Augmented reality display of air traffic for amateur drones

I made a video showing how I used a $20 ADS-B receiver to overlay air traffic on FPV video from my drone--in a web browser.  The blog post, "Augmented reality display of air traffic for amateur drones" has more details, including instructions on how you can do the same thing.

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Comment by RoboCopter on May 31, 2013 at 11:41am

Great work John! This technology will really help us to fly FPV more safely and will also help for us to keep it a legal activity.

Comment by Sergio O. on May 31, 2013 at 12:01pm

Great men!!!! good Job!! lets work on it i will investigate more about this donggle and i will try to attached with amp 2.5 

Comment by Marc Ramsey on May 31, 2013 at 2:34pm

Excellent!  A few cautions, though, for those of us in the US:

  • Not all (or even most) aircraft are currently equipped with ADS-B transmitters ("out").  The FAA won't be mandating use of ADS-B out for most aircraft until 2020, and even then some aircraft (like gliders and powered aircraft without electrical systems) will not be included in the mandate.
  • ADS-B uses two separate frequencies (and protocols) in the US, 1090Mhz (1090ES) and 978Mhz (UAT), so two receivers would be required for detecting all ADS-B equipped aircraft.
  • If an ADS-B ground station is in the area, it will retransmit traffic data (including that derived from radar targets) on 1090ES and/or UAT, but only if it detects there is a aircraft equipped with ADS-B out capability in the area.

This sort of thing is a great help for situational awareness, but it can not replace visual lookout as a result of these limitations...

Comment by HeliStorm on June 1, 2013 at 7:21am

Marc, to go along with your comment, ultra-light aircraft are allowed in the airspace with no positioning system required, and piloted by unlicensed amateurs. I have often wondered why the government is trying to strictly regulate, or even ban, my sub-pound camera quad, but a friend of mine gets to keep his ultra-light?

Comment by HeliStorm on June 1, 2013 at 7:32am

Mind you, I don't want my friend to lose his ultra-light. Interestingly, he owns a farm, and claimed the ultra-light purchase was to aid in crop maintenance. He flies over his fields, and occasionally I think he has spotted some blight, but mostly he flies for fun-sake. He actually asked me once about using a UAV for similar use, as it would be cheaper to operate. When I told him technically that would be illegal, he was floored. 

Comment by Marc Ramsey on June 1, 2013 at 9:08am

HeliStorm, my only point is that, unfortunately, ADS-B can't be a 100% solution to being being able to sense & avoid aircraft here in the US, as not all aircraft are, or will be, equipped with ADS-B transmitters.  That includes ultralight vehicles, which are not considered to be aircraft by the FAA.

As for ultralights, they are more strictly regulated under Part 103 than most people realize.  In addition to weight limitations, they can't be operated "over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons", can't be operated at night, can't be operated in the types of airspace that cover many large urban areas, etc.  If the FAA were to apply similar regulations to UAVs, many of those who wish to use them commercially (except, perhaps, farmers) would be quite unhappy...

Comment by AKRCGUY on June 1, 2013 at 9:21am

Awesome contribution to this community!  Bravo!

Comment by HeliStorm on June 1, 2013 at 11:38am
Marc, I did kind of go onto a different tangent. Having a friend with an ultra-light, I am slightly more than passing in my knowledge of their abilities, and limitations. And, for the most part, UAVs are currently operated in similar fashion. I sometimes wonder how many people truly stop to consider how many tons of metal go flying over their heads daily, and how many more tons of metal passes by them, sometimes within inches, daily. I understand the need for sensibly bringing UAVs into the airspace, as opposed to just letting anyone have one flying around wherever, and projects like this help. But, I think there needs to be as much PR effort as technical effort, if we are to see this move beyond a limited hobby.
Comment by Marc Ramsey on June 1, 2013 at 12:55pm

Keep in mind that Part 103 ultralights are prohibited from commercial use in the US, with the sole exception of flight instruction.  With the airspace restrictions, ultralights can't ever be anything more than a hobby.  The intent is to give UAVs access to more airspace and permit wider commercial use, which will inevitably lead to stricter regulation.

[ For those outside of the US, by the way, our "ultralights" are your "microlights", and your "ultralights", are our "light sport aircraft" ]

Comment by HeliStorm on June 1, 2013 at 4:54pm

Marc...good point. Although, I would imagine someone, somewhere, just once, has used an ultralight to make some money. I am not saying this is correct, as it is not correct for anyone to currently use UAS commercially. But, it happens. I hope that someone foolishly using this technology does not ruin it for everyone. I also hope sensible laws come about which allow UAS to be used for commercial uses, including agriculture and utility work, two areas in which I have interest. Also, for disaster relief efforts, which is an area I have most interest. 

I apologize for thread-jacking, as I diverted way off the main topic of this discussion, which is John's amazing heads up air traffic awareness system. I think the next several years will be interesting for this hobby, and industry, and work by the likes of John will help move things in the right direction. Thank you!

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