Building your own secret tracking device using a Raspberry Pi and basic electronic components is an exciting and educational project that doesn't require advanced technical skills. With just a few common components, you can assemble a functional tracking device that allows you to monitor the location of objects or people inconspicuously.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through each step of constructing a Raspberry Pi tracking device, from choosing the right components to programming the software. You’ll learn about the core principles behind GPS tracking, how to assemble the hardware, and how to configure the software to pinpoint locations.

By the end of this guide, you’ll have the knowledge to build your own covert tracking tool using the versatile Raspberry Pi!

Hardware Components Needed

To build a Raspberry Pi tracking device, you will need the following core components:

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is the heart of this tracking project. Any Raspberry Pi model will work, but the Pi 3 or 4 provides the best performance. The Raspberry Pi receives GPS data and runs the tracking software.

GPS Module

A USB GPS module like the Adafruit Ultimate GPS provides location data to the Raspberry Pi. It uses satellites to pinpoint longitude and latitude coordinates.

MicroSD Card

You’ll need a MicroSD card at least 8GB in size to store the Raspberry Pi OS and tracking software.

Battery Pack

A portable battery pack powers the Raspberry Pi. Look for one that can provide at least 2A of current.

GPS Antenna

An external GPS antenna connects to the GPS module for better satellite reception.

Assembling the Tracker Hardware

With all the components ready, it's time to assemble them into a working tracker:

  1. Install the Raspberry Pi OS on the MicroSD card using Raspberry Pi Imager or another disk imaging tool.

  2. Insert the MicroSD card into the Raspberry Pi and connect the GPS module to a USB port.

  3. Connect the GPS antenna to the GPS module. This greatly improves satellite signal reception.

  4. Connect the portable battery pack to the Raspberry Pi to provide mobile power.

  5. Install the assembled device into a case or enclosure for protection. 3D printed cases work very well.

At this point you should have a functioning Raspberry Pi tracker device ready for software configuration and programming!

Configuring the Tracking Software

To enable location tracking capabilities, we'll need to install and configure some software on the Raspberry Pi:

Enable SSH Access

SSH allows you to remotely access the Raspberry Pi command line to install and control software. Enabling SSH is simple - just add an empty file called ssh to the root of the SD card before booting up the Pi.


GPSD is a service that collects data from the GPS module and makes it available to other applications. Install it by running:

sudo apt install gpsd gpsd-clients python3-gps

And modify /etc/default/gpsd to use your USB GPS module:


Install Python Tracking Script

Now for the fun part - a Python script that reads the GPS data and prints the latitude, longitude, speed, and more. I'm using this sample script to demonstrate:

import gps
import os
import time

session = gps.gps()

while True:

This continuously prints up-to-date GPS information from GPSD!

You can modify this script or write your own to handle tracking in different ways, like logging to a file or sending location data over the network. The possibilities are endless!

Going Mobile with the Tracker

Part of the appeal of a Raspberry Pi tracking device is making it mobile by powering it from a battery pack.

The Pi is very power-efficient - a 10000 mAh battery pack can provide over 10 hours of continuous usage. Higher capacity packs extend this further.

For true covert tracking, you can hide the entire tracker build inside a backpack, vehicle, or other inconspicuous container. Combine it with a Raspberry Pi camera module for even more functionality!

Applications of a Raspberry Pi Tracker

Building your own tracker with a Raspberry Pi has tons of potential real-world uses:

And much more! The versatility of the Raspberry Pi helps make it the ideal platform for cooking up your own tracking projects.

Final Thoughts

Constructing a GPS tracking device from a Raspberry Pi and basic electronic components makes for an attainable and engaging project. With a bit of effort, you can build a practical tracking tool tailored to your specific needs.

The process also provides hands-on experience with integrating hardware components, working with GPS, writing Python scripts, and experimenting with the Raspberry Pi.

So tap into your inner maker spirit, gather the parts, and start piecing together your own covert Raspberry Pi tracking device today! Let me know if you have any other questions.