After life/work/family caused me to take a bit of a break from LiveATC activities, my interest was renewed over the past year when I discovered some free time. What a difference a day makes, as they say. Since my heyday with LiveATC the Raspberry Pi has come along. Couple that with $8 RTL-SDR dongles, and it sparked my creativity and curiosity:
Was it possible to make a $5 feed?
I should clarify.. I mean $5/channel, not $5 all-in. Here's how I arrive at my baseline numbers for a "super feed" like we used to build:
Delta sound card: $199
8 Uniden Scanners: $250
Total: $699 / 8 channels = $87/channel
Please.. if you have better numbers, post them!
So, I set out to figure out how we could reduce this $87/channel number to something more reasonable. How could we set up "super feeds" with 8 or 16 channels for much lower cost? Well, we're close - but I need your help to nail down the specifics and turn this into a reality that everyone can enjoy.
As a teaser: We're at 16 channels now for about $73 TOTAL - everything except the antenna system/splitter/preamp. That's about $4.60/channel. Lot's of qualifications to go along with that number, but as of now if we had a site that had 16 channels to stream, we could do it for about $5/channel, and for an operating cost of roughly $8 per year in electricity.
The next step in the process is to ask for a test site from a current feeder that has a site close to a Class B airport with strong signals. I want to start out in a known, strong RF environment so that we can rule out any oddities before going any further. If you're a current feeder, close to a multi-channel, strong RF Class B airport, please send me a message. I will provide equipment, instructions, and ultimately the entire setup will be yours in exchange for cooperation and testing of this equipment.
Over the next several months I plan to roll out the configuration in stages so that everyone can take advantage of the improvements. Some of the potential benefits of this project are:
1. Much lower initial investment
2. Much lower operating costs (electricity)
3. Increased stability (Linux)
4. Fully programmable (no need to program scanners)
5. Ability to capture ADS-B, ACARs, and ATC audio if desired
6. Ability to scan multiple channels like a typical scanner
7. Software/hardware is 95% pre-configured, only minor changes to get on the air
8. Squelch and audio level are set automatically - all channels have the same loudness
9. Very small equipment footprint compared to a traditional PC
10. Works for MilAir (225-400) too.
11. Up to 16 individual channels for $73!
Your thoughts, comments, questions are encouraged in this thread. I'd love to make this a group project with other contributors. We're much stronger as a team!