Automatic dependent surveillance–broadcast (ADS-B) is wireless technology that enables aircraft to determine their position via satellite and periodically broadcast this location information. An ADS-B receiver can be used to decode this broadcast signals to track airplanes. Really cool stuff!
While there are many sophisticated ADS-B receivers out there, the simplest and most cost-effective way to get started with this technology is to use an ADS-B software-defined radio like this one. The performance of your ADS-B receiver in terms of how many planes you are able to track is highly dependent on two main things: the sensitivity of your SDR and the quality of your antenna. The Flightaware receiver has excellent sensitivity with a built-in LNA. It also includes a built-in filter for eliminating RF interference.
So what’s the best antenna to complement this receiver?
Here are our picks for the best antennas for ADS-B reception.
Antenna with best performance
This antenna from Flightaware has the best performance for ADS-B. It can improve ADS-B performance by doubling the range over which planes can be detected.
The reason we say ‘can’ is because any increase in range depends on antenna position and location to 1) minimize RF interference and 2) ensure that you have line-of-sight to the ADS-B broadcast signals. You can do this by mounting outdoor as high as possible. Typical detection range can be anywhere from 100 miles to 250 miles.
Here is a complete kit that you will need for this setup:
Alternatively, a complete kit that includes a 25 ft. cable with adapters and the SDR is also available here.
Easiest Antenna to set up and get started.
The easiest way to get started with ADS-B reception is to use a whip antenna. These antennas can be placed right beside your laptop so you’re up and running right away.
The only downsides to this antenna are:
- It is not actually optimized for ADS-B reception.
- It is not designed for outdoor use. As a result your range will be limited and you won’t be able to see as many aircraft as with the other antenna.
In this post we reviewed the two best antennas for ADS-B reception. RF signal propagation is very complex and difficult to predict. Small changes in antenna position and location can sometimes result in large deviations in received signal levels and number of detected aircraft. Once you select your antenna there may therefore be additional effort to get the best possible performance. We recommend experimenting with your setup before making a final antenna installation – especially if you choose to go with the Flightaware antenna that is more work to install.