Virtual Plane Spotting Livestream by Piping ADS-B Data into Flight Simulator

Over on YouTube we've recently discovered a live stream by channel Information Zulu that has created a virtual live 24hr view of LAX airport air traffic by piping ADS-B data into a flight simulator game. The stream also combines this with live air traffic audio and arrivals and departures information. Other videos on his channel show highlights like go arounds.

We're not sure what he's using to pipe ADS-B data into the simulator or exactly what simulator this is, but in the video description he notes that he uses a Pi 4, RTL-SDR blog V3 with ADS-B LNA, and an AirNav antenna to receive the ADS-B data. 

This reminds us of the Android ADSB Flight Tracker app which also has a 3D view, and the post about using ADS-B data to simulate what aircraft instruments would show on the real aircraft.

24HR LAX airport! Real Time Virtual Airport with LIVE aircraft data livestream

A 3D Printed Dual Screen Cyberdeck with Built in RTL-SDR

A Cyberdeck is a portable retro styled computer on the outside, but on the inside they typically consist of modern components like a Raspberry Pi. Having been inspired by the aesthetic of the Reviiser cyberdeck project, Reddit user u/dapperrogue set out to build his own version with a built in RTL-SDR.

In his Imgur post, dapperrogue documents the build process. The build consists of multiple 3D printed parts for the enclosure, as well as a really cool home made mechanical keyboard and dual LCD screens. Inside is a Raspberry Pi 4, with RTL-SDR Blog V3, as well as supporting components like a 12v to 5v step down converter, USB hub and four cooling fans. The RTL-SDR connects to a BNC port which is accessible from the outside.

CyberDeck with built in RTL-SDR
CyberDeck with built in RTL-SDR

Decoding Radio Telemetry Heard on News Helicopter Video Footage with GNU Radio

Twitter user @d0tslash was watching news helicopter footage of the BLM protests on the 28th of May when he heard something that sounded like an RF telemetry feed in the background audio on the helicopter's video feed. Having seen this previous success at decoding similar helicopter telemetry, he contacted his friend proto17 who proceeded to reverse engineer and figure out how to decode the telemetry, in the end discovering that it was providing location data for the helicopter.

Over on GitHub proto17 has documented the complete process that he took in reverse engineering the telemetry. He first explored the audio in Baudline discovering that there was a 1200 Hz wide FSK signal. Next he used GNU Radio to further analyze the signal, discovering it's baud rate, resampling the signal and then using a GFSK block to demodulate the signal into 1's and 0's.

Finally he used some clever terminal tricks and a Python script to discover the bit pattern and convert the bits into ASCII characters which reveals the helicopter coordinates. The coordinates decoded indicate that the helicopter was indeed circling the protest area.

We looked into the news helicopters in use during the protests and found that Denver news stations all share one helicopter with registration N6UX. Plugging that into adsbexchange.com and looking at the helicopter ADS-B history on the 28th gives a good match to proto17's decoded data. 

News helicopter telemetry audio vs ADS-B history
News helicopter telemetry audio vs ADS-B history

YouTube Tutorial: Installing and Using CubicSDR on a Mac

Over on YouTube user RickMakes has uploaded a video showing how to install and use CubicSDR on a Mac computer. CubicSDR is a general purpose program compatible with multiple SDRs including the RTL-SDR and is one of the few SDR programs available for use on MacOS.

The installation is as simple as downloading the .dmg file from the CubicSDR GitHub page and running the automatic installer. Afterwards you can move the program to your Applications folder. Once opened CubicSDR should then automatically detect any RTL-SDR that is plugged in.

In the rest of the video RickMakes demonstrates CubicSDR and the RTL-SDR in action, receiving various broadcast FM and ISM band signals.

