Listening to an NFC Polling Signal from a Nexus 7 with an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user 2e26tenW has uploaded a video showing reception of the second harmonic of an NFC polling signal with his RTL-SDR. NFC stands for “Near Field Communication” and is a technology that enables smartphones and other devices to communicate with one another and some smart cards simply by bringing the two devices together.

In his experiment he uses a Nexus 7 tablet to poll an NFC enabled transportation card. As the RTL-SDR cannot receive the NFC frequency of 13.56 MHz directly without an upconverter or hardware or software direct sampling modified dongle, 2e26tenW instead tunes to the second harmonic at 27.12 MHz which allows him to receive the signal.

Teensy SDR Updates and User Interface Demo

Last year in April we posted about the Teensy SDR, which is a SDR project that involves running a SoftRock SDR on a Teensy 3.1 Microcontroller. The Teensy is a tiny microcontroller board that uses a 32-bit ARM processor and the SoftRock SDR is a HF only software defined radio kit that is capable of RX and TX. Back then the Teensy SDR has no enclosure and the user interface hadn’t been finished.

In his latest YouTube videos, creator of the Teensy SDR rheslip20 (aka VE3MKC) shows his latest improvements to the project and in the second video shows off the user interface. In the future he hopes to implement TX capability too.

Low Pass Filter for RTL-SDR Direct Sampling Mode

Over on his blog (in Japanese) Nobu has been working on prototyping a 14 MHz low pass filter (LPF) product for direct sampling modified RTL-SDR dongles (in Japanese, use Google Translate). Direct sampling mode is a hardware modification that allows the tuner chip in RTL-SDR dongles to be bypassed, allowing reception of signals between 0 – 14 MHz. However, after performing this mod there is no filtering and images from higher frequencies such as broadcast FM can be problematic. To fix these problems a low pass filter is required.

Another product Nobu is working on is an isolation transformer (aka Galvanic Isolator) which can be used together with an upconverter to help reduce noise generated from common ground sources such as the PC. The isolation transformer is inserted between an upconverter and antenna.

Low Pass Filter (Top), Isolation Transformer (Bottom)
Low Pass Filter (Top), Isolation Transformer (Bottom)

In the image below Nobu shows the effect of inserting the LPF . An interfering FM broadcast band signal is removed after inserting the LPF.

Effect of inserting the Low Pass Filter
Effect of inserting the Low Pass Filter

The image below shows the effect of the isolation transformer showing a clear decrease in noise floor and increase in signal strength.

Effect of an Isolation Transformer when used with an Upconverter
Effect of an Isolation Transformer when used with an Upconverter

Video Showing Decoding of DGPS Beacons with SDR# and MultiPSK

Following on from our last post where dewdude showed how to decode DGPS signalsFrank K2NCC has uploaded a video on YouTube showing DGPS decoding in action. In his video Frank uses an Airspy plus ham-it-up upconverter, a Sirio discone antenna and for software he uses SDR# with audio piped into MultiPSK for decoding.

In the video you can clearly see the decoded DGPS messages showing the pseudorange corrections and station numbers. To decode DGPS with MultiPSK you will need to use the paid version which costs approximately $50 USD, however in the free version the DGPS will run for 5 minutes each time MultiPSK is opened before expiring.

Below is an example of a decoded message.

24/03/2015 02:06:09
Message type        : 9 (GPS partial correction set)
Station number      : 172 (Appleton WA USA 300.0 Khz TXID 871 100bps)
Z-count             : 4215 ( 42 mn 9.0 s )
Sequence count      : 2le factor=0.3)

Sat. ID|SF|UDRE|Pseudorange corr.  |Range rate corr.|IOD|CRC
25     |0 |1-4m|      -7.68 m      |   0.000 m/s    |62 |OK
31     |0 |1-4m|       1.54 m      |   0.000 m/s    |27 |OK
32     |0 |1-4m|       0.70 m      |   0.000 m/s    |99 |Error

Decoding Differential GPS Beacons with an RTL-SDR, Speclab and SDR#

Over on his blog “RTL-SDR DX” dewdude has been exploring the reception and decoding of Differential GPS (DGPS) signals. DGPS signals are transmitted by government authorities in the long wave band at around 300 kHz. These beacons are used to dramatically improve the accuracy of GPS (Global Positioning System) devices from their default accuracy of about 15 m down to about 10 cm. Unlike GPS signals which originate from satellites, the DGPS signal is terrestrial based and is broadcast from multiple known fixed positions. The signal itself contains information about the difference between the DGPS stations received GPS position and it’s known exact position. These differences can be used to correct other GPS receivers that receive DGPS signal.

By using his RTL-SDR (with upconverter or HF modification) dewdude was able to receive the DGPS beacon in SDR#. Then by piping the output audio into SpectrumLab’s DGPS decoder he was able to decode the data contained within the DGPS signal. His post contains a tutorial showing how to set up SpectrumLab to decode DGPS. If you’re interested in hearing what a DGPS signal sounds like, dewdude has uploaded a sound sample at the bottom of another post of his.

Decoding Differential GPS (DGPS) signals in SpectrumLab
Decoding Differential GPS (DGPS) signals in SpectrumLab

Using a USRP E310 for Digital Video Downlink and Scanning on a Drone

Balint, one of the researchers at Ettus Research (the company behind the USRP range of software defined radios) has recently uploaded a video to YouTube showing one of his projects where he is prototyping the use of a digital signal for transmitting digital FPV video on a drone. The drone carries a USRP E310 SDR and transmits a QPSK video down developed in GNU Radio to a receiver on the ground.

FPV strands for “first person view” and is a growing hobby where remote controlled aircraft such as quadcopter drones are flown in first person view using live video from an on board camera.

In another video balint also shows how the on board E310 can be used to transmit frequency scan FFT data via a WiFi link. This can be very useful for getting an antenna up high enough to get good reception for a scan.

SDRPlay Price Reduced to $149 USD

The Radio Spectrum Processor (RSP) by SDRPlay is a receive only software defined radio with a 100 kHz to 2 GHz range (with a small gap at 380 MHz to 430 MHz), a 12-bit analogue to digital converter (ADC) (~10.4 ENOB), 8 MHz bandwidth and a bank of several switched front end filters.

Previously the SDRPlay RSP was priced at $299 USD, however they have just halved this price down to $149 USD plus tax and shipping. At this price point we think the SDRPlay is a very good competitor to the Airspy SDR which seems to be the more popular option priced at $199 USD, especially if you are interested in listening to the HF bands without the need for an upconverter.

Recently we posted about some SDRPlay reviews which are all favourable.

The Radio Spectrum Processor (RSP) by SDRplay.
The Radio Spectrum Processor (RSP) by SDRplay.

A Faster Method for Decoding Meteor M2 Weather Satellite Images

Over on YouTube user max30max31 aka IZ5RZR has uploaded a video that shows a faster method for decoding Meteor M2 weather satellite images on a Windows system.  The Meteor-M N2 is a Russian weather satellite that transmits images using the LRPT protocol at around 137.1 MHz with can be received with an RTL-SDR. Compared to NOAA satellite APT images, LRPT images are much higher in resolution.

Normally, decoding Meteor M2 LRPT images requires a post processing step which involves the use of Audacity, an audio editing suite to reduce the recorded IQ files sample rate. However, with the recently released decimation SDR# drivers the Audacity step can be avoided by using a an appropriate decimation factor (8 at 1.024 MSPS) when recording the LRPT signals IQ data.

Post processing still involves the use of the Lrptrx.exe software, Oleg’s LRPToffLineDecoder to produce the image and SmoothMeteor to remove distortion from the image..