Category: Amateur Radio

Building a Transmit/Receive Relay System for a “Boat Anchor” Transmitter and SDRplay

Over on YouTube user ElPaso TubeAmps has uploaded a video showing his transit/receiver relay system that allows a "boat anchor" (old radio) ham radio transmitter and SDRplay SDR receiver to coexist. In order to protect the SDRplay's front end from being destroyed by a ham radio transmitting on the same antenna, a relay should be used to ground the SDRplay during a ham radio transmission. He writes:

How to build a small chassis and relay system to switch the antenna from the SDR input to ground and open the speaker connection from the PC to the speakers during transmit. I use "boat anchor", i.e. separate VFO for transmitter and receiver equipment and this video is about that type of connection and is not for transceivers.

SDRPlay, RTL-SDR, Transmit-Receive , PC Speaker, T/R Switch

SignalsEverywhere: SDRAngel PlutoSDR Transmit Tutorial

Over on his YouTube channel SignalsEverywhere, Corrosive has uploaded a new video tutorial showing us how to transmit with a PlutoSDR and SDRAngel. His tutorial goes over the initial set up steps, selecting a modulator and changing modulator settings. He then goes on to demonstrate transmitting CW Morse code, using a CTCSS squelch tone and transmitting a Robot36 SSTV image via Virtual Audio Cable and MMSSTV.

SDRAngel Transmit Tutorial with PlutoSDR

Transferring Files via the BlockStream Satellite with Lightning Network Payments and RTL-SDR + Transacting Bitcoin over HF

The Blockstream satellite API is now live on the main Bitcoin network. Blockstream satellite is a project that aims to use geosynchronous satellites to strengthen the Bitcoin network by continuously broadcasting the Bitcoin blockchain all over the world. This allows people without internet access (or with censored internet) to receive Bitcoin. Setting up a Blockstream satellite receive station is a matter of building an RTL-SDR based receiver (or other GNU Radio compatible SDR) with a small satellite dish and LNB.

The API was also updated and this has enabled a feature that allows you to upload a file of up to 10 kB via the internet, which will then be transmitted via the satellites to anyone who is running a Blockstream RTL-SDR satellite receiver. Payment for the transmission is taken via the Bitcoin Lightning Network and transmissions appear to work on a priority basis, with larger payments receiving higher priority. The file is distributed to all receivers, so they note that private messages would need to be encrypted with public keys distributed to recipients in other ways. This service is similar to what the Othernet (prev. Outernet) network offered in the past with the ability to transmit data, tweets and APRS messages over their satellite network. We think that cheap small data satellite transmissions could have some interesting applications in remote control.

In related news on CryptoNewsZ it has been reported that a bitcoin lightning network transaction was completed over the 20M amateur radio band. The transaction was completed with the JS8 digital mode, which is similar to FT8 but designed for weak signal usage. The message was sent via the help of twitter, with @eiaine first sending money to @nvk via the internet. @nvk then sent the Lightning Network invoice over 21 JS8 messages via the 20M band to @eiaine who received it, thus confirming that the transaction was completed.

DIY Software Defined Ham Transceiver With eBay Parts

YouTuber jmhrvy1947, has recently uploaded a number of videos giving an overview of how he built his own HF SDR transceiver using what he calls the “Lego build method”. The idea of the Lego build method was to build a transceiver with parts picked and pulled from eBay so that it could be easily reproduced by others. There are a few scratch made components however those designs are available on his GitHub page. The SDR only functions within about 100 kHz of spectrum at a time however for amateur radio HF work this is more than sufficient. Bare bones the radio puts out a mere 100 mW and although the output power is small, he’s made contacts up to 450 miles away using CW (Morse code). You also have the option of adding an amplifier on  your output if you are looking for more power than that. His final revision currently puts out 100 Watts.

Using modified versions of fldigi and Quisk he is able to easily work various digital modes and sync the transmitter and receiver together. The only real down side to this radio is that you must switch out your receive and transmit filters whenever you wish to operate on different bands, a process that really only takes a moment or two.

Check out his videos on the project – it’s really amazing to see what can be done with a small budget these days in radio and with how far software defined concepts have brought us.

