AirNav RadarBox

How it works

AirNav Radarbox is a "virtual radar" system. The aerial receives Mode-S and ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast) signals transmitted by aircraft. The signals have an unobstructed range of about 200 miles. The RadarBox decodes them and sends the data via the USB cable to your computer. Software on the computer displays the aircraft's identity, registration, owner etc., and keeps a log of all aircraft received.

Most aircraft transmit a Flight ID and this is used to display the airline's logo and its route. Where the aircraft also transmits ADS-B signals, RadarBox displays their exact position on the map. The full screen display looks like this:


The aircraft you will see in RadarBox include all larger modern airliners and an increasing number of business aircraft and light planes, along with many military aircraft, police helicopters, etc. However, of these, it's generally the large airliners and bizjets that broadcast ADS-B, and so appear on the map.

In the screenshot above, it's the planes with a blue globe towards the left that appear on the map. We know the others, like the C-5 and the police helicopter, are around, but we don't know their position. The list can be sorted in any order, and you can apply filters to see just the aircraft that you want, for example just of one airline, or heading for just one particular airport.

When you buy RadarBox you get the box itself, plus an indoor aerial and the USB cable to connect the box to your computer. That combination will keep you going for ever. Automatic downloads of the aircraft photos and data are also free for life. If you want to expand the capabilities of the basic setup, there are several combinations of software and subscriptions available.


The RadarBox Network

The network allows RadarBox users around the world to share the aircraft they receive with other users. Only data from aircraft which are transmitting their position is shared. Incoming data is delayed by 5 minutes and updated every 30 seconds. You get a free 1-year subscription to this network when you buy the RadarBox. After the first year, there is an annual subscription.

Alternatively you can subscribe to the real-time network, which costs more, where the data has no delay - you are seeing live info, updated every 20 seconds. This is great to have, and particularly useful if your live view is obstructed and there are other users around you who can fill the gaps.

Internet Connection

The normal software works perfectly well without an internet connection, but to download data and photos, and to share with and receive the network, you need an internet connection.

Support

AirNav provide excellent support both by their normal ticketing system, and through the RadarBox Forum, where users, potential users, and the AirNav support and development teams are available and happy to provide help and advice. AirNav have developed the software - I've been using it for over eight years, and there have been five major software releases over that time, plus significant upgrades to the network.

Many enthusiastic users provide updates to the system. An expert team updates the database of aircraft and routes - a huge task that keeps the RadarBox database more up-to-date than any other, probably. Operator logos are also constantly updated, and the resources for airport outlines and aircraft photo-silhouettes are constantly being expanded.

Aerials

The aircraft transmissions are line-of-sight - meaning that they don't go through walls or hills, so many users install an external antenna, usually on their roof, to get the best coverage. I use one, without a pre-amplifier, and get great results, but I do live on top of a hill, which helps a lot.

Why not just use an online service like RadarBox24 or Flightradar24?

Those are great, but here are some features that you get with RadarBox that the onlines can't give you:
  • The MyLog feature which records all the aircraft your box receives for later reference and reports
  • Seeing military and general aviation aircraft, most of which are blocked by some online serivces
  • Independence - you've got your own box and wherever you are, you don't need other people to feed you local data
  • Customisation of the screen display: map styles, colour schemes, airport outlines, screen layout, etc...
  • More independence - the ability to operate without an internet connection
  • Liveness - no internet delay for fights that your box receives
  • Smugness - knowing that without people like you sharing their data, the online services couldn't exist!

Health & Safety

It is important to realise that the AirNav RadarBox is extremely addictive. Once you have installed it, you are in danger of forgetting all about friends, family, going to bed, going to work, eating and personal hygiene. Trying to draw a balance between RadarBox and real life takes a great deal of determination. I'm working on it...

To see the live air traffic that I'm picking up, click this link: