The sale of ADS-B Exchange on January 25 has been well-covered by Wired, Forbes, and Hackaday; in the two weeks that have followed, four new flight data aggregators have popped up - adsb.fi, ADSB.lol, ADSB One, and TheAirTraffic. Who are the people behind these sites?
Before jumping into a list of people who are doing new things with old software, it's worth noting they're standing on the shoulders of dozens of contributors who are still working on the open portions of the software that powered ADSBx, the most prolific being wiedehopf.
ADSB.lol was started by Katia, an Italian, whose background is in "building and operating distributed systems." She's been very transparent on her Discord and website regarding her plans and motivation:
- Provide unrestricted air traffic access, both real time and historical.
- Create a platform that is easy to deploy by others at scale, using industry best practices (except for this ugly website ;).
- Ease the barrier to entry for like-minded individuals to be able to contribute, experiment and improve the technology stack.
Her approach is interesting as all of the code being used to operate the site is open and shared; if this software can continue to perform as the number of people sharing data keeps increasing, it would not only be a worthy successor to ADSBx, it will make it much easier for other people to build and start their own scalable copy of the service.
ADSB One's developer, who declined to identify themselves beyond their online handle "Husky," is active on the ADSB.lol and old ADSBx Discords. In addition to positional tracking, ADSB.one is also collecting ACARS data, and they’ve also developed and implemented a free clone of the ADSBx Rapid API, which should be very exciting for hobbyist who like to play with flight data.
ADSB One’s site may not be as verbose ADSB.lol’s, but both are active, promise to remain uncensored, and are contributing new features to the open software everyone else on this list is using.
It seems likely that TheAirTraffic’s likely to do well, if only because its founder, Jack Sweeney, has become the public face of flight tracking with his ElonJet trackers.
Asked about his motivations, “a lot of reasons I wanted to do it, I need data for my bots, I find ADSB fascinating, and wanted to create a site that I love to share with others.” Sweeney’s also committed to sharing data, “my first API call when I was learning programming was a call for ADSB data, and I learned so much from it. So i would love to provide that opportunity for others.”
TAT currently has the smallest network of feeders contributing data, but Sweeney is still in the very early stages of promoting his new site.
adsb.fi was started by Samuli, a Finnish IT and aviation enthusiast. After ADSBx was sold, he started tinkering with the software ADSBx uses. After sharing his progress, a few people reached out and started sharing their data, and demand quickly increased.
“I got in contact with members of the original ADSBexchange team, who offered help and support with the site if I wanted to keep it up.”
Samuli explains, “the plan now is to provide community-driven, open, and unfiltered access to worldwide air traffic data. A lot of work goes into making sure that the site remains stable and sustainable as the user and feeder count grows. A key focus is on making the process of setting up a new feeder as easy and user-friendly as possible. Much of the site uses open-source software, and the work on that will benefit the open-source projects.”
Samuli, who goes by “tmantti” on Discord, has been working with some members of the previous ADSBx team to get the site running smoothly, and is keeping an eye on non-profit discussions. As the first site to get off the ground and catch the community’s attention after the sale of ADSBx, it currently has the largest network of feeders providing it with direct flight data.
Several people in the community, myself included, desire the creation of a legal non-profit entity, which could help manage and finance the enterprise infrastructure needed to handle real-time flight data aggregation on a global scale - a Wikimedia Foundation of flight data aggregation, if you will.
Even if an authoritative non-profit doesn’t emerge, it seems new improvements being added to the existing open software stack will allow these new indie networks to share data with one another in ways we haven’t seen before - will they be able to scale to the size of ADSBx, FlightAware, or FlightRadar24 without a bonafide 501(c)3 backing them up? It’ll be exciting to watch and find out!
adsb.fi’s creator has followed up since this article was first published, providing additional details; these updates were posted at 10:30 PM CST on February 7.
Styling/branding of the different aggregators was updated at 3:50 PM ST on February 15.
Nick lives in Burnsville, MN with his wife and three children. He grooves on railroad and aviation photography, politics, geography, weather, and LEGO. He started JetTip's smart flight alert service in 2017, and is now a full-time avgeek. He can frequently be found atop a step ladder at MSP's Aircraft Viewing Area.