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Picture of PiAware Radar Kiosk

Earlier this year, I became aware of a very interesting company called FlightAware which offers flight tracking of both private and commercial aircraft throughout the world. As part of its service, Flight Aware relies a lot on crowdsourcing of its tracking data from thousands of private radio receiving stations that monitor the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B) signals of any aircraft that are flying overhead.

These signals provide the GPS location, altitude, speed and direction of the aircraft, which can be easily received by a radio receiver and sent to FlightAware to provide real time tracking.

The beauty of this arrangement is that this information can be received and sent by a lowly Raspberry Pi and a very inexpensive SDR (Software Defined Radio) dongle. This type of receiving station is more commonly known as a PiAware station.

Having a spare Wi-Fi enabled Raspberry Pi on hand, I was pretty intrigued by this and after ordering a $20 SDR dongle off of eBay, I was up and monitoring the airplanes in my area.

One of the neat features of the PiAware system is that you are able to see a real time map of what your PiAware station is receiving via a web interface that you can view on a computer that is part of your WiFi network. As an added bonus, the PiAware web interface also gives a live weather radar picture for my area.

That's where there the inspiration for this project started. I also had a rather elderly Raspberry Pi 1 Model B kicking around. While the old girl was a bit slower than its newer siblings, it still had a lot of life left in it. As part of my investigation on what I could do with an old Pi - I stumbled upon some details on how you can use a Raspberry Pi as a web browser kiosk - similar to those that you see in places like airports to display up to date information.

And with that the SkyAware Radar Kiosk was born.

Step 1: What You Need to Build This

Picture of What You Need to Build This
Step 10a - electronic parts.JPG

This is a fairly complex project in that there are a fair number of parts. However all the electronic components are pretty much plug and play for the most part.

Therefore, to build this kiosk, you need the following:

Electronic Parts

  • Raspberry Pi 1 Model B
  • Wi-Fi dongle for the Raspberry Pi (not required if your Pi has Wi-Fi built in)
  • 7 inch LCD screen with Video driver board - I ordered mine off of eBay for about $30 - make sure that the board has a HDMI input
  • A short HDMI cable - I ordered mine from eBay for a few dollars
  • 12V to 5V converter board - again from eBay for a couple of dollars
  • Short USB extension cable - also from eBay
  • Short USB phone charger cable - eBay again
  • Male and Female Power connectors - I got mine from my local surplus store
  • 12V power laptop computer supply - Also from my local surplus store
  • A few lengths of hook up wire.

Wood Parts

  • Two 11.25" X 5.75" X 0.5" pieces of Birch for the case front and back
  • Four 4.5" X 4.5" X 0.5" pieces of Birch for the case sides
  • One 4.5" X 5.75" X 0.5" piece of Birch for the case top
  • One 8" X 12" X 0.5" piece of Red Cedar for the case bottom

Tools and Supplies

  • Table saw
  • Mitre saw
  • Router table with straight and round over bits
  • Dremel Trio or other such small rotary tool with a straight bit
  • Sander
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Wood glue
  • Electrical tape
  • Corner clamps
  • Drill or Drill press
  • Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks
  • Felt furniture protectors
Probedude7 months ago
Thanks for walking through how to show PiAware on the Pi itself. I'm going to build one for my desk at work.

Question for you - I followed your steps and when I rebooted I get a chrome browser pop up in incognito mode but no piaware displayed. In your instructions above you mention "Please note that the ip address will be for the ip address for your Pi Aware Flight Aware Skyview site". Where does this get entered?

edit: I figured it out. Created a homepage of 127.0.0.1:8080

So I'm guessing this won't work without a connection to the internet?
Thanks for your hard work!

You beat me to the punch :)

I was deliberately being a bit vague there since the ip is specific to your set up (though it will always end with the :8080 suffix) and I'm also a bit cagey when it comes to showing screens that may have personally identifiable details (for example, my Flight Aware screen, among other things, displays my exact location).

For other folks that may have this question - The easiest way to get this is to log onto your Flight Aware account - on that page you will see a link for the PiAware Skyview web interface. When you click on that link, you will open up the radar map that you need in a separate browser window. Copy the ip address that is shown in the address bar of the page showing the map and that is the ip address that you need for the kiosk.

I'm glad you got it all sorted out, and I'm also glad you like the Instructable.

If you have any other questions, by all means, let me know.
I am still confused... When I go to my "Basic User Account" I do not see any link for the PiAware Skyview web interface. Does this require an upgrade tp a Premium account?
You need to have an Enterprise account (which is free when you set the PiAware up)

It's is a bit hard to find though if you are navigating through the FlightAware home page.

When you log onto your flight aware account, select the "My ADS-B" link at the top of the page and you should get the status page for your PiAware - on the page you should see the link for the Skyview interface

(I've attached some screen shots if that can help)

But the key is to get the enterprise account :)

Flight1.JPGFlightaware2.JPG
NoneTheWiser8 months ago
Do you have a write-up on the system with the SDR dongle attachwd? I have all the parts, and have tried building one in the past, but have been stumped by reception issues, that I think are due to the antenna I use. What is your antenna setup?

Thanks for the great article.
I'm glad you like the Instructable!

I didn't do a write up on my PiAware set up since I thought the FlightAware instructions were pretty good - no sense in reinventing the wheel so to speak...

But, you have made me rethink the wisdom of my decision. :)

Now having said that - yes the antenna will make or break you. The reception pretty much needs to be line of sight - if you can get the antenna outside, the better your chances.

Also I found the antenna that usually come with the dongle to be pretty poor - they were made basically to pull in local digital TV stations, not aircraft that could be located hundreds of miles away.

With my set up I got a third party "egg beater" type antenna and 32 feet of coax cable with SMA plugs on both ends. That allowed me to place the antenna outside and some distance away from any buildings. The antenna is omni directional so it also provides great coverage from all distances.

I got the cable from here:
https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B01KHOE9GO/ref=pp...

You can find the antenna here:
http://www.ebay.ca/itm/ADS-B-1090MHz-Clover-Leaf-O...

I think the key is just to have any antenna outside and "visible" to the sky

If you need any help with anything specifically - drop me a note!

In the meantime - I should probably look into doing a PiAware Instructable :)

Thanks!
Yes, that is what I have been needing.

Thank you again.
Always glad to help!

Good Luck!!!
DjMatthias8 months ago
Correct the list of stuff needed, you said Raspberry Pi Model A but you are using a 3b+. Also a "model A" doesn't exist.
Good eye!

The Pi pictured in Step 2 is indeed a 3b+ - I took that shot after the build (forgot to take a picture during the build with the Pi that I have installed in the cabinet)

The model that I used in the build does not have the built in Wi-Fi - so I needed a Wi-Fi dongle for it.

Digging a bit further, what I used is actually a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B (https://www.makershed.com/collections/raspberry-pi...

Still pretty elderly for a Pi :) - I'll make that correction now and put a bit of a caveat in Step 2 about the Pi model pictured.

Glad you caught that!

Thanks