CubicSDR Basic Setup on Mac with RTL-SDR Blog V3

Using ADS-B Exchange to Track Police and Military Aircraft Monitoring the George Floyd Protests

During the recent George Floyd BLM protests police and military aircraft have been playing a large part in the surveillance of protestors. All these aircraft are required to transmit ADS-B which of course can be monitored with an RTL-SDR or other SDR. Many volunteers around the world use RTL-SDRs to upload ADS-B data to an online aggregation service, so flight data from all over the world can be accessed in one place. However, most ADS-B aggregation services like FlightAware and FlightRadar24 censor police and military aircraft from the raw ADS-B data received from the RTL-SDRs. ADS-B Exchange is the only service that has a policy to not censor any aircraft.

Buzzfeed recently ran an interesting article that used ADS-B Exchange to highlight the flight paths of various surveillance aircraft used during the protests, as well as the aircraft types used and who they are registered to. Most interestingly they saw that two military Black Hawk helicopters and a CBP Predator drone was used in Minnesota, and two military Lakota helicopters were using in Washington, DC.

As mentioned in a previous post, ADS-B Exchange recently updated their interface and backend, and they now run tar1090, which is a fully featured ADS-B mapping platform that can display the historical tracks of any tracked aircraft.

We also note that on Twitter John Wiseman @lemonodor also runs several "advisory circular bots" that make use of ADS-B Exchange data to automatically tweet a notification when aircraft are detected as having a circular flight path.

Police helicopter historical tracks over Minneapolis via adsb-exchange.com
Police helicopter historical tracks over Minneapolis via adsbexchange.com

Techminds: Building a V-Dipole for Weather Satellite Reception

A new video showing how to build a V-dipole for weather satellite reception has been uploaded over on the Tech Minds YouTube channel. A V-dipole isa dipole antenna arranged in a 120 degrees "vee" shape, and mounted horizontally. It was first popularized by Adam 9A4QV who realized that such a simple antenna would work well for low earth orbit satellites like the NOAA and Meteor weather sats.

The video shows how to use some steel rods, a plastic pipe and terminal block to build the v-dipole. After building and mounting the antenna in the required North-South orientation he shows how he's using Gpredict with SDR# and WxToImg to decode the NOAA satellite image.

How To Build A V Dipole For Receiving Weather Satellites

OpenWebRX directory SDR.hu has now shut down

OpenWebRX was first developed by Andras Retzler and is and open source program that allows users to make RTL-SDRs, KiwiSDRs and other SDRs accessible over the internet via a web browser. Recently the OpenWebRX public directory at SDR.hu, also run by Andras, has been closed. In the past we've posted about Andras' decision to move on from OpenWebRX and how sdr.hu went from public access to requiring an amateur radio callsign to access. Now Andras has decided to take the final step and close sdr.hu for good. The sdr.hu website now reads:

The SDR.hu project has been finished

I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who joined my journey with this project!

I hope you had a good time listening on the site, and learnt some things about SDR. The purpose of this site was to provide a technological demonstration for amateur radio operators about Software Defined Radio, and I hope this goal has been reached. As this website was a one-person hobby project, with my tasks and responsibilities growing, and my focus moving to other projects at which I hope to make a greater positive impact, I'm unable to further develop SDR.hu and protect it from abuse.

Furthermore, I think this site has some good alternatives now. Nevertheless, in my opinion amateur radio receivers should be shared with strict access control in the future.

If you have more questions, feel free to consult the FAQ.

73!

Andras, HA7ILM

We want to note that although KiwiSDR makes use of OpenWebRX, the KiwiSDR project is not affected by this closure as they use a custom fork of OpenWebRX, and there is an official KiwiSDR directory at kiwisdr.com/public, a map version at map.kiwisdr.com, and an SNR score directory at snr.kiwisdr.com. Unfortunately the one major drawback is that these directories do not list public RTL-SDRs or other SDRs running OpenWebRX as only sdr.hu did that.

Also, although Andras has stopped development on OpenWebRX, a fork of the project led by Jakob Ketterl (DD5JFK) is alive and well at github.com/jketterl/openwebrx and openwebrx.de.

