Tagged: rtl-sdr

Radio For Everyone: An Easy ADS-B Antenna, ADS-B Advice, and Long Term Results

Over on his blog Akos has uploaded several new posts all relating to ADS-B reception. His first post shows how to build a very simple yet effective “Coketenna” ADS-B antenna which can be built with an empty coke can and some coax cable. This antenna is essentially a 1/4 wave ground plane antenna with the ground plane being a coke can cut in half and mounted upside down. The whip sticking up is simply the coax inner wire. In his post Akos shows exactly how to construct one.

Cantenna and Coketenna
Cantenna and Coketenna

In his second post Akos offers some advice on mounting and positioning ADS-B antennas, discusses the ‘range myth’, talks a bit about LNA’s and filters and shows the differences between a stock RTL-SDR dongle, and one optimized for ADS-B reception like a FlightAware Protstick.

In his third post Akos shows his results from long term ADS-B reception comparisons between a generic RTL-SDR dongle, an RTL-SDR.com V3 dongle with 1090 MHz LNA powered by bias tee, a FlightAware Prostick and a FlightAware Prostick Plus. The V3 dongle with bias tee powered LNA is used as the benchmark receiver and the results show that it received the most signals. The next best was the Prostick Plus, followed by the Prostick and finally the generic dongle.

ADS-B Comparisons between 4 different RTL-SDR setups.
ADS-B Comparisons between 4 different RTL-SDR setups.

QIRX SDR: A New MultiMode RTL-SDR Program with Built-In DAB+ Decoder

Recently Clem from softsyst.com wrote in and let us know about their new SDR software called ‘QIRX SDR’. This is a multimode receiver currently capable of receiving AM/NFM/WFM and also DAB Plus. It supports the RTL-SDR via an rtl_tcp connection, so it can be used on a local machine, or a remote networked one. The main differentiating features that QIRX has against other multimode receivers like SDR#, HDSDR and SDR-Console etc is:

  • Dual Receiver, within the bandwidth of the frontend. This is most useful e.g. for watching two stations simultaneously in busy airband regions.
  • DAB+ Demodulator, to our knowledge the first one written in C#, allowing for recordings in very good quality (some samples provided for download).

The full list of features are quoted below:

QIRX is an Open Source Software Defined Radio, written in C#, downloadable on this site as a Visual Studio 2013 Solution, offering the following features:

  • TCP/IP Based: QIRX accepts 8-bit I/Q-Data either from TCP/IP sources or from pre-recorded files containing the I/Q-data. It is designed to cooperate with RTL-SDR dongles and the widely available rtl-tcp.exe as I/Q-data server. Both QIRX and rtl-tcp may run on the same machine or on separate ones. The rtl-tcp.exe might be started automatically without additional user actions, also when used remote via a LAN.
  • Dual Receiver: Within the selected bandwidth, e.g. 2.56MHz QIRX is able to operate two independent receivers simultaneously.
  • Squelch: For each receiver, QIRX provides a digital squelch, enabling to monitor the selected stations – when not transmitting – without annoying background noise.
  • Simplest Operating Principle: QIRX – using its AM, NFM or WFM demodulators – is purely FFT-based, with a NF lowpass filter only. This might change in a future version.
  • Scanner: QIRX provides for Receiver 1 a simple scanner, being able to scan large frequency areas. This is still in an experimental state.
  • HF and NF Spectrum: For each receiver, QIRX provides a spectrum viewer being able to show the HF and the NF spectrum. No waterfall spectrum yet. For DAB+, it shows the constellation.
  • DAB+ Receiver: QIRX provides a comfortable DAB+ receiver ( Transmission Mode I ). It is -to the best of our knowledge- the first C# based SDR providing this facility. Some standard libraries like the Viterbi decoder are used as C/C++ packages, accessed via P/Invoke.
  • File Recorder: For all demodulators, the audio output can be saved to .wav files, independently for each of the both receivers. For DAB+ this allows for high-quality audio recordings.

    Additionally, the I/Q raw data can be saved to a file. It is possible to replay recorded I/Q-data files.

QIRX SDR: A new multimode receiver with DAB+ decoding
QIRX SDR: A new multimode receiver with DAB+ decoding

A 3D Printed Case for the DIY Outernet Kit

Thanks to Manuel (aka Tysonpower) for writing in and sharing his 3D printed ‘Universal Outernet Case’. Outernet is a satellite file casting service that uses an RTL-SDR based solution for reception. With an Outernet set up you can receive things like daily news, weather updates, books, Wikipedia pages and more all for free. About 20 MB of data can be transmitted in one day.

The DIY Outernet kit consists of an RTL-SDR ‘SDRx’ board, patch antenna and C.H.I.P single board computer. The patch antenna needs to point roughly in the direction of the Inmarsat/Alphsat satellite in your area. This can be a problem because the Outernet patch antenna doesn’t come with a stand or mounting solution.

Manuel solved this problem with his 3D printed Outernet enclosure. The enclosure houses the patch antenna, SDRx and C.H.I.P, and also doubles as a stand for pointing the patch antenna. Inside he’s also fitted a small 30mm fan to keep everything cool while inside the enclosure as the C.H.I.P is known to have overheating problems.

