Hak5 video: quadcopter with WiFi enabled Linux computer and RTL-SDR

What happens when you send up a quadcopter equipped with a Linux box, WiFi and an RTL-SDR dongle? Darren and company from Hak5 decided to find out. Their project used the SDR to receive ADS-B signals from aircraft hundreds of miles away.

The Hak5 team took a quadcopter up on top of a high mountain, attached to it a WiFi Pineapple (a small WiFi equipped Linux computer), an RTL-SDR dongle and a coax collinear antenna and then flew it up high. They ran dump1090, a Linux based ADS-B decoder on the WiFi pineapple and then broadcast the decoded information back to a laptop on the ground.

Although the results were less than favorable, it is still an interesting project to explore. Their poor results may be due to a nearby RF broadcast tower which could have been overloading the dongle, or EMF from the quadcopter motors.

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  1. Using a quad copter……….Why???

    I good antenna and pre amp not an issue, why is the an issue. the information has been around for years. You can buy boxes to decode this anyway.

    Of course the higher you go the line of sight increases, this is not rocket science it is physics.

    People have been using these dongles (with a downconverter) to listen to the mars mission. Now that is worth talking about.


  2. Not everyone is a techno-wizard. Talking down to those who haven’t learned yet is the mark of an elitist. Kudos to Hak5 for taking the time to explain a simple (or not so simple) project that goes a little outside the box and helps people expand their knowledge. Can already feel a few tangent ideas brewing from it, thanks.

  3. the higher you go, the more you see, until you are about 30meters above ground, then the curvature of the ground kicks in, and you wont see more than about 450km. 30 meters is to get higher than surrounding buildings.

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