List of SDRSharp Plugins

There are a number of SDRSharp plugins that extend its functionality. Here is a collection of all the plugins and download links that we know of.

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Receiving NOAA Weather Satellite Images

Everyday multiple NOAA weather satellites pass above you. Each NOAA weather satellite broadcasts an Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) signal, which contains a live weather image of your area. The RTL-SDR dongle combined with a good antenna, SDRSharp and a decoding program can be used to download and display these live images several times a day.

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POCSAG Pager Decoding

Decode POCSAG pager messages with an RTL-SDR. Even in the modern day pagers are still popular with doctors, some fire and ambulance agencies and various service companies, as they tend to be more reliable and have greater coverage.

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Decoding Digital Voice (P25, DMR, NXDN, D-STAR) with DSD+

Learn how to decode digital voice communications like APCO P25, DMR MotoTRBO, NXDN and D-STAR with DSD+ and an RTL-SDR dongle.

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Cheap AIS Ship Tracking

Large ships and passenger boats are required to broadcast an identification signal containing position, course, speed, destination, and vessel dimension information to help prevent sea collisions. This system is known as the “Automatic Identification System” or AIS for short. AIS can be decoded with an RTL-SDR dongle and right software.

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JAERO: A RTL-SDR compatible decoder for Inmarsat AERO signals

AERO is a system that provides a L-Band satellite based version of VHF ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System). ACARS is typically used by ground control and pilots to send short messages and is also sometimes used for telemetry. With JAERO and an RTL-SDR these signals can be decoded.

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Decoding Meteor-M2 Weather Satellite Images in Real-Time

It is now possible to decode the Meteor M2 weather satellite images in real time on Windows using an RTL-SDR and a plugin for SDR#.

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Receiving Weather Balloon (Radiosonde) Data with RTL-SDR

Use your RTL-SDR to decode data from weather balloons (aka Radiosondes) that are launched twice daily by meteorological agencies all around the world.

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Analyzing GSM with Airprobe/GR-GSM and Wireshark

The RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used to analyze cellular phone GSM signals, using Linux based tools GR-GSM (or Airprobe) and Wireshark.

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Measuring filter characteristics and antenna VSWR with an RTL-SDR and noise source

By using an RTL-SDR dongle together with a low cost noise source it is possible to measure the response of an RF filter. Also, with an additional piece of hardware called a directional coupler the standing wave ratio (SWR) of antennas can also be measured.

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Airspy Mini: $99 USD, 24 – 1800 MHz, 12-Bit RX SDR Now Available for Preorder

Over the last few months we’d constantly heard hints that the Airspy team was working on a miniaturized version of their popular Airspy SDR. Today the Airspy Mini has been released for preorder.

The Airspy Mini has similar high performance specifications to the Airspy R2, but comes in a USB dongle sized enclosure and only costs $99 USD – half the price of the $199 USD Airspy R2. The only difference in specification appears to be that the Airspy Mini has 6 MHz of spurious free bandwidth, versus 9 MHz in the Airspy R2, and that it lacks the external clock input and some of the expansion headers which are mainly useful only for advanced experimenters. The other features including its 24 – 1800 MHz operation, 12-bit ADC and 0.5 PPM TCXO all remain the same. The Airspy team also write that the Mini still supports a 20 MSPS mode for ADS-B decoding with the ADSBSpy decoder, which should place its ADS-B decoding performance at an identical level to the Airspy R2, which is very good.

The Airspy Mini SDR Dongle
The Airspy Mini SDR Dongle

To receive the HF frequencies the Airspy team are also releasing an Airspy Mini + SpyVerter bundle which will cost $149 USD. The SpyVerter is an upconverter designed to work with Airspy products, but has also been found to work well with the RTL-SDR. 

At these prices the Airspy Mini competes heavily with the $149 USD SDRplay RSP which is a similarly specced SDR. In a previous review on this blog that compared the SDRplay RSP and Airspy R2 we found that the Airspy generally performed better in the presence of strong signals.

