Category: Airspy

STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio: A new Android DRM Decoder for RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRPlay

A new RTL-SDR compatible DRM decoding Android app called "STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio" has recently been released on the Google Play store for US$5.49, and on Amazon DE for EUR4.49. The author notes that a Windows version will also be published soon. Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) is a type of digital audio shortwave radio signal that is used by some international shortwave radio broadcasters.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio allows you to conveniently enjoy any DRM live radio broadcast on your Android smartphone or tablet. No Internet connection required. All you need is an SDR RF dongle or receiver connected to your device via USB.

DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the global digital radio standard used for all digital international transmissions as well as for national and local services in many countries. To learn more about DRM and its features visit www.drm.org.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for ease-of-use and supports all core features of the DRM standard:

  • Listener-centric and easy to navigate app design and user interface
  • Multiple user interface languages. Currently supported: English, German, Simplified Chinese
  • Convenient frequency tuning and DRM Service selection
  • DRM Service labels and graphical service logos
  • Full service metadata: programme/app type, language, country of origin, etc.
  • All standardized DRM audio codecs incl. xHE-AAC with optimized tune-in performance for a quick start of audio playback
  • Journaline, DRM’s advanced text application, allows to interactively browse through latest news, sports and weather updates, programme background information and schedules, distance learning/RadioSchooling text books, travel information, and much more
  • Full Journaline feature set including hot-button interactivity, geo-references and embedded/linked images
  • Convenient and fast Journaline information access with update notifications for page-content (and automatic updates for menus), as well as persistent caching for instant content access when switching between DRM services
  • DRM text messages incl. DL+ support
  • Slideshow images
  • Unicode support for all textual elements: service labels, text messages, Journaline
  • DRM EWF – Emergency Warning Functionality within the DRM transmission: in case of an emergency alarm signal, automatically re-tunes from the current service to the emergency programme; presents the emergency audio along with multi-lingual Journaline content to provide in-depth instructions with interactive access and to serve non-native speakers or hearing impaired users

In addition, STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for maximum tuning flexibility and performance:

  • Free tuning to any DRM broadcast frequency
  • Supports all DRM frequency bands – from the former AM bands (LW/MW/SW) to the VHF bands (including the FM band), depending only on RF dongle functionality
  • Supports all DRM robustness modes (A-E), modulation parameters and on-air signal bandwidths
  • Optimized frequency tuning and re-sync performance
  • Graphical spectrum view to check the signal on the tuned frequency

For live reception, an SDR RF dongle must be connected to the device’s USB port (with USB host functionality). The following SDR RF dongle families are currently supported, along with a range of specifically tested models:

  • Airspy HF+ family: Airspy HF Discovery, Airspy HF+ (Dual Port). (Note: Airspy Mini and R2 are NOT supported.)
  • SDRplay family: SDRPlay RSP1A, SDRPlay RSPdx, SDRPlay RSPduo, SDRPlay RSP1, SDRPlay RSP2, SDRPlay RSP2pro, MSI.SDR Panadapter (Note: SDRPlay family support on Android is currently limited to the 32-bit version of this app.)
  • RTL-SDR family: The experimental support for RTL-SDR based RF dongles requires that you manually start the following separate tool before opening this app (on standard port '14423'): The app 'SDR driver' can be installed from the Google Play Store and other Android app stores.
Starwaves DRM Decoder App Screenshots

Receiving Video Directly from a SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket + Scott Manley Video

Last week we posted about how several users on Reddit & Twitter worked together to receive and decode text telemetry from the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch using a HackRF, 1.2m dish with custom 2232.2 MHz feed and GNU Radio. In that thread it was hinted that the text telemetry was only a small portion of data contained in the entire signal. It turns out that the remaining data is the SpaceX engineering video feed which is often shown in the official live coverage streams.

