Installing the multi-channel ACARS decoder
Some brief notes about getting the multi-channel ACARS decoder from Thierry Leconte
working on the Raspberry Pi card PC,
with an RTL-SDR.
1 - Get rtl-sdr library installed, install and test the dongle
If you don't already have a working RTL-SDR dongle installation working.
(Please be careful when copying the following commands. I usually try to double-space the parameters along the line, but when I do that for a Web page the HTML non-break-space character sometimes gets inserted, so the following are all single-spaced. Using copy and paste should therefore work correctly, at the expense of some readability.)
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install git-core sudo apt-get install git sudo apt-get install cmake sudo apt-get install libusb-1.0-0-dev git clone git://git.osmocom.org/rtl-sdr.git cd rtl-sdr mkdir build cd build cmake ../ -DINSTALL_UDEV_RULES=ON make sudo make install sudo ldconfig # Francis Breame reports that this is required cd ~ sudo cp ./rtl-sdr/rtl-sdr.rules /etc/udev/rules.d/
Now we need to either reboot, or power-down, and plug in the dongle, and restart.
Run the rtl_test:
But I get an error?
On versions of Raspian Linux later than 3.6.11, you may get an error message at this point:
Found 1 device(s): 0: Generic RTL2832U Using device 0: Generic RTL2832U Kernel driver is active, or device is claimed by second instance of librtlsdr. In the first case, please either detach or blacklist the kernel module (dvb_usb_rtl28xxu), or enable automatic detaching at compile time. usb_claim_interface error -6 Failed to open rtlsdr device #0.
This is because a DVB driver was added to the OS so that, er, TV could be received! This interferes with the operation of the DVB-T stick for ADS-B reception, so you need to take the steps outlined here before continuing. Re-run the test:
2 - Downloading and compiling the multi-channel ACARS decoder
Updated 2017-Mar-24 thanks to Dick from The Netherlands. The project has moved from SourceForge to github, hence a substantial change in the instructions for downloading is required.
Make a directory for the ACARS stuff, and change to that directory:
cd ~ mkdir acars cd acars
The current version can be found here https://github.com/TLeconte/acarsdec. There may be a later version available so it might be worth to check this project on a regular basis.
If you have an older version of acarsdec installed in a directory called “acarsdec” then you first have to remove or (preferably) rename that directory. To rename the old version to one with (preferably) a version number use a command like this:
mv acarsdec/ acarsdec-3.4
Now copy/clone the project with this command:
git clone https://github.com/TLeconte/acarsdec.git
Because the source is cloned to your RPI, a new directory named “acarsdec” will be created at the point where you issue the “git clone” command. So if you run the “git clone” command after the “cd acars” above, you will get a directory acarsdec in the acars directory which now contains the source of the project.
Now change to that directory, run "make" to compile the program, and see what libraries (if any) are missing:
cd acarsdec make -f Makefile.rtl
If you get an error like "No such file or directory" referring to a file sndfile.h or alsa/asoundlib.h, you may then need to update your installation with the commands below, and run the make command once again:
sudo apt-get install libsndfile1-dev sudo apt-get install libasound2-dev sudo apt-get install librtlsdr
although if you have also made dump1090 earlier on the same Raspberry Pi, it may have triggered all or parts of that requirement.
Francis Breame notes: However, the last one (sudo apt-get install librtlsdr) gave 'unable to locate package'.
It was fixed by the
Dick notes: You can now make versions for the Airspy, the SDRplay, as well as the original RTL dongle:
make -f Makefile.air # creates a program called acarsdec.air
make -f Makefile.sdrplay # creates a program called acarsdec.sdrplay
make -f Makefile.rtl # creates a program called acarsdec.rtl
PS. If you want to compile for a different device it is necessary to first do a:
make -f Makefile.rtl clean
PPS: It seems they have changed their mind yet again, so you might get a
program named acarsdec for all
different devices. Welcome to the wonderful world of Linux and "open
3 - Running the decoder
You might like to create a simple command to run the decoder, and specify the frequencies you want to use. Use nano to create a file (e.g. run-acars) containing the one line:
./acarsdec.rtl -p -8 -r 0 131.525 131.550 131.725 131.825
where the three-letter file extension is either air, sdrplay or rtl depending on the make file that was used. For the SDRplay (which according to the help) doesn't support -p or -r but does need the -s):
./acarsdec.play -s 131.525 131.550 131.725 131.825
Use the ppm correction for your dongle after the "-p" - it's shown as "-8" in this example. If you are unsure, use "0", but do try to use another program to determine what the value should be. Actually, the output from the program doesn't show a different frequency whatever value for "-p" is used. Make that file executable:
chmod +x run-acars
and run the command-file:
Dick notes: the command I use for the RTL is a bit more complicated and looks like this:
/home/pi/acarsdec/acarsdec.rtl -l "/home/pi/acarsdec/logs/$(date +"%Y%m%d")-5.log" \ -n 10.0.0.2:9742 -p 70 -r 00000005 131.525 131.725 131.825 \ >> "/home/pi/acarsdec/logs/process-acarsdec_rtl.log" 2>&1 &
The one for the SDRplay looks like this:
/home/pi/acarsdec/acarsdec.sdrplay -l "/home/pi/acarsdec/logs/$(date +"%Y%m%d")-RSP.log" \ -n 10.0.0.2:9742 -G -100 -s 131.525 131.725 131.825 \ >> "/home/pi/acarsdec/logs/process-acarsdec_RSP.log" 2>&1 &
DJT: I split the lines with "\" to make them fit on the page
better. They should still work!