In the future we hope to review the Airspy Mini and check to see if its performance is similar to the Airspy R2. If its RX performance is at least the same as the R2, then it probably will be the best value SDR for those wanting to upgrade from an RTL-SDR.

The inside of the Airspy Mini.
The inside of the Airspy Mini.

LimeSDR (Previously Sodera) Now Crowdfunding: $299 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz 12-Bit TX/RX SDR

Previously we posted news about the upcoming release of SoDeRa/LimeSDR, a low cost 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz range RX/TX capable software defined radio. Due to copyright reasons SoDeRa have renamed the product to LimeSDR.

The LimeSDR is now seeking crowdfunding and is looking for a $500,000 funding goal. At the time of this post on the first day of funding the total is already at $65,000, with 53 days left to go, so it appears that there is a high chance of it being funded. The description reads:

LimeSDR is a low cost, open source, apps-enabled (more on that later) software defined radio (SDR) platform that can be used to support just about any type of wireless communication standard. LimeSDR can send and receive UMTS, LTE, GSM, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, and Digital Broadcasting, to name but a few.

While most SDRs have remained in the domain of RF and protocol experts, LimeSDR is usable by anyone familiar with the idea of an app store – it’s the first SDR to integrate with Snappy Ubuntu Core. This means you can easily download new LimeSDR apps from developers around the world. If you’re a developer yourself, you can share and/or sell your LimeSDR apps through Snappy Ubuntu Core as well.

The LimeSDR platform gives students, inventors, and developers an intelligent and flexible device for manipulating wireless signals, so they can learn, experiment, and develop with freedom from limited functionality and expensive proprietary devices.

The price for a single board is $299 USD for regular backers, but there is an early bird price of $199 USD. At the time of this post there are still over 200 boards left to go at the lower price. There are also higher end options such that add turn-key support and acrylic and aluminium enclosures as well as a PCIe interface option.

The LimeSDR can tune from 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, can have a bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, uses a 12-bit ADC, has two transmit channels, two receive channels, is full duplex and comes with a 4 PPM stable oscillator. To achieve such a high bandwidth the board requires a USB 3.0 connection, and will likely require a modern PC to reach a high bandwidth. From its pricing and specs it looks like it can be thought of a next generation HackRF, or lower cost version of the high end Ettus SDR’s.

The LimeSDR with four antennas attached.
The LimeSDR with four antennas attached.

 

SDRplay Updates: Android Support, ADS-B Decoder Upgrades and Acquisition of Studio1 Software

The SDRplay team have been hard at work during the last few weeks. First they announced beta support for Android via SDRtouch, then they announced an improved ADS-B decoder, and finally they have just announced their acquisition of Studio1. 

The SDRplay is a 12-bit software defined radio with tuning range between 100kHz – 2 GHz. Many consider it along with the Airspy to be the next stage up from an RTL-SDR dongle. 

Android Support

The author of SDRTouch on Android recently announced support for the SDRplay. SDRTouch is a Android program similar in operation to PC based software like SDR#. To access the beta you can sign up at this link. Currently there is support for up to 2 MHz of bandwidth.

Improved ADS-B Decoder

Back in March the SDRplay team released ADS-B decoder software for their SDR with the promise of improving its performance in the near future. 

Recently the SDRplay team released an updated version of their ADS-B decoder for the Raspberry Pi which now fully utilizes the full 12-bits of the ADC and takes advantage of the full 8 MHz bandwidth. Jon, the head of marketing at SDRplay writes the following:

We now have an updated beta version of ADS-B for both the Raspberry Pi 2 and 3. This is based upon the 16bit Mutability version of dump1090 developed by Oliver Jowett and unlocks the full 12 bit performance of the RSP1. People should see a significant performance improvement over the dump1090_sdrplus version, which was based upon 8 bit code. The latest beta version can be downloaded in binary form from http://www.sdrplay.com/rpi_adsb.html . Should anyone have questions or feedback, please contact software@SDRplay.com

We plan to eventually compare the SDRplay with the Airspy and RTL-SDR on ADS-B performance. If you are interested we previously did a review of the SDRplay, Airspy and HackRF here, but as the SDRplay did not have ADS-B back then, that particular test was not done.

