Aircraft Tracking

Aircraft tracking has been possible for many years, however with the recent market surge of cheap SDR radio receivers, it has become a more popular topic. Using an inexpensive RTL-SDR USB dongle, anyone can decode ADS-B data and go “planespotting”! Or, if you have an HF rig and feel ambitious, you can plane spot as well!

Aircraft transmit data packets using a protocol called ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast) which are received by other aircraft and ground stations to facilitate traffic handling and prevent collisions.


There are a number of tools available for receiving and decoding the data, and overlaying it on a map, using SDR# for Windows, and other SDR receivers. This activity also provides a wonderful opportunity to gain experience with building an antenna. A simple collinear antenna can be created to be resonant on 1090 mHz and should function reasonably well for receiving transmissions from outdated aircraft still transmitting on 978 mHz.

Click here for free software and info on ADS-B decoding

Make a coaxial collinear antenna for ADS-B reception! (Using old RG-6 75ohm coax!)

The predecessor to ADS-B is called ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System)

ACARS transmits on VHF and HF and the data can be decoded using a PC with software downloaded from here

VHF frequencies include:

131.550 Primary Channel worldwide
129.125 Additional channel for USA & Canada
130.025 Secondary channel for USA and Canada
130.425 Additional channel for USA
130.450 Additional channel for USA & Canada
131.125 Additional channel for USA
131.450 Primary channel for Japan
131.475 Air Canada company channel
131.525 European secondary
131.725 Primary channel in Europe
136.700 Additional channel for USA
136.750 Additional channel for USA
136.800 Additional channel for USA
136.900 European secondary
136.850 SITA North American Frequency
136.750 New European frequency
131.850 New European frequency



8.825 Santa Maria
11.336 Santa Maria
13.354 Santa Maria
6.628 North Atlantic
8.831 North Atlantic
8.891 North Atlantic
11.309 North Atlantic
13.306 North Atlantic
13.291 North Atlantic
17.946 North Atlantic
5.610 Luton / Britannia
5.661 Europe
17.961 Europe
17.907 South America
4.675 Shanwick
5.616 Shanwick
5.598 Shanwick
5.649 Shanwick
6.622 Shanwick
8.864 Shanwick
8.879 Shanwick
8.906 Shanwick
11.279 Shanwick




3.413 Shannon VOLMET
5.505 Shannon VOLMET
8.957 Shannon VOLMET
13.264 Shannon VOLMET
5.598 Shannon VOLMET
4.540 Architect
4.742 Architect
5.714 Architect
6.739 Architect
8.190 Architect
9.031 Architect
11.205 Architect
13.257 Architect
15.031 Architect
18.018 Architect
3.485 New York
6.604 New York
10.051 New York
13.270 New York
2.998 Unassigned
6.580 Unassigned
11.378 Unassigned

Shannon and RAF VOLMET are on the air almost continuously. New York also comes in quite regularly!