Mode-S Beast:Frequently Asked Questions

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  • Why do I not see the aircraft type in Planeplotter?
    The aircraft type is not part of the Mode-S transmissions, but Planeplotter is able to read the type from a database, which you can find here on the manTMA pages. Decompress the database and load it into Planeplotter with Options->Directories->SQB Database.
  • Why this crazy name "Beast"?
    Well, my Mode-S experience started with PIC decoder, and then I proceeded step-by-step into the FPGA world, and also into the high performance decoding. While with the PIC the received frames just appeared like a drop-by-drop, with the Beast the screen just races. Also, we had several problems how to handle the message load (I've seen a maximum of 1100 verfied messages per second) in Planeplotter. Finally I saw problems on the USB interface together with my slow Mode-S laptop (600MHz Pentium) and so even had to contact FTDI support how the FT232R is best able to handle that.
    All together, this piece is a little beast and bothers all components involved.
    But be sure, all the issues are solved and the Mode-S Beast will safely work for you.
  • Will you supply schematics and documentations about this development?
    Yes, as far as it is needed to understand the design architecture.
  • Will you supply the FPGA programming information?
    For those who decided to buy an Altera USB blaster or compatible, I will provide the firmware file on request. See also the version information page.
  • Why isn't there any integrated FW upgrade?
    Because the FPGA is not a microcontroller, any update would have required extra space in it. Even then the upgrade procedure is not as easy as you might be used with μCs.
    Developing any properitary protocol and tooling is totally out of scope due to the necessary effort.
    An idea of using the 4 parallel IO lines of the FT232R was no longer tracked because that needs to reprogram the FT232R, which is pretty dangerous, even I once accidentally have overwritten an USB blaster because this has the same device.
  • Will you supply VHDL source code for your project?
    Generally not. Only in case of special agreement. Will you sell ready made units? Rarely there are used test samples availble, but regularily I do not sell ready units.
  • Can I also connect other receivers than the miniADSB to the external ports?
    Yes, this is possible, as long as the signal is equal to the signal of the miniADSB, best resulting from a AD8313 log detector.
  • Do I need to take care on the sensitivity of the components, in other words: May I destroy components while completing the kit?
    You need some moderate soldering skills and a soldering iron for electronic circuits. Never use one that directly is connected to the 110V/220V mains. Take care on discharge, avoid areas (for example carpets) which you know that you sometimes get a small electric shock. Touch the PCB only on its corners. Simply said: Be carful! If you don't dare doing this, ask around, someone from your friends surely has the right equipment.
  • Is there any distinction between Mode-A and Mode-C frames?
    Just the reqeuesting radar station knows that. On the air, and especially as a passive receiver, there is absolutely no indication if it is a Mode-A (squawk) or a Mode-C (altitude) frame. See also
  • I noticed that there are two versions of the Hardware (V1.0 and V1.1)?
    Yes, there are. They are completly equal with regard to Mode-S, the only difference is that HW V1.1 is prepared to update the firmware via USB. See also the version information page.