Feeding to Flightradar24 using a USB DVB-T stick on FreeBSD

I have been feeding data to FlightRadar24 for some years now, using a cheap DVB-T USB stick plugged into a Windows PC that gets used less and less. For that reason, the data feed wasn’t very consistent at all. There is a computer in the house which acts as a DHCP/DNS/whatnot server and is on 24/7, so it made sense to see if I could move the fr24feed service over to that machine. Trouble is, it runs FreeBSD and Flightradar24 doesn’t provide the necessary software for that OS. Getting it to work proved to be a bit cumbersome, but after some hours of happily nerding about, it’s now working quite nicely.

Here’s how to do it:

Plug the USB stick into the machine running FreeBSD (I’m on 11.2-RELEASE with a GENERIC kernel. Your mileage may vary a bit when using a different version and/or kernel). See if it’s detected (everything after the $’s is a command line):

$  dmesg

ugen6.3: <Realtek RTL2838UHIDIR> at usbus6

Great. Let’s see if we can get some data from it and upload that.

First install some packages (or compile them from the ports if you prefer):

$ pkg install comms/rtl-sdr comms/dump1090 emulators/linux_base-c6

Now download the uploader from Flightradar24 and enable it to run:

$ fetch https://repo-feed.flightradar24.com/linux_x86_binaries/fr24feed_1.0.18-5_i386.tgz

Extract the contents of the package and enter the newly created directory:

$ tar xzvf fr24feed_1.0.18-5_i386.tgz; cd fr24feed_i386/

Enable the OS to run the fr24feed Linux program:

$ kldload linux

And make that automatically possible after the next reboot too:

$ echo ‘linux_enable=”YES”’ >> /etc/rc.conf

Tell FreeBSD that we’re dealing with a Linux Binary:

$ brandelf -t Linux fr24feed

You should now be able to see a bunch of planes:

$ dump1090 –enable-agc –net –interactive

Transfer the data to Flightradar24:

$ ./fr24feed –fr24key=1234567890 –receiver=avr-tcp –raw=no –bs=no –logmode=0

That’s it. You need a working feeders account and key of course, but that’s all straightforward and well documented stuff.