Category: Applications

SatDump V1.1.4 Released

SatDump is a popular program used to receive and decode images and other data from various weather satellites. SatDump works great RTL-SDR Blog dongles and with our Discovery Dish, an easy to use dish and feed for receiving L-band and other weather satellites. Recently the aiuthor of SatDump released version 1.1.4 which brings several new features including:

  • Autotrack/Scheduler improvements - multi mode has been added which allows all pipelines to run, even if more than one satellite is overhead at the same time. This is useful for NOAA and METEOR satellites at 137 MHz as there can often be more than one active satellite broadcasting images at different frequencies during a pass.
  • TUBIN Raw/Video Mode
  • ESA Cluster support
  • Additional Pipelines - Including Peregine X-Band TLM, the IM-1 Moon Mission and PRETTY S-band dump.
  • Themes - Choose between Dark, Light, Phosphor and Win98 themes.
  • Android Improvements - Blog V4 support added on Android, OpenCL support added.
  • Added composites - Various composite image products added to various satellites. Including Fog, panchromatic, ice detecting and more.
  • Other Features - support for M1 Mac builds added and various other fixes.
  • Bug Fixes - Memory leaks fixed and various bug fixes including a bug that caused problems with RTL-SDR devices on low power hardware like Raspberry Pi's and Orange Pi's.

If you enjoy SatDump consider donating to the main author at ko-fi.com/aang23.

SatDump Multi-Mode Feature. Receiving data from multiple 137 MHz satellites at the same time.

WarDragon Passive Radar with Blah2 and ADS-B Delay-Doppler Truth

Over on his YouTube channel, Aaron, creator of DragonOS and the WarDragon kit has uploaded a video showing the Blah2 passive radar software working with an SDRplay RSPDuo. In the video Aaron shows some setup steps before showing the passive radar range-doppler graph.

Blah2 is passive radar software that appears to be inspired by the KrakenSDR passive software that was removed for regulatory reasons. We note that it is legal for others to publish open source passive radar software, but KrakenSDR cannot legally publish their own open source passive radar software because it would be tied to their own physical product. Providing code would mean they essentially sell an off the shelf passive radar product which is restricted.

The notes in Blah2 specifiy that it currently only supports the SDRplay RSPduo and USRP devices, but in the future they are looking to add support for the KrakenSDR and modified RTL-SDR and HackRF hardware.

Aaron also briefly demonstrated the related adsbdd software, from the same author as Blah2. This software allows a user to convert ADS-B data to delay-doppler truth. Essentially allowing you to confirm is an aircraft position determined via ADS-B is on the range-doppler ellipse determined via passive radar. In the future the author hopes to be able to plot all aircraft in a 2D delay-doppler space graph. 

WarDragon Passive Radar Setup + Test w/ Open Source Code (RSPDUO, RTLSDR, Blah2)

Windows Binary of GQRX Released

Gqrx has long been one of the most commonly used pieces of software defined radio software for Linux and MacOS. However, it has never had a Windows release until just two days ago when the team released an experimental Windows binary.

We gave the new Windows binary a test with our RTL-SDR Blog V4 and everything works just fine. If you want to give it a go, just be aware that Chrome and many antivirus programs will flag the zip as suspicious. However, this is just a false positive, since this is the first release and the file doesn't have a long history on the web.

To download it, go to the Gqrx releases page on Github, and download the latest Gqrx-2.17.4-Windows.zip file from under Assets.

GQRX now on Windows
GQRX now on Windows

Canada Moves to Ban Flipper Zero and Possibly Software Defined Radios

Dominic LeBlanc, Canada's Minister of Public safety has recently declared that they plan to ban devices "used to steal vehicles by copying the wireless signals for remote keyless entry, such as the Flipper Zero". The text specifically calls out the Flipper Zero, however the wording appears to imply that any device that can copy a signal will be banned. This means the ban could extend to RX/TX SDRs like the HackRF and possibly even RX only SDRs like RTL-SDRs.

The Flipper Zero is an affordable handheld RF device for pentesters and hackers. It is not based on SDR technology, however it uses a CC1101 chip, a digitally controlled RX/TX radio that is capable of demodulating and modulating many common digital modulations such as OOK/ASK/FSK/GFSK/MSK at frequencies below 1 GHz. There are many CC1101 devices on the market, but the Flipper Zero has gained huge popularity on social media because of it's excellent software support, as well as its cute marketing tactic. In the past it was even featured on the popular Linus Tech Tips YouTube channel.

