Category: News

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

 

Using an RTL-SDR to help Build Dynamic Spectrum Access Prototypes + DARPA Spectrum Collaboration Grand Challenge

Over on YouTube user Andre Puschmann has uploaded video showing his experiments with implementing dynamic spectrum access. Dynamic spectrum access is a upcoming technology that will allow the frequency spectrum to be more easily shared between many users. An IEEE paper describes Dynamic Spectrum Access in the following paragraph

Dynamic spectrum access is a new spectrum sharing paradigm that allows secondary users to access the abundant spectrum holes or white spaces in the licensed spectrum bands. DSA is a promising technology to alleviate the spectrum scarcity problem and increase spectrum utilization.

In his experiments Andre uses USRP and bladeRF software defined radios as the transmit radios, and an RTL-SDR as the receive radio. His video shows a video stream being received by the RTL-SDR which is not impacted by any spectrum frequency switches.

In addition to this, DARPA has recently announced a new Grand Challenge that will focus on Spectrum Collaboration. We would expect SDR’s to be heavily used in this type of challenge. Their press release writes:

DARPA today announced the newest of its Grand Challenges, one designed to ensure that the exponentially growing number of military and civilian wireless devices will have full access to the increasingly crowded electromagnetic spectrum. The agency’s Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) will reward teams for developing smart systems that collaboratively, rather than competitively, adapt in real time to today’s fast-changing, congested spectrum environment—redefining the conventional spectrum management roles of humans and machines in order to maximize the flow of radio frequency (RF) signals. DARPA officials unveiled the new Challenge before some 8000 engineers and communications professionals gathered in Las Vegas at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE).

The primary goal of SC2 is to imbue radios with advanced machine-learning capabilities so they can collectively develop strategies that optimize use of the wireless spectrum in ways not possible with today’s intrinsically inefficient approach of pre-allocating exclusive access to designated frequencies. The challenge is expected to both take advantage of recent significant progress in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning and also spur new developments in those research domains, with potential applications in other fields where collaborative decision-making is critical.

USA Frequency Allocations
USA Frequency Allocations

 

Working Towards a Fast OpenWebRX HF Web Receiver + The Ethics of KiwiSDR

Over on his blog András Retzler has created a post that discusses his research work on creating a fast networked wideband HF receiver. András is the creator of the web based OpenwebRX software, which allows RTL-SDR and some other SDR’s to efficiently broadcast their SDR data over a network and onto the internet. Some live SDR’s can be found at the OpenWebRX directory at sdr.hu.

The problem with the current implementation, András writes, is that while OpenWebRX works well with the RTL-SDR’s 2.4 MSPS sampling rate, it can not work so well with very high sampling rates, such as 60MSPS due to excessive computational requirements when several channels need to be monitored. András’ solution is to use his Fast Digital Down Conversion (FastDDC) algorithm which is significantly more CPU efficient. András writes that the FastDDC algorithm improves computation by up to 300% in some cases, can speed up calculations on low powered computers like the Raspberry Pi 2 and can be implemented on a GPGPU for even higher performance. He is still working to implement the algorithm in OpenWebRX.

Performance of the FastDDC Algorithm
Performance of the FastDDC Algorithm

In addition to his work, András has also posted about what he feels is a bit of an injustice between his work on OpenWebRX and the KiwiSDR designers. The KiwiSDR is a new wideband HF SDR that has recently been successfully funded on Kickstarter. Andras writes that he is discontented with the fact that the KiwiSDR developers have forked his open source software (OpenWebRX) and are now profiting from it, without contributing back to the original project.  András writes:

John Seamons has forked OpenWebRX, and sells his own hardware with it. The web interface is clearly the selling point of the device. After getting a lot of help from me, most of which was inevitable for his success, now John and ValentF(x) are leaving me with nothing, except a ‘Thank you!’. John has told me that OpenWebRX is a large part of his project, and he also claimed that my work has reduced the time-to-market of his product by maybe a year or so.

Why I’m standing up here is that forking open source software (which means changing the code in a way that is incompatible with the original version, and taking development in another direction), and funding it through Kickstarter is a very unusual way of getting things done. I acknowledge that John has very much work in his board and the accompanying software, however, he treated me and my project in an unethical manner.