DIY SDR CW Xcvr Project

In the video below you’ll see an explanation of the software involved in this build.

DIY SDR CW Software


Using Two PlutoSDR’s for Full Duplex Packet Radio Communications

Over on his channel SignalsEverywhere, Corrosive has uploaded a video showing us how we can create a full duplex packet radio communications system using two PlutoSDRs. Full duplex is the ability to transmit and receive at the same time. A single PlutoSDR is only half-duplex/simplex because it can only either receive or transmit at any one time. The PlutoSDR is a low cost (typically $99 - $149) RX/TX capable SDR with up to 56 MHz of bandwidth and 70 MHz to 6 GHz frequency range. 

On his video Corrosive explains how full duplex operation is desirable for amateur packet radio communications as it allows for faster and more continuous exchanges.  Demonstrations are performed with his PlutoSDR, SoundModem, EasyTerm, and SDRAngel. Later in the video he also speculates how it might be possible to do things like IP networks via the amateur radio bands with full duplex SDRs.

Full Duplex Radio Communication with PlutoSDR Tutorial

Reducing HF Electrical Noise by Using a Faraday Cage for Switch-Mode Power Supplies

Over on his blog, DXer OH2-2192 was frustrated by lots of local electrical noise showing up on the HF bands on his Airspy + Spyverter SDR receiver. He discovered that the majority of the noise he was seeing was coming from the switch mode power supplies that power the electronic devices used in his setup. Switch mode power supplies are very common in the modern world, with almost every electronic device using one to efficiently convert wall AC into DC power. However, they convert power by rapidly switching on and off, and these on/off square wave pulses cause a lot of RF noise especially on the HF spectrum.

Instead of changing to noise free linear regulators which are expensive, very heavy and big, OH2-2192 decided that he'd try creating a Faraday cage shield out of metal mesh to enclose all his switch-mode power supplies. Using a simple AM loop antenna and Airspy's Spectrum Spy software he measured the amount of noise produced by a switch-mode supply placed inside and outside of the cage. The results he saw were very promising with the shielded supply eliminating the noise almost entirely.

Faraday Cage Shield for Switch Mode Power Supplies
Faraday Cage Shield for Switch Mode Power Supplies (Right image shows the results of a switching supply placed outside and inside the Faraday cage)

Amateur Radio on the Es’hail-2 Satellite Explained on YouTube

Over on YouTube Tech Minds has posted a video explaining what Es'hail-2 satellite is and why it is interesting for hams and SDR users. Briefly Es'hail-2 is a recently launched geostationary TV satellite that covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia.

What's special about it is that apart from the TV transmitters, it also contains the worlds first amateur radio transponder in geostationary orbit. So amateur radio users within the region covered by the satellite can simply point their antennas to a fixed position in the sky to transmit to the satellite, and the signal will be rebroadcast over the entire covered area. With a simple LNB, satellite dish and SDR the signals can be received.

After explaining Es'hail-2 Tech Minds also shows a demo of Es'hail-2 radio traffic using a public WebSDR.

The Worlds First Geostationary Satellite For Ham Radio - Es'Hail 2 - Qatar OSCAR-100

RedPitaya Announces Pre-order for STEMLab HF SDR Transceiver

RedPitaya has just announced their next SDR platform, the STEMlab 122.88-16 which is a software defined radio intended to be used as an HF transceiver on the amateur radio bands.

The SDR is advertised to cover HF + 6m (50MHz) and includes two 16 bit 50 ohm input ADCs and two 14 bit outputs. Based on the Xililinx Zynq 7020 FPGA running an ARM cortex A9 processor it’s plenty powerful to handle the various modes frequently seen in the amateur bands and then some while supporting an impressive 122.88 MS/s sample rate.

The RedPitaya – 3D Rendering

This hardware is also fully compatible with the HPSDR software platform which is an open source project for amateur radio SDR operation.

While this radio is built with amateur operation in mind, it is still a very capable platform that could be used for experimentation albeit with a more restricted frequency range that what you may be used to with traditional software defined radios.

The radio retails for $499 euros and will be available for pre-order from RedPitaya until March 31st of 2019.