Tagged: gnu radio

Analyzing HF Over the Horizon Radar in GNU Radio

Over the Horizon radar is typically used at HF frequencies and is used to detect targets from hundreds to thousands of kilometers away from the radar station. On HF they are very common and can be easily heard as continuous or bursty buzzing sounds.

Over on his blog Daniel Estevez writes how he was inspired by Balint Seebers GRCon16 talk to perform his own investigations into HF OTH radar. Daniel first analyzed a recorded IQ signal of a presumed Russian radar in Audacity, and noticed that it consisted of 15 kHz wide pulses repeated at 50 Hz intervals. He then used GNU Radio and the Quadrature Demod block to FM demodulate the pulse and see how the frequency changes over time. From this he was able to determine the original transmitted radar pulse characteristics

Next he performs pulse compression, which is essentially a cross correlation of the received pulse and transmitted pulse which was determined from the characteristics found earlier. The signal being received at Daniels location is distorted, because it will arrive from multiple paths, since the signal will bounce of multiple layers of the ionosphere. With this pulse compression technique Daniel is able to determine the time of flight for the different multi-path components of the received pulse. By graphing all the results over time he was able to obtain this image illustrating relative propagation distance over time.

Check out Daniels post for the full details and his code.

Ionosphere Propagation Graph
Ionosphere Propagation Graph

Combining the Bandwidth of two HackRF’s

RTL-SDR.com reader Syed Ghazanfar Ali Shah Bukhari from the Frequency Allocation Board in Pakistan recently emailed us to let us know a trick he’s found which lets you combine the bandwidths of two HackRF software defined radios in GNU Radio. Syed’s program is based on Oliver’s flowgraph that we posted previously, which was used to combine the bandwidth of two RTL-SDR dongles.

Syed also sent us the GRC file to share which we’ve uploaded here.

He writes:

I have used grc flow graph of Oliver as mentioned in the link :-
http://www.rtl-sdr.com/combining-the-bandwidth-of-two-rtl-sdr-dongles-in-gnu-radio and modified it to be used with 2 HackRF Ones. I also shifted the two bandwidths inward by 1 MHz instead of 0.2 MHz to make a smooth continuation for a 38 MHz spectrum. Unfortunately one of my HackRF Ones has its RF Amp burnt up so I adjusted its IF and BB gain to have same noise floor as that of other HackRF One. It’s really awesome. I am sending you the diagram and grc file. The attached image is showing complete GSM900 downlink spectrum (38 MHz) in my area with active 2G and 3G signals.

Multi HackRF Spectrum
Multi HackRF Spectrum
Multi HackRF GRC flowgraph
Multi HackRF GRC flowgraph

GNURadio Conference 2016 Talks

Back in September the GNU Radio 2016 (GRCon16) conference was held. GRCon16 is an annual conference centered around the GNU Radio Project and community, and is one of the premier software defined radio industry events. GNU Radio is an open source digital signals processing (DSP) tool which is often used with SDR radios.

A few days ago videos of all the presentations were released on their YouTube channels, and all the slides can be found on their webpage.

One of our favorite talks from the conference is Micheal Ossmanns talk on his idea to create a low cost $150 RX/TX radio. Micheal Ossmann is the creator of the HackRF which is a $299 USD RX/TX capable SDR. It was one of the first affordable general purpose wide frequency TX capable SDRs. Micheal also mentions his other projects including Neapolitan which will be an add on for the HackRF which will enable full-duplex communications and Marizpan which will essentially be a single board Linux SDR using the HackRF circuit.


Another is Balints talk on “Hacking the Wireless World” where he does an overview of various signals that can be received and analyzed or decoded with an SDR. Some applications he discusses include Aviation, RDS Traffic Management Channel, Radio Direction Finding, OP25, IoT, SATCOM and his work on rebooting the ISEE-3 space probe.


Decoding a Garage Door Opener with an RTL-SDR

After listening to dock workers with his RTL-SDR for a few days, RTL-SDR.com reader Eoin decided that he wanted to try a more practical experiment. He decided to see if he could reverse engineering the wireless protocol on his garage door opener. Upon opening his remote he discovered a bunch of DIP switches, which are presumably used to program the remote to a particular garage door. Eoin’s next step was to determine at what frequency the garage door opener was transmitting at. He made an assumption that it would be in the 433 MHz unlicenced ISM band as this is where many handheld remotes transmit at. He was right, and found the signal.

The garage door remote showing the DIP switches.
The garage door remote showing the DIP switches.

His next step was then to record the signal audio in Audacity. From the audio waveform he could see a square wave which looked just like binary bits. By manually eyballing the waveform and translating the high/low squarewave into bits he was able to get the binary data. He then confirmed this data with the dipswitch positions and discovered that a 010 binary code matched with the UP position on the dip switch and 011 matched with the DOWN position.

Having decoded the signal manually fairly easily, Eoin decided his next challenge would be to automate the whole decoding in GNU Radio. In the end he was successful and managed to create a program that automatically determines the position of the DIP switches from the signal. His post goes into detail about his algorithm and GNU Radio program.

Showing the decoded DIP switch positions from his GNU Radio program.
Showing the decoded DIP switch positions from his GNU Radio program.

