, yes, but not meant for everyone perhaps. An ADS-B transmission is akin to someone putting the same words in a radio ad. Recording the latter seems completely different to me, privacy wise.

Person talking on a street wants to be heard by peers from one meter. Plane flying in the sky should be "heard" by other planes from tens of kilometers. It is a technical necessity, not a voluntary privacy surrender.

In the US, that would probably be legal as long as you have the right to set up a camera at those locations (meaning, your property plus anyone else you get permission from).

At least Here in Germany it would be illegal. Even a dummy camera pointing at public area isn't allowed for a private person

I scanned the waves around my home for aircrafts and it was fairly common to see an airplane in the sky that wasn't broadcasting any signal

Does anyone use this data to calculate the insurance price for General Aviation (small private jets)?

Yes and No. It has been attempted by a company in the UK, that would raise your rates of you fly in conditions that they deem risky. I think market is so niche and unprofitable that this large data analysis is seem as an unneeded expense for underwriting.

I definitely see things going in this direction eventually however. They've been trying to push it with cars for a while now, doing it with aircraft is trivial by comparison

Can I get more info about this case? What exactly did they do?

Does anyone know of a similar thing for Wi-Fi stumble output? The wigle.net database is not public.

I like this. I think this data should be open-sourced, and recorded forever, without the ability to be changed. Maybe a good use for blockchain? (Please don't downvote!)

FWIW: I have been streaming FR24 my ADS-B data for a few years. In return they give you a business account ($50/mo value).

Back to the main point: Even the FR24 business-class account data is filtered. Given that this is an open protocol to begin with, I think the data should be recored "straight up" and made available to the public as a common service (benefit).

Future thoughts: Imagine if we had tons of people incentivized to deploy these? We could make "cyber" phased arrays on a massive scale by doing time of arrival analysis and so on. It could supplement the FAA primary/secondary radar system on a huge level. Perhaps even provide dense ATC control for drone operations where deploying primary/secondary radars is not feasible.

Just my $.02!

> Imagine if we had tons of people incentivized to deploy these? We could make "cyber" phased arrays on a massive scale by doing time of arrival analysis and so on.

This is already going on. Some transponders don't report position (often seen on older turboprop airliners in Europe), so feeds from multiple receivers are combined to triangulate them. It's called multilateration (MLAT). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multilateration

> I have been streaming FR24 my ADS-B data for a few years. In return they give you a business account ($50/mo value).

I haven't done it myself, but if you are located somewhere that their network doesn't have good coverage, they'll even send you a free receiver and antenna to get you started: https://www.flightradar24.com/apply-for-receiver

So will ADS-B Exchange.

For what it's worth, the FAA has been pretty explicit that they don't want drones on ADS-B. There's not enough bandwidth.

They have a proposal to create a parallel tracking system just for drones. It's created quite the uproar in the drone/model-aircraft community.

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