In the Kickstarter comments section, the KiwiSDR creators reply back with their side. It is hard to say who is in the right in a situation like this. While what KiwiSDR have done is legal according to the licence, the ethics of doing so are questionable. We hope that both parties can successfully come to an agreement in the end.

If you want to directly support András and his work on OpenWebRX and other projects like FastDDC, then please consider donating to him at http://blog.sdr.hu/support. If you are a KiwiSDR backer, donating to Andras may be one way to right the situation if a deal cannot be reached.

KiwiSDR: 30 MHz Bandwidth VLF to HF SDR now on KickStarter

Back on February 8 we posted about the up and coming KiwiSDR, 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. 

The KiwiSDR 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.

Today the KiwiSDR started its crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter. A full KiwiSDR can be purchased for $199 USD, or for $299 including an enclosure, BeagleBone computer and GPS antenna. The fundraising goal is for $50,000 USD and if successful they estimate delivery in October 2016. The creators of the KiwiSDR write:

Sure, the world doesn’t really need another SDR. But we haven’t found one with this set of features. In cost and performance, KiwiSDR fits between RTL-SDR USB dongle-style, or fixed DDC chip devices ($20 – $400, 8-12 bit ADC, limited bandwidth), and full 16-bit SDRs ($700 – $3500) while offering better wide-band, web-enabled capabilities than the more expensive SDRs.

Our main motivation is to enable new applications which utilize a significant number of programmable, web-accessible SDRs world-wide. Direction finding remains one of the great under-solved problems of shortwave listening, particularly for utility stations. Given the GPS timing available on the KiwiSDR, could time-of-arrival techniques between cooperating SDRs be used? We’d sure like to find out.

Also, we’d like to see data decoders built directly into the web interface of KiwiSDR. There are many standalone programs that demodulate and decode data signals from SDRs. But these are computer- and OS-specific and often require a complicated interface to the data stream from the SDR. For example, we have a prototype of a WSPR decoder that is integrated into the KiwiSDR interface.

There are currently three KiwiSDR servers running publicly at the moment, and they can be accessed at:

http://kiwisdr.sk3w.se:8073
http://kiwisdr.ece.uvic.ca:8073
http://kiwisdr.com:8073

The KiwiSDR Prototype
The KiwiSDR Prototype
KiwiSDR Running on OpenWebRX. Full 0 - 30 MHz spectrum.
KiwiSDR Running on OpenWebRX. Full 0 – 30 MHz spectrum.

 

SoDeRa: An upcoming low cost app-enabled open-source 100 kHz to 3.8 GHz SDR Transceiver

A new software defined radio called SoDeRa (SOftware DEfined RAdio) is currently under joint development by companies Canonical (the company behind the Ubuntu OS) and Lime Micro. SoDeRa is based on the new Lime Microsystems LMS7002M Transceiver chip which has a 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz range. The transceiver chip interfaces with an Altera Cyclone IV FPGA with 256 MB of RAM and a USB3 controller, and the whole radio will have 4x TX outputs and 6x RX inputs.

SoDeRa Block Diagram
SoDeRa Block Diagram

The people behind this SDR are currently marketing SoDeRa as “the Arduino of the Telecom and Radio Engineer”. It appears to be designed mainly to implement IoT and other radio communications protocols, but it also sounds like it could find excellent use in the hobby and amateur market as well as have benefits for the average person. Interestingly, the developers also plan to implement an app store which would allow you to essentially download a radio and instantly configure the SoDeRa SDR for any desired protocol or application. They write:

This is the first time that a revolutionary device for which we are organising a joint crowd-funding campaign with Lime Microsystems is made public. The #SoDeRa is the cheapest software defined radio you can buy. The #SoDeRa will have an app store and will be able to provide any type of (bi-directional) radio communication going from LTE, Lora, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, radar, radio-controlled toys/robots/drone, digital radio, digital TV to even MRI scanners, satellite and air traffic communications by just installing an app. The #SoDeRa is the Arduino of the Telecom and Radio Engineer.

