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Real Radar Scope CRT Shows Flights Using ADS

May 06, 2023May 06, 2023

Real-time flight data used to be something that was only available to air traffic controllers, hunched over radar scopes in darkened rooms watching the comings and goings of flights as glowing phosphor traces on their screens. But that was then; now, flight tracking is as simple as pulling up a web page. But where's the fun in that?

To bring some of that old-school feel to his flight tracking, [Jarrett Cigainero] has been working on this ADS-B scope that uses a real radar CRT. As you can imagine, this project is pretty complex, starting with driving the 5FP7 CRT, a 5″ round-face tube with a long-persistence P7-type phosphor. The tube needs about 7 kV for the anode, which is delivered via a homebrew power supply complete with a custom flyback transformer. There's also a lot going on with the X-Y deflection amps and beam intensity control.

The software side has a lot going on as well. ADS-B data comes from an SDR dongle using dump1090 running on a Raspberry Pi 3B. The latitude and longitude of each plane within range — about 5 nautical miles — is translated to vector coordinates, and as the "radar" sweeps past the location, a pip lights up on the scope. And no, you’re not seeing things if you see two colors in the video below; as [TubeTime] helpfully explains, P7 is a cascade phosphor that initially emits a bright-blue light with some UV in it, which then charges up a long-persistence green phosphor.

Even though multicolored icons and satellite imagery may be more useful for flight tracking, we really like the simple retro look [Jarrett] has managed to pull off here, not to mention the hackery needed to do it.