WHAT DOES IT DO?
The badge serves as an antenna to pick up ACARS and ADS-B transmissions from aircraft flying nearby (RTL-SDR and SMA connector NOT included in this kit).
Our badge was inspired by the work of Richard Hansen & Zachary Klein who published “A $49 Aerospace Cybersecurity Lab: RF Data Communications for Undergraduate Cyber Education” in The Colloquium, with inputs from Dan Allen who led the efforts for this final design, advising on the logistics for the parts and assembly.
ACARS & ADS-B
ACARS stands for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which is a digital communications system that aircraft use to send and receive short messages to and from ground stations. The antenna can pick up ACARS transmission at a frequency of 131.550 MHz (in the United States & Canada) and ADS-B at 1090 MHz, both within in the receivable range of low-cost RTL-SDR USB dongles.
Many ACARS messages will be unreadable data, but you can decode the flight number and aircraft registration details sent with every message of aircraft flying within your vicinity. More details available here.
ADS-B is an acronym for Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, which is used to transmit real-time aircraft position information (based on WAAS/SBAS GPS data) to ground stations and other aircraft. It also used for flight tracking services such as flightaware or flightradar24 which started as a crowdsourced ADS-B receiver network capable of tracking hundreds of thousands of flights a day. The badge is a sample “ADS-B Aircraft Radar” built using low-cost RTL-SDR USB dongle (sold separately).