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Flyover setup

Here are instructions on how to build your own version of the Flyover notifier. I can't necessarily offer personalized support, but, hell, send me an email, I might respond!

I've tried to make these instructions as detailed as possible, but if something is imprecise, hard to understand or incorrect, please submit a pull request or send me a note.


You need the following pieces of equipment for an exact clone of my setup; the cost should be about $100 (USD) total. If you're hardware and software savvy, you can certainly substitute different things. They're probably available for sale at somewhere other than Adafruit, but Adafruit is nice and friendly and generally seem like good people. (I'm not getting anything in exchange for linking to any of these projects, e.g. referral points or anything.) You can also use FlightAware's shopping list.


Set up SD Card with operating system

  1. download the Raspbian operating system from here, current version is Jessie
  2. once it's downloaded, unzip it, you should get an .img file
  3. now we need to copy it to the SD Card, but we can't just drag-and-drop it, so follow these instructions: a. plug the SD card into the computer using a microSD reader (or, more likely, a microSD-to-SD adapter and an SD card reader b. run this command on Linux or Mac: $ sudo dd bs=4M if=2015-11-21-raspbian-jessie.img of=/dev/mmcblk0 on windows, there's probably an equivalent, but I don't know what it is. It's definitely doable and not terribly difficult though.
  4. now just insert the card in the Raspberry Pi

Connecting Your Computer to the Raspberry Pi

now we have to figure out how to talk to the raspberry pi.

  1. plug it all in. don't worry about the SDR antenna or the display yet. Just plug the SD card into the Raspberry Pi and plug the power adapter into the Pi (and into the wall). The lights on the Raspberry Pi should start blinking.
  2. Open the command line on Linux or Mac (if you use Windows, download PuTTY and use that) and type ssh pi@raspberrypi.local
  3. Enter the password raspberry.
  4. You should now see a prompt that begins with `pi@raspberrypi`

If you get an error message like: ssh: Could not resolve hostname raspberrypi4.local: Name or service not known

That means that your home network isn't set up to route via Avahi. You'll need to find the Raspberry Pi's IP address directly. You'll need to log into your router (probably at, view the list of existing DHCP leases, and find the one belonging to your Raspberry Pi. I can't give you more specific instructions because it depends on your router version. It will probably be something like, where xxx is a number less than 255. It might also be something like

Once you find it, try this:

  1. Open the command line on Linux or Mac (if you use Windows, download PuTTY and use that) and type ssh
  2. Enter the password raspberry.
  3. You should now see a prompt that begins with pi@raspberrypi

Installing dump1090

More detailed instructions are found here:

Now you should plug in the SDR adapter to one of the USB ports on the Raspberry Pi. Doesn't matter which.

You should run these commands in the command-line window that begins with pi@raspberrypi. Don't type the $. (It just signifies that you're in the command line.)

$ wget`
$ sudo dpkg -i mutability-repo_0.1.0_armhf.deb
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install dump1090-mutability

Now we have to configure the dump1090 software. The defualt options are all okay, but you need to fill out the latitude/longitude of the spot you're in now. Google Maps will tell you. Navigate with the arrow keys and accept with Enter.

$ sudo dpkg-reconfigure dump1090-mutability

$ sudo apt-get install lighttpd && sudo lighty-enable-mod dump1090

Now we're doing some detailed, boring stuff to make the hardware work.

$ echo "blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu" | sudo tee /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.conf`
$ echo "SUBSYSTEMS==\"usb\", ATTRS{idVendor}==\"0bda\", ATTRS{idProduct}==\"2838\", MODE:=\"0666\"" | sudo tee /etc/udev/rules.d/50-sdr.rules
$ sudo service udev restart

Now, you should be able to go to http://raspberrypi.local:80 or (the same as above). And there should be a fun page from dump1090 showing planes overhead.

Installing Flyover

Run these commands, still on the command prompt on your computer that represents the Raspberry Pi.

Installs a few libraries: $ sudo apt-get install python-smbus python-imaging libgeos-dev

And some Python libraries: $ sudo pip install geojson shapely

Download and unzip the Flyover code:

$ wget
$ unzip
$ mv flyover-master flyover

Move the flyover-cron script to /etc/cron.d/ tells the computer to run the Flyover code once every thirty seconds, by running these two commands:

$ sudo mv flyover/flyover-cron /etc/cron.d/
$ sudo chown root:root /etc/cron.d/flyover-cron

And enable the Dump1090 web interface in the location that Flyover expects it.

$ sudo mv flyover/89-dump1090.conf /etc/lighttpd/conf-enabled/89-dump1090.conf

And download the latest database of routes from FlightRadarServer:

$ flyover/

Finishing up

Display Assembly

Solder together the LED matrix, following Adafruit's instructions.

Hook it up to the Pi. If you have a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B like I do, you'd be following a pin-out diagram like this. Connect the following pins on the display (they're labeled on the back of the display board) to the Pi:

  • VCC pin to pin #4, to supply 5V power
  • GND pin to pin #6, for ground
  • SCL pin to pin #5 for I2C SCL (who knows what that stands for, maybe clock?)
  • SDA pin to pin #3 for I2C SDA (maybe data?)

You can connect the wires with female-to-female jumpers or by soldering. The pins are labeled on the front of the display board as D, C, - and +, where D is SDA, C is SCL, + is VCC and - is GND.

Almost there...

Restart the Pi. (Either type sudo reboot or just unplug it and plug it back in again) It should just work (assuming there's a plane flying overhead!!). It might not. Open an issue with the error if it doesn't...


Copyright 2016 Jeremy B. Merrill.

Thanks to my dad for sending in fixes to these instructions!

This work is licensed under the CC 3.0 BY-NC-SA license.

You follow this guide at your own risk. Soldering, in particular, can be dangerous and you shouldn't do it if you don't know what you're doing. If you break your stuff or set your house on fire or give your dog lead poisoning, it's your fault, not mine.