Optional Steps for Advanced Setup

This page contains optional setup instructions for advanced PiAware features. Click here for instructions to build a new PiAware device.

1Optional PiAware Setup Steps

Change device password

Your PiAware device is on the Internet, so although it is likely behind your home router (NAT), it is still a good idea to change the pi user's password from the default password (flightaware).

  • Login to the device with the username "pi" and password "flightaware".
  • Type "passwd" and follow the instructions to change the password for the account.

Enable SSH access

  • For security reasons, SSH access is disabled by default on new PiAware SD card installs, starting with version 3.3. To enable SSH, create an empty file on the /boot partition of the SD card with the filename of “ssh” only (no file extension). When this file is present, SSH will be automatically enabled.

Expand Filesystem for large SD cards

    If you have a large SD card, you can expand the usable space on your device by logging in and typing:
    
    sudo raspi-config
    
    
    Then, select "Expand file system" from the menu. When complete, exit the menu and type:
    
    sudo reboot
    
    
    The device will now reboot and the process is complete.

Access PiAware via Command Line

    You can check the status of PiAware by logging in and typing:
    
    sudo piaware-status
    
    
    You can restart PiAware by typing:
    
    sudo systemctl restart piaware
    
    

2Configuring your PiAware 3 (including WiFi)

Overview

The fully pre-configured FlightAware PiAware 3 SD card includes a default configuration that can be edited or overriden by the user.

Configuration File Options

The configuration file allows the user to configure and set the following:

  • Wired network
  • Wireless (WiFi) network
    • PiAware supports unencrypted networks or WPA/WPA2 encrypted networks; WEP is not supported
  • Automatic or manual updates
  • Multilateration (MLAT) output
  • Receiver type (RTL-SDR, Beast, Radarcape or other Mode S/ADS-B source)
  • RTL-SDR gain, PPM and device index
Configuration File Format

The configuration file is a simple plain text format file. You may find it helpful to view the sample piaware-config.txt.

Lines beginning with a "#" are comment lines and are ignored. Blank lines are also ignored. All other lines specify configuration settings.

If no other configuration method (above) is used, then the configuration file location is /etc/piaware.conf. This file is intended for package-based installs that do not want to use /boot.

For most users: After writing the PiAware image to a SD card, place the SD card in your computer and edit the "piaware-config.txt" file using a text editor (such as Notepad on Windows). Save your changes and eject the SD Card before physically removing it. Place the SD card in your Pi and it will use the new configuration when powered on.

Editing the configuration from the command line

For advanced users: Log in to your Pi by attaching keyboard and screen or by using ssh, then either:

  • Use the "piaware-config" utility to view and change settings. Run "piaware-config <setting> <value>" to make changes. Run "piaware-config" to show the current configuration settings.
  • Edit /boot/piaware-config.txt to make configuration changes, using an editor of your choice (e.g. "sudo nano /boot/piaware-config.txt").
  • For package-based installs, use piaware-config or edit /etc/piaware.conf.

If it is not convenient to remove the SD card and command line access is not possible. an external USB flash drive containing a piaware-config.txt file can be attached to the Pi. Settings in that file override any settings on the SD card. The flash drive should be attached before powering on the Pi and should remain connected while the Pi is running.

To ensure that all configuration changes take effect, please restart/reboot the Raspberry Pi after making changes.

For details on all available configuration options, please see our Advanced Configuration documentation.

3Antennas

FlightAware recommends the following for setting up an antenna.

    Equipment

  • A 1090MHz Antenna is necessary, for shopping locations specific to your country see the PiAware installation page in the PiAware Shopping List section under Optional.
  • To connect the antenna to your receiver, we recommend using low-loss coaxial cable. Ideally the cable attenuation (signal loss) should be below 6dB. Cable runs with more than 6 dB loss will result in less aircraft messages received and you will not achieve your maximum reception. Try to keep the coaxial cable length as short as possible and preferably less than 15 meters (50 feet).
    • For runs of less than 50 feet (15 meters) use at least LMR-240 or equivalent
    • For runs of more than 50 feet (15 meters) use at least LMR-400 or equivalent
    • Most external antennas have an N-Type female connector. If this is the type of antenna purchased please keep in mind the coaxial cable will require an N-Type male connector for the antenna. Corrosion caused by moisture in the connector when mounted outdoors can be prevented by wrapping the connector with self-fusing tape, hand moldable plastic or self-amalgamating tape (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-amalgamating_tape.)
    • The FlightAware Pro Stick and Pro Stick Plus (other DVB-T SDR receivers may have different connectors) have a SMA female connector therefore a SMA male connector will be needed to connect to the FlightAware stick. A cable built with an SMA male connector or an adapter will be needed, for other DVB-T SDR receivers please verify by reading the specifications.

    For more information on cables see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coaxial_cable

    Antenna location

  • The aircraft signal (1090MHz) is sent from a vertical antenna and the best way to receive the signal is to also have your antenna installed vertically.
  • For optimum reception, the antenna should be installed where it has an unobstructed view of the sky. Buildings, tall trees and high ground can block some of the signal.
  • The longer the antenna cable run, the more signal you will lose.
  • Locating your receiver close to the antenna can minimize the cable length but bear in mind that your Raspberry Pi may need to be physically accessed for upgrades or resolving failures.

    Antenna Mounting Suggestions

      Outdoors

      When mounting outdoors ensure that the antenna is securely fixed to avoid being dislodged by high wind or other influences. There are many different ways to install the antenna vertically, here are some ways others have mounted their antenna outdoors:

    • Drill a hole in the wall and seal around the cable with flexible sealant.
    • Using a tripod
    • Chimney mount
    • Clamp
    • Wire or metal straps holding a 90° shelving brace to a pipe, metal or wooden extension added then antenna attached
    • Zip tied the mounting plate\; example to a trellis, a pole, etc.
    • Straps holding a PVC pipe to an object, such as a chimney
    • Base made out of PVC pipe, mounting attached to piping with U-bolts
    • 2x4 piece of lumber connected to house
    • J pole antenna mount

      Indoors

      Outdoor antenna installations are ideal but not always possible. If you’re installing the antenna indoors, you should attempt to place it in a window or attic area (as close to the sky as possible with minimal obstructions). Various techniques can be used to mount an antenna vertically for an indoor installation:

    • Hung by string
    • Taped to wall (scotch, duct, packing, etc.)
    • TV tripod with foot mast
    • Suction cups
    • Microphone stand
    Different ways to run the cable from the antenna to the receiver

    Low loss cable, especially for long cable runs, can be up to 15mm in diameter and inflexible. Bear this in mind when planning its route, especially entering a building.

  • Drill a hole in the ceiling/roof/attic/loft and seal around with flexible sealant.
  • Drill a hole in a wooden window sill
  • Run through a wall or roof vent
  • Run through a pipe that leads to the roof (If you drill a hole into the pipe be careful of sharp edges)
  • Through a partially open window, using foam/cloth/etc to create insulation
  • Not recommended: Flat coax cable
    • Flat coax cables typically use an F-type connector and are designed to function with a satellite signal and are not optimized for usage with the 1090MHz frequency. Adapters would need to be purchased to connect with the N-type and SMA type connector.

For images of other setups checkout this discussion post that inspired the above list.
Some users even explain how they avoid Home Owner Associations often found in the USA.

Related Links (PiAware, Raspberry Pi, dump1090, and more)