Kismet can leverage the cheap rtl-sdr software defined radio to capture ADSB data from aircraft and helicopters.

The SDR RTLADSB source can autodetect rtl-sdr devices automatically, and can be manually specified with type=rtladsb:



ADSB is an international standard for aircraft identification. ADSB packets contain information about the flight, such as current location coordinates, altitude, bearing, flight number, registered ICAO aircraft identifier ID, GPS signal fidelity, and more.

Thanks to the altitude of aircraft, it’s often possible to receive information from hundreds of miles (or kilometers) away.

Supported hardware

The RTL-SDR is a repurposed digital TV tuner which functions as an extremely cheap SDR, or software defined radio.

It is not possible to use Bluetooth or Wi-Fi devices to capture ADSB data; a SDR is required for tuning to the proper frequencies and capturing raw radio sample data.

The Kismet implementation of ADSB decoding is tightly coupled to the cheap RTL-SDR hardware, and will not currently work with other SDR hardware.

SDR RTLADSB interfaces

Kismet identifies RTL-SDR hardware by either the serial number (if any) or by the radio position; for example:

The first RTL-SDR radio in the system, to be used for rtladsb:


A specific RTL-SDR radio (if serial numbers are available):


Not all RTL-SDR hardware populates the serial number field, and some hardware ships with a default serial number of 0.

Serial numbers can be found using the standard rtlsdr tools, like rtl_test:

$ rtl_test
Found 4 device(s):
  0:  NooElec, NESDR Nano 3, SN: 2686186936
  1:  NooElec, NESDR Nano 3, SN: 1177459274
  2:  NooElec, NESDR Nano 3, SN: 2664167682
  3:  NooElec, NESDR Nano 3, SN: 0572734167

Multiple RTL-SDR devices

Every datasource in Kismet must have a unique identifier, the source UUID. Kismet calculates this using the serial number of the RTL-SDR device.

Not all RTL-SDR hardware supplies a valid serial number; often devices will report a serial number of “00000000”. This will not cause any problems for Kismet if it is the only RTL-SDR device, however when using multiple RTL-SDR radios either locally or via remote capture, each one must have a unique ID.

A unique ID can be set using the rtl_eeprom tool to assign a proper serial number, or by using the uuid=... parameter on the Kismet source definition. A unique UUID can be generated with the genuuid tool on most systems.

SDR RTLADSB source parameters

Naming and description options

All data sources accept the common naming and description options.

Channel control options

  • channel={xyz}

    By default, SDR RTLADSB will tune to 1090MHz, the international standard frequency for ADSB. To manually set the frequency, in Hz;


Radio control options

  • biastee={true} / {false}

    Enable bias-tee power on supported radios.

    Bias-tee is used to supply power to external amplifiers or other equipment in the antenna chain, and requires that your radio hardware has power injection support.

  • gain={value}

    Specifiy a fixed gain level for the radio; by default, the hardware automatic gain control is used.

  • ppm={error_value}

    Specify a PPM error offset for fine-tuning your radio, if your hardware has a known offset.