The VP of IoT at Canonical also writes:

The SoDeRa is powerful enough to be a full MiMo LTE base station with long range coverage, provided you add the right antenna. You can via apps put other wireless communication protocols like LoRaWAN, Bluetooth, Zigbee, Z-Wave, GPS, Galileo, Airspace protocols, radar, MRI scanning RF, TV/Radio, any toy/robot/drone control, White Space, etc. But most importantly because of its price and ease of adding more protocols, the SoDeRa will enable anybody to define competing wireless communication protocols and put them into Github. Developers don’t like closed standards like LTE or complex standards like Bluetooth & Zigbee. The future will allow developers to compete against corporations and standardization bodies if they think current standards can be improved upon. The Internet has shown that this dynamic brought us easier standards through adoption like JSON and Yaml vs XML and EDI. Wireless, RF and telecom engineers never had an Arduino like the electronics engineers. The SoDeRa will plug this hole.

Development on SoDeRa is working towards a trend in radio systems where all radio devices are software defined, allowing for futuristic features like advanced spectrum control and the ability to change protocols on the fly. They write:

Including #SoDeRa in any type of smart device will greatly reduce the cost of deploying a mobile base station network because by open sourcing the hardware design it will become commodity. By including software defined radio in lots of devices, often with a completely different purpose, will allow these devices to become a smart cell via installing an extra app. In the future, support for software defined radio will likely be embedded directly in Intel and ARM chips. The foundational steps are already happening. This will likely reshape the telecom industry. Not only from a cost perspective but also from a perspective of who runs the network. Telecom operators that don’t deliver value will see their monopoly positions being put in danger. As soon as spectrum can be licensed on a per hour basis, just like any other resource in the cloud, any type of ad-hoc network can be setup. The question is not if but when. Open sourcing and crowdfunding will make that “when” be sooner than later. Smart operators that align with the innovators will win because they will get the app revenue, enormous cost reductions, sell surplus spectrum by the hour and lots of innovation. Other operators that don’t move or try to stop it will be disrupted. What do you want to be?

At first glance SoDeRa sounds like it will be an expensive device, but on their official website they are currently running a survey asking people what they would be willing to pay, and the lowest price given is $50 – $99. This makes it seem likely that in the future with enough volume SoDeRa could be sold at very low cost and become very popular.

I am willing to pay for 1 unit

  • $50 – $99 (lead time 9 months)
  • $100 – $199 (lead time 6 months)
  • $200 – $299 (lead time 3 months)
  • $300 – $399 (lead time 2 months)
  • $400 – $500 (lead time 1 month)

It sounds like the team behind SoDeRa are gearing up for a crowd funding campaign so we will be keeping an eye on this SDR.

Thanks to RTL-SDR.com reader Serdar (TA3AS) for submitting news about SoDeRa to us.

The SoDeRa SDR
The SoDeRa SDR
The SoDeRa PCB
The SoDeRa PCB

Meteor M-N1 Still Working, Meteor M-N2 Still Down

The Meteor M N-2 is a polar orbiting Russian weather satellite that was launched in July 2014. It transmits with the LRPT protocol which allows us to receive weather satellite images that are of a much higher resolution than the NOAA APT satellites. For a while since the launch RTL-SDR users had a good time receiving beautiful images from Meteor M-N2, but unfortunately since late last year the N2 LRPT transmitter has been turned off, due to technical problems with the IR sensors as cited by Russian meteorologists.

Fortunately for Meteor N2 enthusiasts the old Meteor M N1 satellite which was thought to be dead sprung back into life around November 2015. Recently Matthew A., a reader of our blog wrote in to let us know that while N2 is still not transmitting, N1 is still transmitting, albeit with somewhat distorted images. Matthew also mentions this link: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/phqfh1/status.htm, which contains up to date info on the status of all weather satellites. He also writes: 

  • While transmissions are readily detectable and decodable at night, it seems that M N-1’s infrared sensors are not functioning. Yielding only black, with the typical noise bars of Red, Green, or Blue
  • As has been previously mentioned, Meteor MN-1’s stabilization system has obviously failed, and the horizon is clearly visible. Perhaps not of scientific value, but certainly beautiful. 

We also note that there are several comments over on the Meteor-M N2 news and support website regarding receiving images from N1 and N2. It seems that sometimes N1 also has some problems with transmission, but they are usually quickly fixed.

