KerberosSDR Now Available for Pre-order on Indiegogo

We're happy to announce that KerberosSDR is now available for pre-order on Indiegogo.

As promised we announced the release to KerberosSDR mailing list subscribers first, so that they'd be the first to get the initial discounted early bird units. However due to much higher than expected interest, we have released a few "second early bird" units at a still discounted price of $115 + shipping. We're only going to release 300 of these so get in quick before the price jumps up to $125. Our pre-order campaign will last 30 days, and afterwards the retail price will become $150.

If you weren't already aware, over the past few months we've been working with the engineering team at Othernet.is to create a 4x Coherent RTL-SDR that we're calling KerberosSDR. A coherent RTL-SDR allows you to perform interesting experiments such as RF direction finding, passive radar and beam forming. In conjunction with developer Tamas Peto, we have also had developed open source demo software for the board, which allows you to test direction finding and passive radar. The open source software also provides a good DSP base for extension.

More information available on our KerberosSDR page, and the Indiegogo page.

KerberosSDR with Calibration Board Attached (Metal Enclosure with SMA connectors Not Shown)
KerberosSDR with Calibration Board Attached (Metal Enclosure with SMA connectors Not Shown)
KerberosSDR Main Board (Metal Enclosure with SMA connectors Not Shown)
KerberosSDR Main Board (Metal Enclosure with SMA connectors Not Shown)

Using a LimeSDR To Detect Aircraft Reflections from a 2.3 GHz Beacon

Over on his blog author Daniel Estevez has described how he's been listening to aircraft reflections from a 2.3 GHz 2W beacon. The beacon is 10km away from Daniels location and transmits a tone and CW identification at 2320.865 MHz. As aircraft fly nearby to his location Daniel was able to observe aircraft reflections of the beacon, and was able to match them with ADS-B position and velocity reports.

The hardware that he used was a LimeSDR and a 9dBi 2.4GHz planar WiFi antenna patch. By aiming the antenna away from the transmitter, and using his car as a shield to block the transmitter he was able to receive some reflections. Daniel recorded several reflections including one produced by a nearby car.

By combining his results with ADS-B data he was able to superimpose the results, and color aircraft tracks by either a negative or positive doppler shift which was observed from the reflection. By combining the ADS-B data with the time stamps, he was also able to mark the reflections from each aircraft.

Marking Aircraft Reflections at 2.3 GHz against ADS-B Data
Marking Aircraft Reflections at 2.3 GHz against ADS-B Data

YouTube Talk: Evaluating 9 of the Best Single Board Computers for Ham Radio SDR Systems

Over on YouTube the Ham Radio 2.0 channel has recently uploaded a talk that Scotty Cowling (WA2DFI) did at the 2018 TAPR digital communications conference. His talk centers around single board computers and his findings on the nine best single board computers (SBC) for ham radio SDR setups.

Scotty's talk begins by discussing why you'd want to use SBCs in your ham radio SDR setup, and explains why you might want to place them with the SDR close to the antenna, and then distribute the data over ethernet cable. He then reviews 9 boards listed below: 

  • Hardkernel Odroid C1
  • Raspberry Pi 3B
  • Hardkernel Odroid XU4
  • ASUS Tinker S
  • FriendlyElec NanoPC-T4
  • Pine64 RockPro64
  • 96 Boards Mediatek X20
  • 96 Boards HiKey 960
  • UDOO X86 Ultra

The boards are compared against CPU clock speeds, architecture, cache, debut year, RAM, boot ROM, bus speeds, OS support, and more. Scotty also discusses the need for low latency operation, but is yet to compare this on the boards. The best value for money boards that Scotty recommends end up being the Odroid XU4, Tinkerboard, NanoPC-T4 and the RockPro64.

Ham Radio 2.0: Episode 151 - Evaluating 9 of the Best Single Board Computers for Modern SDR Systems

Using an RTL-SDR to decode VOR Aircraft Navigation Beacons in Real Time

VOR stands for VHF Omnidirectional Range and is a way to help aircraft navigate by using fixed ground based beacons. The beacons are specially designed in such a way that the aircraft can use the beacon to determine a bearing towards the VOR transmitter. VOR beacons are found between 108 MHz and 117.95 MHz, and it's possible to view the raw signal in SDR#.

Over on RadioJitter author Arnav Mukhopadhyay has uploaded a post describing how to decode VOR into a bearing in real time using an RTL-SDR dongle. His post first explains how VOR works, and then goes on to show an experimental set up that he's created using a GNU Radio program.  With the software he was able to decode an accurate bearing towards the VOR transmitter at a nearby airport.

Arnavs post is a preview of an academic paper that he's worked on, and the full paper and code is available by request on the radiojitter post. We've also seen on YouTube that Arnav has uploaded a video showing the software working in action, and we have embedded it below.

Bearing to nearby airport VOR transmitter determined with an RTL-SDR and GNU Radio.
Bearing to nearby airport VOR transmitter determined with an RTL-SDR and GNU Radio.

Real Time Demo of VOR Bearing

Reverse Engineering Wireless Blinds with an RTL-SDR and Controlling them with Amazon Alexa

Amazon Alexa is a smart speaker that can be programmed to control home automation devices via voice commands. For example, Stuart Hinson wanted to be able to control his wirelessly controlled blinds simply by verbally asking Alexa to close or open them. Stuart's blinds could already be controlled via a 433 MHz remote control, so he decided to replicate the control signals on an ESP8266 with 433 MHz transmitter, and interface that with Alexa. The ESP8266 is a cheap and small WiFi capable microchip which many people are using to create IoT devices.