OpenWebRX Screenshot
OpenWebRX Screenshot

QO-100 Bullseye TCXO Ultra Stable LNB Now Available in our Store for $29.95 with Free Shipping

Back in March we posted about Othernet's release of their "Bullseye" TCXO ultra stable LNB for receiving QO-100 and other Ku-Band satellites. We have decided to now offer these for sale on our store as well.

They cost US$29.95 with free shipping to most countries. We are currently selling it over on our blog store and on our Aliexpress store. The Aliexpress store uses Aliexpress Standard Shipping which may be better for some countries like Poland, Ukraine, etc. As usual, please expect that there could be shipping delays at the moment due to the ongoing global pandemic. Since the US is not covered by QO-100 we will not be stocking Amazon USA.

QO-100 / Es'hail-2 is a geostationary satellite at at 25.5°E (covering Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia) providing broadcasting services. However, as a bonus it has allowed amateur radio operators to use a spare transponder. Uplink is at 2.4 GHz and downlink is at 10.5 GHz. Most SDRs do not tune all the way up to 10.5 GHz, so an LNB (low noise block) is typically used, which contains the feed, an LNA, and a downconverter which converts the 10.5 GHz frequency into a much lower one that can be received by most SDRs.

In order to properly monitor signals on QO-100 an LNB with a Temperature Compensated Oscillator (TCXO) or other stabilization method is required. Most LNBs have non-stabilized crystals which will drift over time with temperature changes.  This means that the narrowband signals used on QO-100 can easily drift out of the receive band or cause distorted reception. It is possible to hand modify a standard Ku-band LNB by soldering on a replacement TCXO or hacking in connections to a GPSDO, but the Bullseye LNB is ready to use and cheap.

The Othernet TCXO Ultra Stable LNB for QO-100 and Ku-Band Satellites
The Othernet TCXO Ultra Stable LNB for QO-100 and Ku-Band Satellites

The official product details read:

The Bullseye LNB is the world's most precise and stable DTH/consumer Ku-band down converter. Even a VSAT LNBF costing hundreds of dollars more is no match for the performance of the Bullseye 10K LNB. Each unit is calibrated at the factory to within 1 kHz of absolute precision against a GPS-locked spectrum analyzer. Under outdoor conditions, the stability of the LNB is well within 10 kHz of offset. As a bonus feature, the  Bullseye 10K provides access to its internal 25 MHz TCXO through the secondary F-connector. This reference output can be used to directly monitor the performance of the TCXO over time. 

Features

  • Bullseye 10 kHz BE01
  • Universal single output LNB
  • Frequency stability within 10 kHz in normal outdoor environment
  • Phase locked loop with 2 PPM TCXO
  • Factory calibration within 1 kHz utilizing GPS-locked spectrum analyzers
  • Ultra high precision PLL employing proprietary frequency control system (patent pending)
  • Digitally controlled carrier offset with optional programmer
  • 25 MHz output reference available on secondary F-connector (red)

Specifications 

  • Input frequency: 10489 - 12750 MHz
  • LO frequency 9750/10600 MHz
  • LO frequency stability at 23C: +/- 10 kHz
  • LO frequency stability -20 - 60C: +/- 30 kHz
  • Gain: 50 - 66 dB
  • Output frequency: 739 - 1950 MHz (low band) and 1100 - 2150 (high band)
  • Return loss of 8 dB (739 - 1950 MHz) and 10 dB (1100 - 2150 MHz)
  • Noise figure: 0.5 dB

We note that an external bias tee power injector is required to power the LNB as it requires 11.5V - 14V to operate in vertical polarization and 16V - 19V to operate with horizontal polarization. The bias tee on the RTL-SDR Blog V3 outputs 4.5V so it is not suitable.

There has also been an excellent review by @F4DAV and a video review by Techminds which we show below.

Ultra Stable Bullseye LNB For QO-100 Es Hail2 10 kHz