Over on Reddit user /u/TRGFelix writes how he was able to receive and decode the video with his own low cost setup involving an Airspy Mini SDR, TV MMDS downconverter and the ubiquitous low cost WiFi grid dish that we've often used for GOES satellite reception and for Hydrogen Line radio astronomy. The software used was the SatDump decoder created by /u/Aang253 which builds on the research done by @r2x0t:

So today at 10:21UTC i got my own recording of Falcon9 video feed downlink on S band 2272.5MHz and with u/Aang253's software SatDump i could easily decode it from the recording straight down to mxf, avi or mp4 video file! Even with very simple recieving setup!

Setup used for receiving was simple wifi grid mesh dish antenna (100x60cm) on a tripod with old MMDS TV downconvertor and Airspy MINI. here is a photo of the setup few minutes before launch But of course its doable without convertor with SDR such as HackRF , two SPF5189Z LNAs and same antenna or even TV dish with DIY S band feed!

Software used for recording was great performing opensource SDR++ by u/xX_WhatsTheGeek_Xx link here https://github.com/AlexandreRouma/SDRPlusPlusS oftware used for decoding was u/Aang253's Satdump software which i will link later as it still needs readme written and confirm it runs without bugs! UPDATE - LINK: https://github.com/altillimity/SatDump

Original MXF video together with CADU file and I/Q file recording 6MSPS int16 here. https://files.altillimity.com/Falcon%209%20OK9UWU/

TRGFelix is also on Twitter as @OK9UWU and he has posted images of his setup, and part of the video he decoded. TRGFelix notes that he is working on a tutorial which we are very eager to see!

It's extremely interesting that we can see views of the liquid oxygen floating around inside the stage two tank which is not shown during the official live streams.

As a bonus, this story was also covered by the very popular space YouTuber Scott Manley who has put out a great video popularizing the discovery and touching on a few interesting points such as how SpaceX may be legally required to encrypt these videos in the future (but hopefully not!).

How Amateur Radio Fans Decoded SpaceX's Telemetry & Engineering Video

GNU Radio Amateur Radio Meeting: A Look at Project 25 (P25) Digital Radio

Over on their YouTube channel GNU Radio have uploaded a recent talk by Aaron Rossetto titled "A Look at Project 25 (P25) Digital Radio". The talk explains the North American public safety P25 system in great depth, and is a good watch for anyone looking into details on how the system works in a deeply technical way. He later shows some examples of his P25 decoding and recording setup. Slides can be found here, and the video is posted below.

Agenda: In this presentation, I will introduce Project 25 digital radio, with a strong emphasis on its use in North American public safety trunked radio systems, and to describe experiments monitoring and decoding P25 traffic using GNU Radio code.

  • What is Project 25?
  • A brief introduction to trunked radio
  • Diving into the P25 protocol
    • Modulation
    • Packet framing and encapsulation
    • Packet types
  • GNU Radio and P25 decoding experiments

GNU Radio Amateur Radio Meeting

SDRSharp Guide by IZ1MLL Updated

Thank you to Paolo Romani IZ1MLL for letting us know that he has updated his popular SDRSharp users guide that we posted about previously last December. The guide is available on the Airspy downloads page. SDR# (aka SDRSharp) from Airpsy.com is designed for Airspy SDRs, however it is one of the most popular SDR receiver programs that is used with RTL-SDRs as well. Paolo's guide covers all of the settings and features in SDR# as well as some third party plugins. Paolo writes:

In the last month I have completely rewritten the guide for other devices and for the latest radical changes to the software. From today, version 2.1 is available in Italian and English for all interested guys.

We note that the guide has also been translated in Spanish and Russian, although at the time of writing those translations are still only for the older guide. 

SDRSharp Guide

Building an 11.2 GHz Radio Telescope with an Airspy and 1.2m TV Satellite Dish

In the past we've posted several times about how 1.42 GHz Hydrogen Line amateur radio telescopes used with RTL-SDRs or other SDRs for Hydrogen line observations of the galaxy. Recently Hackaday ran a post highlighting a project from "PhysicsOpenLab" describing an 11.2 GHz radio telescope that uses an Airspy SDR as the receiver.

Celestial bodies emit radio waves all across the radio spectrum and typically observations can be made anywhere between 20 MHz to 20 GHz. Choosing an optimal frequency it is a tradeoff between antenna size, directivity and avoiding man made noise. For these reasons, observations at 10-12 GHz are most suitable for amateur radio telescopes.