Fortunately replicating the signal was quite easily as all he had to do was record the signal from the remote control with his RTL-SDR, and use the Universal Radio Hacker software to determine the binary bit string and modulation details. Once he had these details, he was able to program the ESP8266 to replicate the signal and transmit it via the 433 MHz transmitter. The remaining steps were all related to setting up an HTTP interface that Alexa could interface with.

If you're interested, we've also previously posted about another Alexa + RTL-SDR mashup which allows Alexa to read out ADS-B information about aircraft flying in your vicinity.

[First seen on Hackaday]

The ESP8266 with 433 MHz Transmitter
The ESP8266 with 433 MHz Transmitter

More KerberosSDR Passive Radar Demos

KerberosSDR is our upcoming low cost 4-tuner coherent RTL-SDR. With four antenna inputs it can be used as a standard array of four individual RTL-SDRs, or in coherent applications such as direction finding, passive radar and beam forming. More information can be found on the KerberosSDR main postPlease remember to sign up to our KerberosSDR mailing list on the main post or at the end of this post, as subscribers will receive a discount coupon valid for the first 100 pre-order sales. The list also helps us determine interest levels and how many units to produce.

In this post we're showing some more passive radar demos. The first video is a time lapse of aircraft coming in to land at a nearby airport. The setup consists of two DVB-T Yagi antennas, with KerberosSDR tuned to a DVB-T signal at 584 MHz. The reference antenna points towards a TV tower to the west, and the surveillance antenna points south. Two highlighted lines indicate roughly where reflections can be seen from within the beam width (not taking into account blockages from mountains, trees etc).

The second video shows a short time lapse of a circling helicopter captured by the passive radar. The helicopter did not show up on ADS-B. On the left are reflections from cars and in the middle you can see the helicopter's reflection moving around.

We are expecting to receive the final prototype of KerberosSDR within the next few weeks. If all is well we may begin taking pre-orders shortly after confirming the prototype.

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Timelapse 2

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Helicopter Detection

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Aerial Landmine Detection using USRP SDR Based Ground Penetrating Radar

Over the last few years researchers at Universidad Javeriana Bogotá, a University in Colombia, have been looking into using SDRs for aerial landmine detection. The research uses a USRP B210 software defined radio mounted on a quadcopter, together with two Vivaldi antennas (one for TX and one for RX). The system is then used as a ground penetrating radar (GPR).  GPR is a method that uses RF pulses in the range of 10 MHz to 2.6 GHz to create images of the subsurface. When a transmitted RF pulse hits a metallic object like a landmine, energy is reflected back resulting in a detection.

Recently they uploaded a demonstration video to their YouTube channel which we show below, and several photos of the work can be found on their Field Robotics website. We have also found their paper available here as part of a book chapter. The abstract reads:

This chapter presents an approach for explosive-landmine detection on-board an autonomous aerial drone. The chapter describes the design, implementation and integration of a ground penetrating radar (GPR) using a software defined radio (SDR) platform into the aerial drone. The chapter’s goal is first to tackle in detail the development of a custom designed lightweight GPR by approaching interplay between hardware and software radio on an SDR platform. The SDR-based GPR system results on a much lighter sensing device compared against the conventional GPR systems found in the literature and with the capability of re-configuration in real-time for different landmines and terrains, with the capability of detecting landmines under terrains with different dielectric characteristics.

Secondly, the chapter introduce the integration of the SDR-based GPR into an autonomous drone by describing the mechanical integration, communication system, the graphical user interface (GUI) together with the landmine detection and geo-mapping. This chapter approach completely the hardware and software implementation topics of the on-board GPR system given first a comprehensive background of the software-defined radar technology and second presenting the main features of the Tx and Rx modules. Additional details are presented related with the mechanical and functional integration of the GPR into the UAV system.

Drone with USRP Ground Penetrating Radar Setup
Drone with USRP Ground Penetrating Radar Setup

Aerial landmine detection using SDR-based Ground Penetrating Radar and computing vision

Constructing a 3D Printed Wideband 900 MHz to 11 GHz Antenna

Thanks to Professor John Jackson of JR Magnetics for writing in and sharing his design for a 3D printed wideband antenna designed for 50 Ohm 900 MHz to 11 GHz operation.

John required a wideband antenna that could cover the cellphone bands, WiFi, Bluetooth up to 6 GHz and the new USB band from 5 GHz to 10 GHz all in a single antenna installation. He also needed the impedance to be as flat as possible to reduce signal pulse distortion. First he looked into classic discone and sphere antenna designs, but found that while a sphere had the required bandwidth, it did not have the desired impedance characteristics, and a discone had the desired impedance characteristics, but not the ultra wide bandwidth required.

To get around this John combines the sphere and discone designs together to create a sort of icecream with cone looking shape. This results in the ultra wide bandwidth required, and a relatively flat SWR that stays below 2.

The design is easily reproducible by anyone with a metal 3D printer. The antenna's top hemisphere and cone are printed in brass, whilst the radome and supporting structure are printed in plastic.

We have uploaded John's original document here (pdf warning), and display some of the images below. The full build instructions can be found on his website, and John is also selling the 3D printed parts via Shapeways.

jran900-top
jran900-bottom
jran900-radome
JRAN900-mount
jran900-swr
sphere-cone-ant-geo
jran-proto-bw-175