With an RTL-SDR dongle, a cheap $10 modified GPS antenna or 1-2 LNA’s and a patch, dish or helix antenna you can listen to Inmarsat satellite signals, and decode the STD-C NCS channel which contains information such as search and rescue (SAR) and coast guard messages as well as news, weather and incident reports.
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.
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.
Learn how to decode digital voice communications like APCO P25, DMR MotoTRBO, NXDN and D-STAR with DSD+ and an RTL-SDR dongle.
Use your RTL-SDR in Linux to listen to TETRA, a digital trunked radio communications system that stands for “Terrestrial Trunked Radio”.
Use your RTL-SDR to decode data from weather balloons (aka Radiosondes) that are launched twice daily by meteorological agencies all around the world.
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#.
With the right additional hardware, the RTL-SDR software defined radio can be used as a super cheap radio telescope for radio astronomy experiments such as observing the Hydrogen Line and meteor detection.
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.
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.