The posts by PhysicsOpenLab are split into two. The first post highlights the hardware used which includes a 1.2m prime focus dish, and 11.2 GHz TV LNB, a wideband amplifier, a SAW filter, a bias tee, and the Airspy SDR. The LNB converts the 11.2 GHz signal down to 1.4 GHz which can be received by the Airspy. Once at 1.4 GHz it's possible then to use existing commercial filters and amplifiers designed for Hydrogen line observations.

The second post explains the GNU Radio based software implementation and the mathematical equations required to understand the gathered data. Finally in this post they also graph some results gathered during a solar and lunar transit.

Finally they note that even a 1.2m dish is quite small for a radio telescopic, but it may be possible to detect the emissions from the Milky Way and other celestial radio sources such as nebulae like Cassiopeia A, Taurus A and Cygnus A a radio galaxy.

A 11.2 GHz 1.2m Amateur Radio Telescope with GNU Radio and Airspy

SDRSharp Upgraded to .NET5 with New Plugin SDK For Developers

The popular SDR# (SDRSharp) software has recently been updated to version 1788, and now runs on the .NET5 SDK. Most of the upgrades are behind the scenes, but generally the new version appears to be more memory efficient and loads faster. The new version also brings more theme and layout customizations and as explained further below an improved plugin SDK for developers. 

In order to install the latest version you will need to download .NET5 runtime from Microsoft which may not already be on your system. For RTL-SDR users you can then run install-rtlsdr.bat then start the software as usual.

One of the most exciting new developments is the new .NET 5 plugin SDK that is now available. This allows third party developers to easily code up plugins for SDR#. While a plugin SDK already existed before, the new version appears to make development much simpler, and also comes with a few examples to help get developers started quickly. The result is that we should start to see more plugins appearing in the future with more features.

SDR# .NET5 Plugin SDK Example Code

One plugin called Scytale-C for Inmarsat STD-C channel decoding has already been updated to the new SDK. The developer notes that the plugin now works great with the SDR# "slicer" feature, which allows users to decode multiple STD-C signals within the received bandwidth at the same time. 

We've also recently seen reports of Twitter users having success with running this new SDR# version on WINE under Linux. Unfortunately direct USB still doesn't work under WINE, but it would still function via SpyServer or rtl_tcp.

Tech Minds tests out the YouLoop HF Passive Loop Antenna

Over on YouTube Tech Minds has uploaded a new video where he unboxes and tests a YouLoop HF Passive Loop Antenna with his Airspy. The YouLoop design is also known as a Möbius loop, or noise cancelling passive loop "NCPL". The passive nature of the antenna means that highly sensitive radios will work best with it, however limited results may still be obtained with other radios. The advantages are extremely low levels of interference pickup and high portability.

In the video Tech Minds explains the specifications of the antenna before demonstrating the antenna receiving the HF bands with an Airspy + SpyVerter. He also tests the loop on VHF, demonstrating its ability to receive a distant 2M beacon.

We note that we sell official YouLoop antennas on our store for $34.95 including free shipping to most countries.

YouLoop HF Passive Loop Antenna

Airspy Black Friday Deals Now Active

Airspy have released their black Friday 2020 deals today with 30% off. Back in 2019 we saw that the black friday deals were the best time to purchase an Airspy and we don't expect pricing to get cheaper than this. Links to their distributors can be found on airspy.com.

Airspy sell a range of software defined radios. The HF+ Discovery is one of the best (if not the best) low cost HF SDRs we've ever tested, and the Airspy Mini and R2 are good wide band VHF/UHF radios that are a step up from RTL-SDRs. The SpyVerter is a good upconverter that is also compatible with RTL-SDRs, and can be used with the bias tee on the RTL-SDR Blog V3.

The sale brings the pricing down to the following prices in USD (plus shipping costs):

Airspy HF+ Discovery: $169 $118.30
Airspy Mini: $99 $69.30
Airspy R2: $169 $118.30
SpyVerter R2: $49 $34.30

Frugal Radio has also uploaded a short video regarding the sale.