Triangulation of a VHF Signal with RTLSDR-Scanner

A few months back we posted about how the the RTLSDR-Scanner software had been updated to include signal triangulation capabilities. Now blogger Tobby has written a post about his attempt at triangulating the source of an encrypted police signal with RTLSDR-Scanner.

To do this he set up a laptop in his car with RTLSDR-Scanner installed and connected his RTL-SDR with stock antenna and a GPS receiver. After driving around for only 15 minutes he was able to get a triangulation heat map of reasonable accuracy.

RTLSDR-Scanner Signal Triangulation Heatmap
RTLSDR-Scanner Signal Triangulation Heatmap

RTL_POWER Instructions

A new instructional page for the rtl_power tool is now available on main author keenerds webpage. Rtl_power is a command line tool for logging wide band frequency power scans to a CSV file. The CSV files can then be used for analysis or to create a large frequency plot image. An example of a 2 GHz+ bandwidth scan over 24 hours is shown below. Rtl_power is available as part of the official osmocom RTL-SDR drivers.

Example scan over an E4000 dongles entire frequency range.
Example scan over an E4000 dongles entire frequency range.

Radio Astronomy with RTL Bridge and Radio-Sky Spectrograph

Amateur radio astronomy hobbyist Jim Sky has written on his blog about his new program called RTL Bridge with allows the RTL-SDR to directly connect to his other radio astronomy programs Radio-SkyPipe and Radio-Sky Spectrograph. Jim describes his two existing program as follows.

Radio-Sky Spectrograph displays a waterfall spectrum. It is not so different from other programs that produce these displays except that it saves the spectra at a manageable data rate and provides channel widths that are consistent with many natural radio signal bandwidths. For terrestrial , solar flare, Jupiter decametric, or emission/absorption observations you might want to use RSS.

Radio-SkyPipe is a souped-up strip chart program which plots signal strength over time. When getting its data from RTL Bridge, RSP is plotting the total power in the spectrum covered by the RTL receiver centered around its set frequency. While the raw values are proportional to power, you will have to apply a function via the RSP Equations feature to apply a calibration if you want absolute values. For signals that do not have significant spectral structure of interest, this would be the preferred way to plot the data.

RTL Bridge for Radio Astronomy
RTL Bridge for Radio Astronomy

3D Frequency Spectrum Visualization with Chrome and RTL-SDR

Over on ttrftech’s blog in Japanese (use Google translate), ttrftech has uploaded a new RTL-SDR program for Chrome which allows 3D visualization of the frequency spectrum. The program can be installed by simply downloading the files from GitHub and loading them into Chrome. Ttrftech explains that the program should work on any OS, but he has so far only been able to test it on MacOS.

Chrome 3D Frequency Spectrum for RTL-SDR
Chrome 3D Frequency Spectrum for RTL-SDR

Blindly Reverse Engineering a Wireless Protocol

Hackaday has brought to attention a document written by a Rory O’Hare which discusses the journey Rory took in trying a decode an unknown 433 MHz signal received from his SDR dongle.

If you are interested in manually decoding some unknown signals you may be interested in this write up as it discusses his entire journey including the failures he encountered along the way. Basically he records some packets using his SDR dongle, works out their bit patterns manually and then attempts to find correlations between the packets in an attempt to discover their structure. In the end his efforts are successful as he discovers that he is receiving a temperature sensor and is able to decode the temperature readings.

Discovering Correlations in the Received Packets
Discovering Correlations in the Received Packets

Hak5: Autonomous Boats, Hacker Printers And RTL-SDR Plugins

This week on the popular YouTube show Hak5, SDRSharp plugins are discussed once more amongst other topics. This time at around the 17 minute mark, Shannon discusses how to install plugins that do not have automated installers. For an example she shows how to install the Level Meter plugin.

Autonomous Boats, Hacker Printers And RTL-SDR Plugins, Hak5 1623

Decoding NXDN using DSD+ and an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user John Miller has uploaded a video showing an example of DSD+ decoding an NXDN96 voice signal. NXDN is a digital voice protocol by developed by Kenwood that is often used by public safety organizations.

John uses SDR# to receive the NXDN signal and then pipes the audio to DSD+ using Virtual Audio Cable for decoding.

DSD+ Decoding NXDN

Simulating Estimote’s iBeacon using a HackRF

Over on YouTube user Jiao Xianjun has uploaded a video showing a HackRF simulating an Estimote iBeacon which is being received by an iPhone. An Estimote iBeacon is a wireless beacon that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and can be use to notify nearby mobile devices of the beacons presence. This can be used for many things like indoor positioning or by retail shops to for example alert owners of special coupons.

Jiao used this tutorial to help clone an iBeacon on his HackRF.

hackrf tx to simulate Estimote' iBeacon, and detected by iPhone successfully

Fundraising for RTL-SDR Development

Kyle Keen, the primary author of the well known and highly used rtl_fm, rtl_power, rtl_adsb and recently released rtl_sdl tools has started an indiegogo fundraiser to help raise funds to pay salary for ideally at least one month of dedicated RTL-SDR software coding. Kyle is hoping for $3,000 USD per month of coding. The time he codes for will scale proportionally to the amount of funds raised.

There are several levels to contribute at but the ideal contribution is the ‘Voter’ level at $50 USD. By contributing to the fundraiser at the ‘Voter’ level you will be able to have a vote on what features are to prioritized. It is also possible to contribute at a lower level of $10 USD and forego the voting perk.

The list of features to be implemented and the voting system can be found at Important improvements will be made to the librtlsdr library, rtl_sdl, rtl_adsb, rtl_tcp, rtl_power and rtl_fm..

We hope that if you have enjoyed the RTL-SDR in some form you will contribute to this developer and help make this hobby an overall better experience.

Using RTL-SDR in Cognitive Radio Energy Detector MATLAB Experiments

Over on YouTube user Guilherme Dattoli Cirigliano Cortes has uploaded a video showing his use of the RTL-SDR in some MATLAB based cognitive radio experiments. Cognitive radio is a upcoming technology which aims to increase radio spectrum use efficiency by finding and using the intermittent periods of unoccupied frequency space.

The uploader explains his task below.

The fundamental task of each Cognitive Radio (CR) user in CR networks, in the most primitive sense is to detect the licenced users, also known as primary users, if they are present and identify the available spectrum if they are absent. This is usually achieved by sensing the RF environment, a process called spectrum sensing. Here we use one of the technique of spectrum sensing called energy detection.

Energy Detector with Matlab/Simulink and RTL-SDR