The 3D printed Outernet  enclosure.
The 3D printed Outernet enclosure.

Over on YouTube Manuel has uploaded a video explaining how the enclosure is made with 3D printing, demonstrates the assembly steps and finally shows the final product. The video is narrated in German, but it has English subtitles available. The design files required for 3D printing the case are also available on thingiverse.


Decoding ADS-B in MATLAB Video Tutorial

Over on YouTube the official MATLAB channel has uploaded a new video that is a tutorial on setting up ADS-B decoding in MATLAB. MATLAB is a technical computing language that is frequently used by many scientists and engineers around the world. They write:

Use the software-defined radio capabilities that are part of Communications System Toolbox™ to capture and decode ADS-B messages. ADS-B is a relatively simple standard used by commercial aircraft to transmit flight data such as aircraft ID, position, velocity, and altitude to air traffic control centers. ADS-B messages are 56 or 112 bits long, the data rate is 1 Mbit/sec, and the messages are amplitude modulated signals, transmitted at a carrier frequency of 1090 MHz

The video goes over what ADS-B is, how to receive it, and then goes on to explain a bit of the MATLAB code. This is a good introduction for people wanting to use an RTL-SDR in MATLAB, or for anyone wanting to learn about ADS-B.


A 3D Printed Stand for Generic MCX RTL-SDR Dongles

Thanks to Jaime (EB5ABT) for submitting his 3D printed stand for the generic MCX RTL-SDR dongles. The stand is designed to hold one of the generic dongles on it’s side so that a small whip antenna can be attached to it, whilst staying stably upright.

If you’re interested in printing the stand for yourself Jaime has uploaded the design files to his dropbox. He has also created a short YouTube video showing a slideshow of his stand which is shown at the end of this post.

If you’re interested in 3D printing accessories and enclosures for the RTL-SDR then thingiverse.com has a range of user submitted designs, ranging from custom RTL-SDR dongle enclosures, to stratux Raspberry Pi + dongle enclosures, to Outernet patch antenna stands.

Some of the RTL-SDR related design on Thingiverse.
Some of the RTL-SDR related design on Thingiverse.

A Screenshot based Meteor Scatter Detector for HDSDR

Over on our forums Andy (M0CYP) has posted about his new meteor scatter detection program which works with HDSDR and any supported SDR like an RTL-SDR. It works in an interesting way, as instead of analyzing sound files for blips of meteor scatter activity it analyzes screenshots of the HDSDR waterfall. The software automatically grabs the screenshots and determines if a signal is present on any given frequency. You can set a preconfigured detection frequency for a far away transmitter, and if the waterfall shows a reflection it will record that as a meteor.

Meteor scatter works by receiving a distant but powerful transmitter via reflections off the trails of ionized air that meteors leave behind when they enter the atmosphere. Normally the transmitter would be too far away to receive, but if its able to bounce off the ionized trail in the sky it can reach far over the horizon to your receiver. Typically powerful broadcast FM radio stations, analog TV, and radar signals at around 140 MHz are used. Some amateur radio enthusiasts also use this phenomena as a long range VHF communications tool with their own transmitted signals. See the website www.livemeteors.com for a livestream of a permanently set up RTL-SDR meteor detector (although that site does not use Andy’s software).

Andy writes that his meteor scatter detection software is still in beta so there might be some bugs. You can write feedback on the forum post, in the comments here, or contact Andy directly via the link on his website.

Andy's screenshot based meteor detection software
Andy’s screenshot based meteor detection software

An RTL-SDR Add-on for the Kodi Entertainment System Software

Kodi is a media player and entertainment hub program that is used to manage digital video collections and music. It is used mostly on TV’s together with a home theater PC, or Raspberry Pi 3, but also runs on Android and iOS. It can be thought of as more fully featured smart TV software.

Recently we’ve seen that there is an ‘add-on’ (plugin) for Kodi which allows FM radio reception with RDS to be received with an RTL-SDR dongle from directly within the Kodi interface (kodi wiki link). The software has been around for a while now, but we hadn’t seen it before. It looks like an easy and cheap way to add broadcast FM capabilities to a home theater PC. Currently the add-on only supports Kodi on Linux and on Raspberry Pi’s. 

The interface allows for manual tuning and for creating presets of your favorite stations.

Kodi RTL-SDR Add-On
Kodi RTL-SDR Add-On

Using SDR# and the Fast Scanner Plugin for Wide Band Scanning

Over on Tom’s Radio Room Show (TRRS) on YouTube Tom has uploaded a video showing how to use SDR# together with Vasili’s Fast Scanner plugin. Fast Scanner is a plugin for SDR# that allows you to use SDR# as a wide band scanner. Essentially this quickly scans through multiple ~2 MHz chunks of bandwidth, and automatically tunes to any active signals. 

In his video Tom shows the Fast Scanner plugin in action, shows how to use it, discusses a bit about how it works and also shows what all the features are.