An ADS-B Decoder for the GOMX-3 Satellite ADS-B Repeater

The GOMX-3 is a CubeSat which carries an experimental ADS-B repeater. Since it is a satellite the experimental receiver hopes to be able to receive ADS-B from orbit, then beam it back down to earth at a frequency of about 437 MHz using a GFSK at 19200 baud high data rate transmission protocol. From space the GOM3-X satellite can see many aircraft at one time and space based tracking allows for aircraft tracking over oceans.

Recently the creators of the satellite, GomSpace released a complete decoder for the ADS-B downlink, and now it has also been turned into a GNU Radio flowgraph by Daniel Estevez which can output decoded aircraft position data directly to a KML file which can then be opened in Google Earth or similar. This blog by DK3WN shows several logged decodes of the satellite and shows what the signal looks like in SDR#. Some of his posts also curiously shows what looks to be a Windows decoder, or logger, though we were unable to find a download for it.

Decoding the downlink should give you real time ADS-B data in your area, but the full log of stored stored data is apparently only downloaded when the satellite passes over the GomSpace groundstations which are mostly located in the EU.

[Also mentioned on Hackaday]
The GOMX-3 ADS-B Downlink Signal.
The GOMX-3 ADS-B Downlink Signal.
Aircraft detected by the GOM3-X Satellite ADS-B Receiver.
Logged aircraft detected by the GOM3-X Satellite ADS-B Receiver. Major flight corridors are visible.

GNU Radio for Windows + Decoding ATSC HDTV on GNU Radio for Windows

Recently an updated set of binaries and build scripts were posted for GNU Radio for Windows. GNU Radio is a graphical digital signal processing language that is compatible with many software defined radios such as the RTL-SDR. Normally it is used on Linux as the Windows builds have been known to be very buggy and difficult  to install. However the latest update appears to make it easier to install. The changes were announced on the GNU Radio mailing list by Geof Nieboer, and he writes:

An updated set of windows binaries and build scripts have been posted. Quick summary:

1- Added gqrx to package
2- Patched 2 x issues which would cause the generic version to crash on non-AVX systems (one in volk, one in FFTW)
3- Added gr-newmod to package

Plus a number of improvements to make the scripts more robust.

Binaries at http://www.gcndevelopment.com/gnuradio/downloads.htm
Scripts at https://github.com/gnieboer/GNURadio_Windows_Build_Scripts

To run GNU Radio for Windows you will need a 64-bit version of Windows 7/8/10. It appears that the installation is as easy as running the installer and waiting for it to download and install the 1.7 GB worth of files.

Also, over on his blog author designing on a juicy cup posted about how he’d been able to get the GNU Radio Windows binaries to run a ATSC HDTV decoder from a file recorded using an SDRplay RSP (ATSC is too wideband for an RTL-SDR to decode). ATSC is the digital TV standard used in North America, some parts of Central America and South Korea. He writes that one advantage to using GNU Radio on Windows is the ability to use a RAM drive for faster file processing.

GNU Radio ATSC Decoder Running on Windows.
GNU Radio ATSC Decoder Running on Windows.

Combining the bandwidth of multiple RTL-SDRs: Now working in GQRX!

A few days ago we posted how Oliver, an RTL-SDR experimenter, managed to (incoherently) combine the bandwidths of two RTL-SDR dongles to create a 4.4 MHz FFT display in GNU Radio. Now Oliver has taken this idea further and produced an updated version of his GNU Radio program

Oliver’s GNU Radio program is now capable of combining four RTL-SDR dongles and is now also capable of piping the output via a FIFO to GQRX. With four RTL-SDR dongles you can get a total bandwidth of 8.4 MHz. He also writes that it is even possible to listen to analog signals that are in overlapping areas.

Four RTL-SDRs producing a total of 8.4 MHz of bandwidth in GQRX.
Four RTL-SDRs producing a total of 8.4 MHz of bandwidth in GQRX.

Combining the bandwidth of two RTL-SDR dongles in GNU Radio

The maximum usable and stable bandwidth of an RTL-SDR is about 2.4 MHz. In order to get larger bandwidths it is possible to combine two or more dongles, although doing so comes with a big limitation – since the clocks and signal phases between separate dongles would not be synchronised, it would be impossible to decode a wideband signal this way. However, combining dongles for larger bandwidths is still useful for visualizing the spectrum through an FFT plot, or perhaps for decoding various separate narrowband signals. Although creating a wide band FFT plot with multiple dongles is fairly simple, we haven’t seen much software do this before.

However now RTL-SDR.com reader Oliver wrote in to show us the GNU Radio script he’s been using to combine the bandwidths of two RTL-SDR dongles together to get a 4.4 MHz FFT display. The script can be used to get a combined 4.4 MHz spectrum visualization without a center dip from roll off, or a 4.8 MHz spectrum with rolloff. Oliver writes:

I simply took two RTL-SDR dongles at their max. band width of 2.4 MHz, resampled the signals to 4.8 MHz, then shifted the first signal down by 1MHz, the other one 1 MHz up, added them together, divided the combined signal by 2 and finally feed it into a FFT plot.

At first, I tried shifting the signals by 1.2 MHz to get full 4.8 MHz, but I realized, that I had a notch in the center, so I reduced the frequency shift until I had no notch anymore.


The Bandwidth Combiner GRC Script
The Bandwidth Combiner GRC Script