I am a student of a flying school which has 10 Cessna-152's. Since all the aircraft are not equipped with a transponder, there is no way to track them. I am searching for a way to track them like Flightradar24 does with the maps. This is a project assigned for a bunch of students, so we are looking for an inexpensive but still good quality system.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you need to track them in real time or just be able to come up with a track afterwards? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 20, 2017 at 2:37
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ Get a transponder. (I am serious) $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Aug 20, 2017 at 12:17
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    $\begingroup$ Define "inexpensive"... $\endgroup$
    – Ron Beyer
    Aug 20, 2017 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ @mins They have found aviation.SE ;-) I know what you're getting at, but if you have a school project then asking more experienced or knowledgeable people for their suggestions seems like completely reasonable research to me. In principle there's no difference between asking us and asking a local EAA chapter (or whatever). $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 20, 2017 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Okay @Pondlife, I suggest requirements/accuracy/constraints are clarified. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Aug 20, 2017 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


You could try to get some cheap Car GPS trackers on aliExpress. But they would need to be in range of cell towers. Flying to high will cause connection loss.

A more expensive one, which I found to be working great is this one.

But you can get android based trackers for about 10\$US.

  • $\begingroup$ Would a GPS chip and Arduino work? You wouldn't need cell towers, and the Arduino could save coordinates and time (NMEA sentences) every X minutes/seconds (as desired) to an SD card or something. There's Arduino libraries/sketches that help with this, and the saved CSV could be fed into Google Earth/Maps to get a playback. $\endgroup$
    – SnakeDoc
    Aug 22, 2017 at 15:15
  • $\begingroup$ @SnakeDoc He specified real time tracking $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Aug 22, 2017 at 17:28

It may be possible to use almost any Android mobile phone with GPS tracker app, somewhat like this (many others exist). Unfortunately the solution with mobile phones alone only works within the reach of cell towers, while otherwise it is both very simple and convenient.

If you have radio stations on these planes, it is possible to develop custom software stack so that mobile phone could communicate the coordinates via radio channel in some digital form, and the receiving side (another phone) should be able to decode. The audio jack on the phone has both audio output and microphone input, and data from there can make into software layer for digital processing. Converting between sound and digital data has long history and known approaches; early computers used ordinary cassete recorders to store data and software.

You need rather good software engineers in the team to realize this idea.

  • $\begingroup$ ITYM early hobbyist (aka home) computers like Apple, RadioShack, Commodore etc in the late 1970s. The first computers in the modern meaning (electronic, programmable) like ENIAC, EDVAC, EDSAC in the 1940s didn't use cassettes not least because they didn't exist yet. 1950s+ mainframes did use essentially the same iron-oxide-on-plastic magnetic tape as audio, but with radically different drives and circuits. Another (perhaps better) example of data over audio is the long history of modems to transmit data over telephone circults, from Bell 103 onward; you might even adapt existing devices. $\endgroup$ Aug 24, 2017 at 17:42

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