Locating Airplanes Transmitting ADS-B and ACARS: Robavo Antenna

07 Aug 2020 • Written by ovabor

DC 28 Badge

Robavo Antenna: An Antenna to Locate Flying Airplanes

The airplane shape badge at DEFCON 28 was an extremely useful tool in locating real airplanes transmitting ACARS and ADS-B signals. By using the badge as an antenna, I was able to pick up ACARS [1] transmissions from aircraft flying nearby at a frequency of 131.550 MHz. Additionally, I was also able to detect ADS-B [2] transmissions from aircraft in my vicinity at a frequency of 1090 MHz. This information is valuable for aviation enthusiasts and professionals alike, as it can be used to track the location and movement of aircraft in near real-time. Many ACARS messages are unreadable data, but by decoding the flight number and registration details sent with every message, it is possible to get a general idea of where each plane is located. Similarly, ADS-B transmits real-time position information (based on WAAS/SBAS GPS data) which can be used to create maps or 3D models of an airport’s airspace layout. In conclusion, the airplane shape badge proved itself to be an extremely useful tool for detecting ACARS an ADS-B transmissions from nearby aircraft. The airplane badge was also a great way for me learn about aviation technology, as well as how to best utilize low-cost RTL-SDR USB dongles for this purpose.

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