Category: Applications

RTLSDR-Airband V3 Released

Thanks to RTL-SDR.com reader Lee Donaghy for writing in and little us know that RTLSDR-Airband was recently updated to include SoapySDR support. This allows the software to now work with almost any SDR including the RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF, LimeSDR and more. They have also removed the 8-channels per device limitation and applied various bug fixes too. The full changelog is posted at the end of this post.

RTLSDR-Airband is a Linux based command line tool that allows you to simultaneously monitor multiple AM or FM channels per SDR within the same chunk of bandwidth. It is great for monitoring narrowband communications such as aircraft control and can be used to feed websites like liveatc.net, or for use with a Icecast server, or simply for continuously recording multiple channels to an MP3 file locally. It is also very useful for those running on low powered computing hardware who want software that uses less CPU power than a full GUI program like GQRX or CubicSDR.

Version 3.0.0 (Feb 10, 2018):

  • Major overhaul of the SDR input code - now it's modular and hardware-agnostic (no longer tightly coupled with librtlsdr).
  • Support for SoapySDR vendor-neutral SDR library - any SDR which has a plugin for SoapySDR shall now work in RTLSDR-Airband.
  • Support for Mirics DVB-T dongles via libmirisdr-4 library.
  • Support for RTLSDR is now optional and can be disabled at compilation stage.
  • Removed the 8-channels-per-device limit in multichannel mode.
  • Configurable per-device sampling rate.
  • Configurable FFT size.
  • Support for multibyte input samples.
  • Support for rawfile outputs (ie. writing raw I/Q data from a narrowband channel to a file for processing with other programs, line GNUradio or csdr).
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed rtlsdr_buffers global configuration option; buffer count can now be adjusted with a per-device "buffers" option.
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed syslog global configuration option; syslog logging is now enabled by default, both in foreground and background mode. To force logging to standard error, use -e command line option.
  • Added -F command line option for better cooperation with systemd. Runs the program in foreground, but without textual waterfalls. Together with -e it allows running rtl_airband as a service of type "simple" under systemd. Example rtl_airband.service file has been adjusted to reflect this change.
  • Added type device configuration option. It sets the device type (ie. the input driver which shall be used to talk to the device). "rtlsdr" is assumed as a default type for backward compatibility. If RTLSDR support has been disabled at compilation stage, then there is no default type - it must be set manually, or the program will throw an error on startup.
  • Frequencies in the config can now be expressed in Hz, kHz, MHz or GHz for improved readability.
  • Lots of bugfixes.
  • Rewritten documentation on Github Wiki.

SDR-Console V3 Beta Now Released: Console Server Now Available

SDR-Console V3 is the latest in the line of the free SDR-Console software packages from developed Simon Brown. Recently SDR-Console V3 left its 'preview' software status and moved into 'beta' production status. 

SDR-Console is a general purpose SDR program similar to other software like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRUno. SDR-Console V3 however sets itself apart by being one of the most feature rich packages with goodies like advanced DSP and NR options, frequency favorite lists, IQ recording and playback with reverse and fast forward, built in CW Skimmer and satellite tracker, independent receiver control with matrix view, signal history export, a recording scheduler, remote server and in the future support for SDRs with transmit capability.

SDRConsole V3 Beta Supported Radios
SDRConsole V3 Beta Supported Radios

One interesting feature released with the beta version is the SDR-Console server, which allows you to use an SDR remotely over a network such as a local LAN or over the internet. We tested the server on our local machine. After setting up the server account, adding an RTL-SDR radio definition and installing the server Windows service we were able to successfully connect and receive flawlessly. The server appears to limit the maximum bandwidth to 1 MHz.

SDR-Console and the server currently support multiple SDR hardware including the RTL-SDR. SDRplay have blogged about support for their line of RSP products too, and have also created a public internet connected RSP1A demo which anyone can connect to and use (assuming that you have a decent enough internet connection). A list of public Console V3 servers can be found by clicking on the 'SDR Space' button when adding a 'V3 server' radio definition in SDR-Console V3. Currently there are multiple locations and SDR hardware publically available including ELAD FDM-S1's, SDRplay units, Airspy HF+'s as well as RTL-SDR's. We tested a few remote servers and were able to easily connect to most of them and get good smooth throughput.

SDR-Console V3 can be downloaded here.

Current Console V3 Servers
Current Console V3 Servers

Below we show a screenshot of SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 receiving from a remote SDRplay RSP1A with multiple IF channels selected and with matrix view active on a second screen.

SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 Receiving Remote RSP1 in Matrix View
SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 Receiving Remote RSP1 in Matrix View

Also check out the post the swling.com blog did on the beta release to see an additional perspective and some example videos of SDR-Console V3 in action.

Video Tutorial: Setting up DMR Decoding with SDR#, DSD+ and an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user Tech Minds has uploaded a useful video which shows how to set up DMR decoding with SDR#, VB-Cable, DSD+ and an RTL-SDR dongle. He also uses the DSD plugin for SDR# which makes controlling the command line DSD+ software a little easier. If you are interested we also have a short tutorial on DMR/P25 decoding available here. The video starts from downloading and installing the software, and explains every step very carefully, so it is a very good starting video for beginners.

DMR (aka MotoTRBO or TRBO) is a digital voice protocol used by Motorola radios. Software like DSD+ is required to listen to it, but it can only listen in if the signal is unencrypted.

Tech Minds has also uploaded several other tutorial videos to his channel over the last few months including guides on how to set up the ham-it-up upconverter, ADS-B tracking, using a Raspberry Pi to create a FM transmitter and more.

Visual Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#

Thank you to Eddie MacDonald for submitting his new SDR# plugin to us via our forums. Eddie's plugin is called the 'Tuner Knob Plugin', and simply enables a visual tuner knob on the screen for adjusting the frequency. This plugin could be useful especially for those running SDR# on touchscreen tablets or laptops. To install the plugin copy the .dll file to the SDR# directory and copy and paste the magicline.txt into the plugins.xml file. We tested the plugin on our PC and found it to run well.

We have uploaded the plugin here for all to download.

Eddie writes about the plugin:

Programming the plugins is not so easy considering their is very little documentation and few examples on the net. There may be a few bugs I have not caught (but i hope i have caught them all.)

This DLL was compiled and tested on a Windows 7 x64 machine and the DLL is compiled for both x86 and x64 platforms. I have tested it on SDR# Version v1.0.0.1635

I am not certain which previous versions it may or may not run on. However, being built on the 4.6 .Net framework it should work with Win7 on.

I built this plugin because i got tired of holding down buttons and waiting for the frequency changes. I figured this was a simpler method (even though some people hate rotary style controls on windows) It works exceptionally well with a touch screen.

As previously mentioned in the forum post I created the 'remote' to test my programming for future plugins for DSP

While some may not find a use for the remote I made it this way for my wife who like to cruise the dial and just see what she can pick up.

Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#
Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#

Running a NAS, