Testing the FlightAware Pro Stick Plus for 6 days
Nov 21, 2016
Dear Reader, this is an ADS-B enthusiast post, primarily for folks who aim to receive the most position reports from as many airplanes as possible. For seeing an airplane and finding out where it's going and at what speed, plus many more in-flight data, any RTL-SDR dongle will suffice.
After publishing the Pro Stick Plus review, I 've seen comments that the Plus can overload on the FA antenna, so felt the need to conduct further side-by-side comparisons. Furthermore, I wanted to test the Plus against rtl-sdr.com's v.3 on a half-wave antenna, just to see the difference.
Test involved two identical ModMyPi Starter Kits as back-end computing, and a Pro Stick Plus, a Pro Stick with FlightAware 1090 MHz filter, and a v.3 from rtl-sdr.com. No user involvement, no gain adjustment, same antenna via splitter, receiver was the only variable.
One week's data, antenna and receiver used added to printscreens.
On Monday, v.3 against the Plus, 2.13x more reports and 76% more Total aircraft seen. I couldn't believe my eyes, thought the splitter was acting up, but no, after swapping receivers to two v.2 dongles on Tuesday, had 1.77 % difference in values, so data is reliable.
Continuing on Wednesday and Thursday with the v.3 vs Plus theme, striking performance difference continues. In three days, the Plus had 2.03 times more reports and 56% more aircraft seen. I, and I'm not alone with this opinion, consider the v.3 one of the best, if not the best RTL-SDR dongle, but as always, amplification and filtering for a specific task rules the day.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday (only a half-day, as I needed gear for photos) the game was on for the Pro Stick with FA filter, using Flightaware's antenna. Fairly consistent day-by-day differences, totals in three days indicate that the Plus received 14.96 % more position reports and seen 6.37 % more aircraft.
Previous test showed 18.45 % more total reports with a half-wave, so a narrower gap on a more sensitive antenna might, and I only dare to inaudibly whisper it, just might indicate receiver overload. I can't invite planes to fly over for more data, nor have more antennas and Pi 3s to verify a hunch.
If you think the Plus overloads on a the FlightAware antenna, just turn down gain in software step by step and monitor results.