Flipper Zero has had a long line of setbacks including PayPal freezing 1.3M of its cash, and US customs temporarily seizing its shipments, then passing a $70,000 bill on to them for storage fees and Amazon banning the product on their marketplace.

In our opinion, we believe that the ban appears to be misguided. The Flipper Zero is a basic device that can only perform a simple replay attack, which is to record a signal, and replay it at a later time. These sorts of attacks do not work on vehicles built after the 90's which now use rolling codes or more sophisticated security measures. To defeat rolling code security, a more sophisticated attack called Rolljam can be used. A Rolljam device can be built for $30 out of an Arduino and two cheap transceiver modules.

However, according to arstechnica the biggest cause for concern in terms of car theft is a different sort of attack called "signal amplification relay".

The most prevalent form of electronics-assisted car theft these days, for instance, uses what are known as signal amplification relay devices against keyless ignition and entry systems. This form of hack works by holding one device near a key fob and a second device near the vehicle the fob works with. In the most typical scenario, the fob is located on a shelf near a locked front door, and the car is several dozen feet away in a driveway. By placing one device near the front door and another one next to the car, the hack beams the radio signals necessary to unlock and start the device.

This sort of attack is a lot less sophisticated in many ways as all you are doing is amplifying a signal, and no clever hardware like the Flipper Zero or a software defined radio is even required. The X video below demonstrates such a hack where a criminal holds up a loop antenna to a house. The loop antenna is connected to a signal amplifier which amplifies the keyfob signal, tricking the car into thinking the keyfob is nearby, and allowing the door to be unlocked by touching the handle, and then turned on with the push to start button.

Flipper zero note that they have not been consulted about the ban, and replied on X stating that they are not aware of the Flipper Zero being used for car theft.

A Low Cost P25 Police Scanner with RTL-SDR, Raspberry Pi 5 and SDRTrunk

Thank you to Mike for writing in and sharing with us his video detailing how he makes use of a Raspberry Pi 5, touch LCD Screen and RTL-SDR to create a portable and low cost P25 police scanner. Mike notes that the cost of his system is $250, which is a lot cheaper than a comparable $600 P25 scanner. 

Here is my latest weekend project; a Raspberry Pi 5 with an RTL-SDR dongle running SDRTrunk software. It is configured to listen to the local LAPD channels and runs great! The chip gets a bit hot so I think I need to add a fan.

Building a $600 P25 Police Scanner for $250!!! (SDR-Pi)

FOSDEM 2024 Videos now Available: Synthetic Aperture WiFi RADAR, GPU DSP Acceleration and more

FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Developer’s Meeting) is a yearly conference that took place in Brussels, Belgium on 3 - 4 February 2024. This conference featured a room on Software Defined Radio and Amateur Radio.

Recently the videos of most the talks have been uploaded to their website. Some interesting talks include:

Covert Ground Based Synthetic Aperture RADAR using a WiFi emitter and SDR receiver

Link to Talk Page

Using a WiFi emitter as radiofrequency source illuminating a scene under investigation for slow movement (e.g. landslides), a Ground-Based Synthetic Aperture RADAR (GB-SAR) is assembled using commercial, off the shelf hardware. The dual-channel coherent Software Defined Radio (SDR) receiver records the non-cooperative emitter signal as well as the signal received by a surveillance antenna facing the scene. Spatial diversity for azimuth mapping using direction of arrival measurement is achieved by moving the transmitter and receiver setup on a rail along a meter-long path -- the longer the better the azimuth resolution -- with quarter wavelength steps. The fully embedded application runs on a Raspberry Pi 4 single board computer executing GNU Radio on a Buildroot-generated GNU/Linux operating system. All development files are available at https://github.com/jmfriedt/SDR-GB-SAR/

Synthetic Aperture RADAR with WiFi and USRP SDR

Using GPU for real-time SDR Signal processing

Link to Talk Page

GPU processors have become essential for image or AI processing. Can they bring anything to real-time signal processing for SDR applications? The answer is yes, of course, but not all classic algorithms (FIR, DDC, etc.) can be used "as is", sometimes a different approach must be taken. In this presentation, I will share the solutions that I implemented to achieve multi-channel DDC on NVIDIA Jetson GPU and will make a comparison with "classic CPU" approaches.