Francis Breame notes: I'm sure that you're aware of it, but I'd just mention that for frequency offset, I found the kalibrate program very handy, which uses GSM reception to determine the offset. In case you think it worth referring to, the instructions are:
mkdir ~/kal cd ~/kal sudo apt-get install libtool autoconf automake libfftw3-dev git clone https://github.com/asdil12/kalibrate-rtl.git cd kalibrate-rtl git checkout arm_memory # Essential for the Raspberry Pi ./bootstrap ./configure make sudo make install
Both runs can take some time, so be patient! You can add -v (verbose) to give an indication that things are happening.
kal -s GSM900 -d 0 -g 40
You should see something like this, but your frequencies and powers will be different, of course:
Using device 0: Generic RTL2832U Found Elonics E4000 tuner Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz Setting gain: 40.0 dB kal: Scanning for GSM-900 base stations. GSM-900: chan: 29 (940.8MHz + 33.774kHz) power: 866917.42 chan: 34 (941.8MHz + 33.892kHz) power: 2521756.20 chan: 45 (944.0MHz + 568Hz) power: 941020.93 chan: 88 (952.6MHz + 35.252kHz) power: 2002022.17
Pick two or more with the highest powers, do multiple runs to calculate the frequency offsets, and take the integer average:
kal -c <channel> -d 0 -g 40
You should see:
kal: Calculating clock frequency offset. Using GSM-900 channel 34 (941.8MHz) average [min, max] (range, stddev) + 34.098kHz [34053, 34141] (88, 22.927330) overruns: 0 not found: 55 average absolute error: -36.205 ppm
You need to take the opposite sign of the absolute error when passing it to acarsdec (you are offsetting the error) - I think! So use "-p 36" in this case.
Kalibrate on Windows
It seems that on Windows you may need to make an initial estimate of the PPM error from the first step, so that the commands become:
C:\Tools\SDR\kalibrate-win-release>kal -g 42 -s 900 Found 1 device(s): 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Using device 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Found Rafael Micro R820T tuner Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz Setting gain: 42.0 dB meh: Scanning for GSM-900 base stations. GSM-900: chan: 19 (938.8MHz + 31.434kHz) power: 133429.06 chan: 111 (957.2MHz + 29.672kHz) power: 100942.26
Now make an approximate estimate of the error: -30 kHz at 945 MHz => -0.030/945 => -0.000031 => -31 ppm. I then did a run against both of the GSM stations which had been discovered:
C:\Tools\SDR\kalibrate-win-release>kal -e -31 -c 19 Found 1 device(s): 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Using device 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Found Rafael Micro R820T tuner Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz meh: Calculating clock frequency offset. Using GSM-900 channel 19 (938.8MHz) average [min, max] (range, stddev) - 84Hz [-98, -68] (30, 7.318200) overruns: 0 not found: 0 average absolute error: -30.910 ppm C:\Tools\SDR\kalibrate-win-release>kal -e -31 -c 111 Found 1 device(s): 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Using device 0: ezcap USB 2.0 DVB-T/DAB/FM dongle Found Rafael Micro R820T tuner Exact sample rate is: 270833.002142 Hz meh: Calculating clock frequency offset. Using GSM-900 channel 111 (957.2MHz) average [min, max] (range, stddev) - 1.012kHz [-1029, -993] (35, 9.529743) overruns: 0 not found: 0 average absolute error: -29.943 ppm C:\Tools\SDR\kalibrate-win-release>
So the offset value for this dongle is around -30 ppm, and the correction +30
ppm. Getting one of the more expensive dongles with a TCXO solves the
offset and initial drift problems well enough for this use!
The Next Steps
Having the messages decoded is all very well, but it would be great to see these messages in Plane Plotter, and with any position reports plotted. Here's how to do this:
Feeding Plane Plotter
On the Raspberry Pi
Suppose that your Plane Plotter PC has an IP address of 192.168.0.100. When building the command-line for the Raspberry Pi program include the string:
This might make the command string like something like:
./acarsdec.<device> -v -n 192.168.0.100:9742 -p 0 -r 0 131.525 131.550 131.725 131.825
where <device> is either air, sdrplay or rtl depending on the make that was used. Remember to include your correct Plane Plotter PC's IP address, and the appropriate ppm correction for your own dongle.
On Plane Plotter
Be sure that in the Options, I/O settings, Input data panel, the box UDP/IP from net is checked.
That's all! The Message View in Plane Plotter will display received
ACARS messages - one per line.
The next steps
Ideally, rather than using the UDP protocol, it would be better to use TCP as then the receiving Raspberry Pi does not need to be on the same sub-network, and TCP is more appropriate and reliable message protocol for the relatively infrequent ACARS messages. TCP support may also allow multiple clients getting data from the one Raspberry Pi. Two things need to happen to make this work:
Let's hope the folk involved can make these things happen!
The README - the program's Help information
Here is the read-me snapshot from October 2018 - be sure to get the current version here. Please study the output from the program's Help command to see what parameters are needed for your own particular device. You can show the help just by entering the program name alone:
./acarsdec.rtl or ./acarsdec.play or ./acarsdec.air
You can get the help text into a file for later reference by using a Linux redirection such as:
./acarsdec.rtl > help.rtl.txt
Using other operating systems
It may be possible to run this code on other variants of Linux. Please note:
- a USB 2.0 hi-speed port is required. USB 1.1 is not fast enough.