Thursday 20 June 2013

Plane Plotter...My new toy.

                    HF condx have been absolutely appalling recently, so i've kept myself busy in the VHF/UHF parts of the spectrum, particularly ACARS and ADSB. I have been testing 3 ACARS specific decoders to use with my RTL-SDR (i have several programs that do it, but not to the fullest degree).
                    These programs were: ACARSD, KG-ACARS and Plane Plotter. ACARSD is a nice looking bit of software that presents images of the aircraft that are decoded as well as plotting these on a map, which the user must supply and calibrate (a frustrating experience if ever there was one!!). But i persisted and was rewarded with quite a good program....when it decoded. This is the only issue i had with tended not to be as sensitive when compared against my benchmark software (MultiPSK, Sorcerer and PDW) and it was missing aircraft with very good signals. The user interface and setup are highly configurable and the price is right at zero,nada,zitch.
                    KG-ACARS is also free. However i had 2 main issues. 1) The GUI is in Japanese and fairly minimalist. There is an English instruction document within the download that is fairly good but also is a little ambiguous. I found this to be trickier to set up than the ACARSD map! 2) As the software is intended for use in Japan, we are warned that it may not decode ACARS TX from other international aircraft. A real shame in my books, because i thought this was a very nice program.
                    So we come to COAA's Plane Plotter. I had the free trial of this for a while until i had something to compare it to. I have to say that i LOVE this comprehensive, easy to set up and use, detailed, never skip a beat decoder! AT 25 Euros ($35 AUD) this delivers a lot of bang for your bucks. You don't get the pretty images of aircraft, oh no....this is a decoder for those who like straight forward data and modes. You get all of what the other 3 offer plus much more (but you still have to build and calibrate your own maps of course, after's character building right?). It handles ADS-B, SBS, BEAST, RTL1090 (plus more) and even downloads satellite images for your area and plots them (satellites) at night. I purchased it 2 days ago and haven't stopped using it yet. I have run it alongside my benchmarks as well as watching flightradar24 to see if it was missing any contacts...nope. Money well spent.
                     In summary, there are many aviation programs out there ranging from free to VERY expensive. With the free ones, you get what you pay for and with the expensive ones....well, they're expensive! Plane Plotter sits nicely in between and is by no means average.
                     Here are just a few of the many available details:

Plotting on my (Googles) calibrated map


aircraft view


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