Using GPU's for Real Time Signal Processing

Maia SDR: an open-source FPGA-based project for AD936x+Zynq radios

Link to Talk Page

Maia SDR is an open-source project with the main goal of promoting FPGA development for SDR and increasing the collaboration between the open-source SDR and FPGA communities. Currently it provides a firmware image for the ADALM Pluto and other radios based on the AD936x and Zynq. This firmware can display a real-time waterfall at up to 61.44 Msps in a WebSDR-like interface using WebGL2 rendering, and record IQ data in SigMF format in the SDR DDR. The FPGA design is implemented in Amaranth, an Python-based HDL, and the software stack is implemented in Rust, targetting the embedded ARM CPU and WebAssembly.

The first firmware version was released in February 2023, and the project was presented in June in the Software Defined Radio Academy. In this talk we cover the progress since the summer, including the addition of support for devices such as the Pluto+ and AntSDR. We focus on the technical details of the project and the possibilities for re-using some of the components in other projects.

Maia SDR

DAPNET: Bringing pagers back to the 21st Century

Link to Talk Page

When talking about pagers, most of us will think about an object of the past, often seen in TV shows from the 90s, used by medical staff and businessmen. However, they're an interesting way to get simple data broadcast over amateur radio frequencies, with receivers that can be built for less than 20€. We'll explore this and understand how an extensive network can be deployed with simple equipment and using open source hardware and software.

DAPNET Talk

A KrakenSDR to TAK Interface Converter

Thank you to RTL-SDR.COM reader Aaron, who recently found a Kraken-to-TAK converter made by "SignalMedic" and "dngrssgnls" which converts the KrakenSDR bearing output data to "Cursor on Target" (COT) or XML format, allowing common TAK interfaces to read and display the data. Currently the converter allows a line of bearing to be displayed in a TAK app, with arbitrary length. The converter consists of a single json file for Node Red. The GitHub readme reads:

Convert data from a Kraken SDR to TAK endpoints

The software will parse information collected by Kraken, convert to COT and XML and send to common TAK interfaces. The length of the line is arbitrary. The line is 6km long, but has no correlation besides bearing to the transmitter. Intersecting bearing lines are necessary for determining the geolocation of a transmitter.

Planned improvements include:

  • Button for persisting the current line and generating a new UID
  • Work on filtering out by DOA Angle node
  • Dashboard for easier updating of Kraken and TAK endpoints
  • Simplified deployment

We note that most TAK apps may be a little limited for direction finding purposes as they cannot calculate bearing intersections over time, or calculate a bearing grid like the KrakenSDR Android app, and KrakenSDR online web mapper does. However, often a single line of bearing is enough information, especially if there are multiple distributed units contributing bearing data.

If you weren't already aware, KrakenSDR is our 5-channel coherent radio based on RTL-SDRs, and it can be used for applications like radio direction finding. It can be purchased on Crowd Supply.

TAK (Tactical Assault Kit) is software used by the military and other organizations for visualizing geospatial information such as enemy and friendly positions. Civilian versions of TAK also exist, such as ATAK for Android. Previously we posted about how ATAK has the ability to plot aircraft positions via an RTL-SDR receiving ADS-B.

KrakenSDR bearing data displayed on a TAK app.

Multiple Comprehensive Tutorials on Weather Satellite Decoding

Over on his website "Jacopo's Lair" IU1QPR (@original_lego11) who is also a developer for SatDump has written up many tutorials about weather satellite decoding that involve the use of SatDump. SatDump is a popular piece of software often used with RTL-SDRs and other low cost SDRs for decoding weather satellite images.

With a small satellite dish, feed, RTL-SDR and LNA+filter and the SatDump software it's possible and download beautiful images of the earth from many geostationary and polar orbiting weather satellites. We note that we are currently taking pre-orders on Crowd Supply for our Discovery Dish system, which is low cost hardware designed to help users get started with weather satellite reception.

Over on Reddit IU1QPR has created a listed summary of all the tutorials he's written. These are currently the most up to date and comprehensive tutorials that we have found on this topic. The tutorials cover everything from what satellites are available, what dish sizes you need, what SDRs can be used, what LNA+filter and other hardware you need, and how to use the SatDump software.

Satellite reception and decoding

Automated stations

SatDump usage

All have been moved to SatDump's documentation page

Satellite data processing and usage

From the HRPT tutorial: What various HRPT signals look like on the spectrum.
From IU1QPR's HRPT tutorial: What various HRPT signals look like on the spectrum.