Feeding data to Flightradar24 using DVB-T stick. Part 2. Software

You want to feed data to Flightradar24 using DVB-T stick and you have already received your hardware. Great. Now, it is time to talk about software, installation and configuration. Note, that (contrary to FR24) I'm providing information about Windows Vista and later editions of Windows. If you're an old dinosaur, still using Windows XP or you need info for Linux, Unix or Mac systems, consult "Add Coverage" pages at Flightradar24.

IMPORTANT! Read this article BEFORE you even plug your DVB-T stick to spare USB port. If you do this, you'll waste some additional time on uninstalling Windows drivers, which are completely useless in this scenario (since we want to receive flight data, not the actual TV signal, right).

Plugging the stick in

The only thing, that is left usable and reasonable on Flightradar24's page about DVB-T sticks is information about installing custom drivers for your DVB-T stick. However, even this information needs some additions.

Plug-in your stick to spare USB port. There are three different devices on-board one stick, if you have purchased DVB-T USB dongle from jetvision.de (more or different, if you have purchased other hardware):

  • USB Composite Device,
  • Bulk In, Interface (Interface 0),
  • Bulk In, Interface (Interface 1).

Once stick is plugged, Windows will immediately start installing drivers for it. You'll be notified about this process running, by proper icon next to the clock. Double click this icon ASAP to bring status window. Windows will install proper native drivers for first device (USB Composite Device) immediately and this is good. Do not uninstall this device's driver, don't disable or remove this device.

For rest two devices, Windows won't be able to find proper drivers in local drivers pool and it start looking for them in Windows Update. Cancel this process ASAP, by clicking a blue link in the bottom of driver installation process window.

At this point Windows take another attempt to find local driver. This is harmless. Go to drink a coffee or eat a quick meal, because it can take even upt to 5-10 minutes before your Windows realizes, that it actually can't find any drivers for these two devices.

Close driver installation window as soon as entire process ends with two red cross marks.

Getting proper drivers

In short steps:

1. Get the Zadig installer in version 2.0.1.160 or newer from SourceForge. Unpack and run Zadig.exe file.

2. On contrary to what is said at FR24, you don't have to check Options > List all Devices, because your device (Bulk In, Interface (Interface 0)) is probably already listed in the first, big dropdown list. Check this menu item if it is missing or if your device is named differently and you can't find it on the list.

3. WinUSB (v6.1.7600.16385) driver should already be selected in Driver field. Correct this, if it is not.

4. Hit Install Driver.

Go for another coffee or meal, as this process can take up to five minutes. After that, you should see a confirmation, that your driver has been installed successfully.

Driver will be installed in C:\usb_driver folder and you cannot change this. Please, be so kind to not remove this folder. Or even better -- consider making a backup of it (just in case).

Follow to Zadug docs at GitHub for more detailed information or when you can't find your device in Zadig or if your driver is not installed successfully.

How you would like to feed?

There are two ways, how you can feed data to Flightradar24 (as of 2015):

  • using separate data decoder (RTL1090) and data feeder ("old" fr24feed),
  • using combined decoder+feeder ("new" fr24feed).

Second option requires much less work in the beginning (less installation and configuration). This option is also better for slower computers, as you need to run only one program in the background, not two. As for cons, you have much, much less control over decoded data (actually you have no control) and you see a lot less more information (this can be a pro for less experienced users).

RTL1090 offers you few screens full of data and a certain number of configuration switches. For example, it gives you number of packets decoded per second, which can help you identify, if small number of planes comes from the fact, that there aren't many around or, if you need to reposition your antenna. While fr24feed is a very simple command-line console application, which only shows you progress of your feeding process, by displaying how many planes has been sent to FR24 and possible errors. Nothing else.

Also, keep in mind, that "new" fr24feed is still in beta and may fail in certain situations. Decision is up to you.

Installing RTL1090 data decoder software

Due to (probably) licensee issues, FR24 can't ship you with a ready package and you need to combine it yourself out of two sources. You will find detailed steps (with screenshots) at Flightradar24, in "Installing the 1090 MHz Receiving and Decoding Software" chapter. Here is an overview of this process.

Steps in short:

1. Download the RTL1090 and unzip it to selected destination (not to the temporary folder, but to the place, from where you're going to use it, i.e. -- Program Files directory).

2. Download the RTL-SDR and this time unzip it to temporary folder or copy files directly from .zip archive.

3. Copy libusb-1.0.dll and rtlsdr.dll files from rtl-sdr-release/x32 folder (even on 64-bit machine!) from RelWithDebInfo.zip archive (step 2) and paste them to the folder containing the extracted RTL1090 files (step 1).

4. Launch RTL1090 for the first time, but do not hit Start yet.

5. Click Open in top-left corner and then "switch" the Config knob.

6. In the right section (Options) check /30003 and /run options. Consider checking /min option as well, if you want data decoder to run in background.