Meteor M-N1 Image Received by Matthew
Meteor M-N1 Image Received by Matthew
 

Nooelec + AmateurRadio.com RTL-SDR Competition now Running

Hot on the tails of our own competition which has now closed, Nooelec and AmateurRadio.com have teamed up to create a giveaway for a HackRF One and 40 RTL-SDR dongles (some even bundled with upconverters)! They are giving away:

  • 1x HackRF One HF SDR Bundle (Includes upconverter and adapters)
  • 3x NESDR XTR+ HF bundles (a.k.a E4000 RTL-SDR + Upconverter)
  • 2x NESDR Mini 2+ HF bundles (a.k.a R820T2 RTL-SDR w/ TCXO + Upconverter)
  • 10x NESDR XTR+ sets (a.k.a E4000 RTL-SDR Dongles)
  • 10x NESDR Nano 2+ sets (a.k.a R820T2 w/ TCXO RTL-SDR in small “nano” package)
  • 15x NESDR Nano 2 sets (a.k.a R820T2 RTL-SDR in small “nano” package)

To enter all you need to do is comment on their blog post (not ours!). Their competition runs from 24 January 2016 20:00 UTC to 31 January 2016 20:00 UTC.

nooelec_comp

Competition Winners Announced!

Firstly, thanks to all who entered our competition. We saw a huge response and learned a great deal about what the RTL-SDR community is up to these days. I encourage everyone to take a look through the comments on the competition post if you’re looking for project inspiration.

We ran competitions on Twitter, Facebook, the competition post itself and on our mailing list. We randomly chose 5 winners from each competition and will be sending them each one of our RTL-SDR Blog dongles. The 20 winners have now been selected. If you missed out, don’t worry – we hope to do more competitions like this again this year!

Facebook Winners!

Winners, please check your Facebook private messages. If you don’t see it, the message may be hidden in the spam inbox.

Zim Zimmerman – Currently working hard to overcome the NOISE related to living in an apartment complex in a Seattle suburb! TWO band pass filters; shielding via Al foil wrap and a directional antenna have helped. As hams say; “Good luck in the contest OM!” 73 K4IES

Sammy Truong – Exploring quickpass highway toll system.

Jimmy Vance – Just getting started with SDR dongles. For now will use them as general purpose receivers and spectrum analyzers

Amy Cstar – I’m a newbie and I’m hoping to use this to listen to the ISS 

Cezar Lesanu – Already running a radio meteor detection setup on RMOB and frequency stability and shielding are issues:http://www.rmob.org/livedata/main.php#Cezar Lesanu_ROAN@USV

Twitter Winners!

Winners, we’ve publicly tweeted you asking you to please email us directly. Please also tweet back at us confirming that you’ve received our notification.

Xizt ‏@RECEPTORR – Will use RTL-SDR dongle for learning wide band signals and monitoring Ham radio bands.

Rooster Mcdoogle ‏@RoosterMcdoogle – My first SDR project is going to be identifying/decoding local signals, and then satellites.

Sparkie Nelson ‏@SparkieNelson – Need a cheap spectrum analyzer for balloon beacon transmitter development.

DPini ‏@DPini – Right now, I’m trying to build a QFH antenna. My intention is to recieve NOAA and CubeSats

D M Miller ‏@bentmg – Hoping to set up a dedicated sdr to decode some DMR and NXDN signals in my area for streaming if I win the giveaway!

Blog Comment Winners!

We’ve emailed all blog comment winners using the email address that was provided. Please check your spam folder if you don’t see it, or contact us directly.

Jeff – Portable rf spectrum analysis

Stephen McBain – Starting out at the basics and using a dongle to decode different signals and just learning radio.

Matt – I’m working on building a WebSDR in Bucharest with full coverage from ~15mhz to ~1700mhz (R820T2 upper limit)

John Wilkerson – I use dual dongles for monitoring p25 trunked systems, as well as aircraft tracking.

Bryan – I’m pairing the RTL-SDR with my TS-940SAT and DXLab Commander + SDR# FTW.

Mailing List Winners! (Emails obscured for privacy)

We’ve obscured the winning emails for privacy, but we’ve emailed these winners now. Please check your spam inbox too!

g___e__e.r_i___i@____.com

j____p__a@____.com

v___o_t@________.ca

m_r___n@________.net

d_b___l_+_t_s_r@_____.com