Acquisition of Studio1 SDR Software

The last major piece of news is that SDRplay have now acquired the Studio1 SDR software. Studio1 is a paid SDR program, similar in nature to SDR#/HDSDR/SDR-Console. Like HDSDR, Studio1 is a spinoff from the old WinRad software. Their press release reads:

SDRplay Limited has today announced that it has reached an agreement with Sandro Sfregola, (formerly CEO of SDR Applications S.a.s.) to acquire all Rights, Title and Interest in Studio 1 a leading software package for Software Defined Radio applications.

Jon Hudson, SDRplay Marketing Director said: “We are delighted to have reached this agreement with Sandro to acquire Studio 1. Studio 1 is the perfect complement to our SDR hardware products and gives us the ideal platform to deliver a complete class leading SDR solution for our customers. We look forward to working with Sandro and further developing Studio 1 to unlock the full capability of our current and future products”.

Hudson added: “Studio1 has established a strong customer base with users of many other SDR hardware products. Studio 1 will continue to be available as a stand-alone product from WoodBoxRadio http://www.woodboxradio.com/studio1.html for the foreseeable future , but we also look forward to further developing Studio 1 to specifically benefit present and future owners of our products”

Sandro Sfregola added: “I am very pleased to have reached this agreement with SDRplay. The long term future for SDR lies in complete end to end solutions and I feel the SDRplay RSP combined with Studio 1 software gives users an outstanding combination of performance and affordability”.

About Studio 1:

Studio1 was developed in Italy by SDR Applications S.a.s. and has hundreds of happy customers around the world.Studio 1 is known for its user friendly stylish GUI, CPU efficiency and advanced DSP capabilities, including features notavailable on other SDR software packages.

www.sdrapplications.it

About SDRplay:

SDRplay limited is a UK company and consists of a small group of engineers with strong connections to the UK Wireless semiconductor industry. SDRplay announced its first product, the RSP1 in August 2014

www.sdrplay.com

We believe that this is a good move for SDRplay, as one of the major issues with the RSP SDR was the lack of decently supported software.

Studio1_banner2

 

Receiving Iridium Satellites with a HackRF Portapack and Cheap Antenna

Recently Jared Boone, creator of the HackRF portapack posted on his blog about his experience with trying to receive Iridium satellite signals. The HackRF is 8-bit, ~0 – 6 GHz, RX/TX capable SDR, and the Portapack is a kit that allows the HackRF to go portable, by adding an LCD screen, battery pack and control wheel. Iridium is an L-band satellite service that provides products such as satellite phones and pagers. Back in December 2014 we posted how it was found that Iridium pager messages could be decoded.

To receive Iridium Jared used a simple ceramic patch antenna mounted on a piece of cheap copper clad fibreglass. This simple antenna was good enough to receive the Iridium signals with good strength. With this set up Jared was able to easily go outside and receive some packets and record them. He writes his next steps are to try and run the Iridium pager decoder on them and see what packets he captured.

Iridium Antenna + HackRF Portapack.
Iridium Antenna + HackRF Portapack.

 

KiwiSDR Kickstarter Successfully Funded

Last month KiwiSDR started their fundraising campaign on Kickstarter. The kickstarter has now completed. The goal was to raise $50,000 USD and they have well surpassed that mark by reaching $70,757 USD. If you missed out on the Kickstarter then it is still possible to preorder by directly emailing the KiwiSDR team.

