FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why does the map use non-latin characters (ie. Chinese, Thai, Cyrillic) in certain areas?

A: The default map layer comes from OpenStreetMap. To see a map using Latin characters, from the overlay menu, choose the “CARTO.com English” option

Q: I live in XYZ, can you use another feeder there? Where can I see if you need more coverage in my area? Etc.

A: The answer is simple. If you live on planet earth, yes, ADSBexchange.com could use a feeder at your location. The map may look like you see aircraft in your area, but the truth is you can’t see what you can’t see. Detecting an aircraft at 30,000 ft. can be done from a hundred miles away, but lower flying aircraft require the feeder to be much closer. To detect aircraft with MLAT, we need a minimum of 4 feeders to receive data and the more receivers see it the better the MLAT accuracy. If an aircraft is low altitude, feeders may have to be within a few miles.

Q: Why can’t I see a certain aircraft or aircraft in a certain area?

A: ADS-B Exchange uses ADS-B and MLAT data. MLAT is derived from multiple receivers receiving Mode S messages from the same aircraft. Mode S is somewhat of a precursor technology to ADS-B and includes the six hexadecimal digit “ICAO” code assigned to the aircraft, but does not include the lat/lon coordinates or other information.  We calculate these coordinates for MLAT targets by timing when the signal arrives at the various participating receivers.  The even older “Mode C” transponder technology does not incorporate the uniquely identifiable ICAO hex code, so Mode C only aircraft will not show up. Fortunately, ADS-B is required in a large (and growing) amount of airspace, so more aircraft show up everyday.  In fact, in most US and European airspace, ADSB transponders are mandatory.

Note that transponders can sometimes be misconfigured and transmit the wrong hex code due to human error. Military planes sometimes on purpose use a bogus/invalid/unassigned hex id.

Thousands of people all over the world have installed a small SDR and an antenna to receive 1090 MHz and feed the data into our project. The received data is collected and correlated to create MLAT positions. As we need to see an aircraft with 4 feeders to be able to find its location with MLAT the best way to expand coverage is to install your own feeder, even if there are already some in your area, or help us arrange to place one in the area of bad coverage.

Q: Why should I feed ADS-B Exchange? What’s in it for me?

A: ADS-B Exchange started as (and still is) a group of aviation enthusiasts pooling their feeder data to provide the most complete picture of air traffic possible without the censorship present on the “large, commercial networks”.

ADSBx prefers to allow “free” access to as many features as possible. 

Of course, if you enjoy using our site features, the community here would appreciate it if you shared your data. There some features, such as enhanced map layers that incur extra cost, so are only available to feeders or subscribers.

Q: How is ADS-B Exchange different than “other” flight tracking sites?

A: ADS-B Exchange operates a bit differently from other flight tracking sites. As a group of aviation enthusiasts, our primary goal is to answer the question of “what’s up there” rather than “is grandma’s flight on-time”.

  • You’ll never see an aircraft censored or “blocked” from our site. If one of our feeders is receiving it, the data will be there. This includes military, and other aircraft that attempt to be “unlisted”. Hint: to see some of the planes not shown by other sites, from the map page, right-hand column, Filters -> LADD -> Filter. This primarily applies to US registered aircraft.
  • We don’t “estimate” or “interpolate” positions. Every time you see an aircraft move on ADS-B Exchange it is based on actual data received and not an estimate of where the aircraft “should” be. Look at the unnatural movement of aircraft on some of the other sites – you’ll see what we mean. If we are receiving the data, we’ll update positions as often as once per second… with _real_ data.  (2x per second via the Enterprise API).

Q: Is there any way to get my flight/aircraft removed from your website?

A: The short answer: No. The long answer: No there is not. ADSBexchange.com does not filter any data from our website. If it broadcasts on public airwaves, we share it.  The FAA does have programs such as PIA for users concerned about ADS-B privacy.

Q: Isn’t this a security risk?

A: No. If aircraft do not want to be seen, (such as military or law enforcement aircraft on a mission) they can always turn their transponders “off”, or over to “Mode C”. The position data shown by ADS-B Exchange is available to anyone who can spend $50 on Amazon and put the parts together. It’s not secret. Air Traffic Control voice comms are not encrypted either, and contain similar (or more) information.

Q: I’m building a project for my company but we aren’t making money off of it, can I get a free API key?

A: Any project for a commercial entity regardless of if the end results are being sold or used internally requires a commercial API license. In very limited situations ADSBexchange.com may choose to allow non-profit, research, or educational entities access to the historical data or API at reduced fee, in these situations such entities must meet all other requirements including hosting a feeder. ADSBexchange.com API pricing is a significant value compared to the cost of ADS-B data available elsewhere.

Q: The photo shown for the airplane selected is incorrect, can you fix it?

A: The photos shown on ADS-B Exchange are not provided by ADS-B Exchange, rather they are hosted and provided by planespotters.net. PlaneSpotters.net is showing the latest available photo in the database for the selected hex and registration, which may not always be perfect. You can help ensure that the database is up to date with photos by submitting photos/corrections to planespotters.net.

Q: Why is there no photo for the selected aircraft and just a silhouette?

A: In the event that no photo is found in the planespotters.net database for the selected photo, ADS-B Exchange shows a silhouette instead to provide a visual for the selected aircraft. Alternatively, if there is no silhouette available in the ADS-B Exchange library, or the type of the aircraft is unknown, then no photo will be shown.