Help me take this to the next level!

15 Aug

(This post applies mainly to my military air information)

So, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a new computer to replace the one that I currently leave on 24/7 to run the plane tracking software that I use. This presents me with some pretty great opportunities.

Currently, via my Facebook page and twitter feed I provide real time updates, when I’m able, on military activity throughout New England and neighboring states. I do this because it’s a fun hobby, it’s interesting, and I enjoy educating people about how hard our military men and women are constantly working.

With the new computer, several possibilities open up that would greatly enhance the coverage I currently provide. We could make this a real ‘World Class’ source of information. Two main goals come to mind:

1: Set up a live feed (or two)

A lot of people currently ask me where they can listen online to this kind of traffic. With the old computer, which dates back to 2002 or so (processor speed is measured in MHz), there wasn’t much I can do. With the new computer, I’ll have plenty of extra CPU to provide at least one feed on LiveATC. This feed would cover the command posts at bases in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, as well as the refueling frequencies and those used by NORAD in this area. Besides being able to listen live, LiveATC also archives all of the feeds for a couple months. This means I (or you!) could go back and review the radio traffic that occurred when I was away from the radios, so that in addition to the real-time coverage currently provided, delayed coverage would be available essentially 24 hours a day, as opposed to the four or five hours a day there is now. And, of course, the feed would be available 24 hours a day for everyone to listen in on.
I’m also considering preparing a weekly ‘summary’ newsletter. I would be able to cut the audio into short clips, so that you could hit play and hear interesting comms from that week.
With enough resources, I could add an additional sound card and hook up a second feed to compliment the first.

2: Upgrade my Mode S receiver

My current Mode S receiver is the simplest, most inexpensive one you can buy. It works great, but is a bit limited in it’s functionality. I’d like to upgrade to a Kinetic SBS-3, which would provide numerous advantages. Obviously the more information I can gather, the more I can share with you.
The SBS-3 has a much higher message rate, which means more planes detected, and more messages processed from the planes it does detect.
The SBS-3 also receives Mode 3 squawks, which my current receiver doesn’t. Combat aircraft such as fighters and bombers don’t transmit Mode S while over the United States (yet!), but they still squawk on their Mode 3 transponder. This provides another avenue for potentially getting a location fix on them. It also means that I can receive instant notification of an aircraft in the area that has an emergency or hijacking, as well as notification of scrambled fighter aircraft.
Another great feature is the multiple Software Defined Radios built into the receiver. The more radio channels I can monitor, the more I can hear! I’ll also use an SDR channel to monitor ACARS, adding another source of information.
As a side bonus, I’ll probably sell off my current receiver, giving one of you the opportunity to pick it up for cheap and set up your own receiving station.

I’ve already put a couple thousand dollars into this hobby. I don’t mind spending more, but I just don’t have it right now. If I can’t raise it here, I’ll still make these improvements eventually (hopefully!). I don’t expect other people to fund my hobby, but if you enjoy my coverage, are entertained by my page, have benefited from my assistance or tech support, or just want to lend a helping hand, please consider using the widget below to make a contribution. I promise it will benefit all of us!


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