The KiwiSDR is a software defined radio with 30 MHz of bandwidth and a tuning range that covers 0 – 30 MHz (VLF to HF). It is intended to be a low cost web based SDR that can be accessed from all over the world via a browser interface. It is designed as a cape for the BeagleBone Black mini embedded computer, and uses a LTC 14-bit 65 MHz ADC and Xilinx Artix-7 A35 FPGA. It also has an integrated SDR based GPS receiver which is used to automatically compensate for any frequency drift from the main 66.6 MHz oscillator. It runs on the OpenwebRX web based software, which many RTL-SDR users have already been using to stream live radio to the web.

Right now the team is beta testing some sample boards and appears to be getting ready for the large production run.

In a previous post we mentioned that the KiwiSDR project had some ethical issues attached to it. The creator of the OpenWebRX software, Andreas, was upset over the fact that the KiwiSDR had forked his open source project and had said that they would not share any profits. However, it appears that KiwiSDR have now struck a deal with Andreas, with both sides being happy, thus resolving any ethical issues.

The latest KiwiSDR Board
The latest KiwiSDR Board

RTL-SDR Blog Units Back in Stock + Polling on Future Upgrades

After a few delays our RTL-SDR blog TCXO/SMA/Metal Case units are back in stock at the Chinese warehouses. The restocking of Amazon USA will follow shortly, and they should be ready for purchase on Amazon by the end of next week. See our store for information on purchasing.

As some readers may know, we’ve been working on finding ways to improve upon and add features to the RTL-SDR’s we sell, whilst trying to maintain the attractive low cost. In previous batches we added upgrades such as a TCXO, bias tee, SMA connector and a shielded metal case with passive cooling. For future modifications we’d like to poll the community on what is most desired.

In the poll below please choose your top 3 desired improvements. If you desire something else please comment on this post. Thanks!

What RTL-SDR Improvements / Options / Products would you like to see in the future? CHOOSE UP TO 3.

View Results

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Our RTL-SDR Blog Unit
Our RTL-SDR Blog Unit

Receiving up to 4.5 GHz with an RTL-SDR and a $5 Directv Downconverter

KD0CQ has recently been experimenting with trying to receive signals at frequencies of up to 4.5 GHz with an RTL-SDR and downconverter. Since a typical R820T/2 RTL-SDR’s maximum frequency limit is about 1.7 GHz, an external downconverter circuit is required. A downconverter converts high frequencies down into the range receivable by the RTL-SDR. For example a downconverter with a 2.4 GHz local oscillator would convert a 3.5 GHz signal down to 1.1 GHz, which can be easily received by an RTL-SDR.

The secret to doing this cheaply is revealed by KD0CQ. He shows that a very cheap $5 Directv SUP-2400 upconverter can be converted into a 2.4 GHz downconverter simply by removing some filters. He writes that he hasn’t uploaded the full set of steps to modify the SUP-2400 yet, but he intends to do so in the near future.

There is also a discussion about this mod on Reddit. Several posters have been discussing what applications a cheap downconverter could open up. Some mentioned applications include receiving various satellites in the C/S bands, DECT cordless phones @ 1.9 GHz, SiriusXM satellite radio @ 2.3 GHz, ISM @ 2.4 GHz, RADARs, RC aircraft control/telemetry/video and ham beacons.

The SUP-2400 Directv upconverter that can be converted into a downconverter.
The SUP-2400 Directv upconverter that can be modified into a downconverter.

Hearing Ethernet Packets with an ESP8266 and RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube CNLohr has posted a video showing an interesting side effect of implementing ethernet on the ESP8266. The ESP8266 is a very popular $7 wifi module for microcontrollers that has found a lot of extra use outside of its intended design. Previously CNLohr also showed how Analogue NTSC TV could be broadcast with the ESP8266. Recently it was found that (software based) ethernet capability could be hacked into it.

In his new video CNLohr demonstrates that AM radio can be broadcast by attaching a short wire antenna to the ESP8266 ethernet output, and then using an RTL-SDR to receive one of its harmonics at 150 MHz. He shows that by varying the size and speed of the packets he can change the received tones, and even create notes to play music. This essentially gives a simple way to ‘hear’ ethernet.