7. Close the program and create Windows shortcut pointing to it, in Start Menu > All Programs > Autostart to run data decoder with each system start. This is because, in current release of RTL1090, the /start option is grayed and autostart feature is not supported. Skip this point, if you download newer version, where this feature is supported, or if you want to start RTL1090 manually.

8. Connect antenna cable to DVB-T stick and plug the stick into spare USB port, if you haven't done this yet.

9. Start RTL1090 again. It should start receiving and decoding data packet immediately.

Check your signal strength and antenna location, by analyzing number of data packets you receive (only count those with asterisk in the beginning, that is -- with location data). It should be around at least 5-10 per second. The higher the better.

Installing "old" FR24 data feeder only

Jump to "Share your ADS-B data with Flightradar24" article or follow these steps:

1. Hit the Download button. You will be redirected feed.flightradar24.com, from where you can get the newest version of FR24 "old" data feeder (currently BETA 32 from 2013/03/19). Again (as in case of RTL1090), it comes without installer, so put it into destination folder, from where you're going to use it.

2. Create a shortcut to FR24 feeder in your Autostart menu, if you want it to be launched automatically with your Windows. As the Autostart checkbox in feeder itself covers only automatic start of feeding process. Program autostart functionality is not implemented.

3. Run RTL1090, make sure, that it decodes ADS-B data packets correctly and then run fr24feed.exe.

4. Enter your sharing key, if you have one already or hit Sign Up! button, to obtain new one.

5. Check Autostart to have data feeding start automatically once you start feeder program.

6. Hit Start to begin your first Flightradar24 feeder experience.

Always use the same e-mail address (for both feeder and Flightradar24 Premium) or else you'll end up with more than one feeder sharing keys or no access to Premium.

More details on "Share your ADS-B data with Flightradar24" page.

Installing "new" FR24 data decoder and feeder package

First steps are similar and should finally lead you to feed.flightradar24.com/windows/, from where you can download newest beta version of new decoder+feeder console application.

Steps:

1. Get the newest version of their decoder+feeder (2015-01-30 version currently).

2. Get the manual (currently version from 2015-01-08).

3. Enter your e-mail address (step 1.1) and hit Enter.

4. Enter sharing key (step 1.2) or leave second field empty to obtain new one. Confirm with Enter again. If you don't have your sharing key, you'll have to go through the same path (steps 2-3), as in case of old program, that is: enter your geographical location and confirm location of your nearest airport. After which you'll receive your sharing key and radar code.

5. In step 4.1 select your data source. In our case this is option 1 -- DVBT Stick (USB).

6. Ignore step 4.3 (additional dump1090 arguments) unless you're experienced user and really needs this.

7. You're using decoder+feeder so, the same as in case of separate RTL1090 decoder, you can enable feeding data not only to FR24, but also to external services, like for example PlanePlotter. To do this, enter yes in step 5.1, if your service uses RAW data on port 30002.

8. The same goes for step 5.2 and Basestation data feed on port 30003.

9. You can enable logfile data dumps (step 6A), but this is buggy and does not work, no matter, what you select.

At this point you're done. Your just entered settings are now saved to fr24feed.ini and you're requested to restart application.

If you do restart it, it will go into listening / decoding / feeding mode. You can stop it anytime (no confirmation, that you want to stop feeding), by closing main window or pressing Ctrl+C. First method is an "ugly" (immediate "kill") exit, while second one allows feeder to gently close all threads and exit "nicely".

However note, that if you're running feeder on computer with no stick connected or with stick that provides no data, closing with Ctrl+C will cause feeder to hang (on [feed][n] busy) and you'll have to either kill it from Windows Task Manager or wait until it dies completely and Windows informs you, that program has hanged completely.

Note also, that Ctrl+C combination does not work for initial run of application (configuring and providing feed details).

If you want to reinit application (configure it again, i.e. provide new sharing key), then edit fr24feed.ini file in your text editor or delete it and restart application to start it in initial run mode again.

More information on this can be found in PDF manual. Link to it is provided below link to decoder+feeder application, on feed.flightradar24.com/windows/ site.

Registering for Flightradar24 Premium

There are just a few steps left, that you have to go through:

1. Go to Flightradar24 Premium and locate text I feed data to Flightradar24 and want to go Premium for free** below Get Premium button. Click Premium for free link.

2. Fill up registration form. Enter the same email address, as you used when obtaining your sharing key.

3. Now you should receive confirmation e-mail. Click the link, that is in it, to confirm your account.

4. Login to your account.

After each login you'll see:

  • status of your feed (Your feeds section; updated with 5 minutes threshold), including last feed date,
  • detailed information on how to access all the premium content, that is available now to you,
  • your account current validity (always seven days after your last feed; infinite, if you feed without breaks).

You may now enjoy Flightradar 24 Premium for free. Welcome to FR24 feeders world! :>

If something goes wrong

There's a nifty "Fr24feed software Additional FAQs and Info" post series at Flightradar24 forum, which contains an enormous amount of useful information, problematic situations, error codes etc. and of course -- how to deal with them. You may use it as a start-guide in case of any problems with Flightradar24 software.

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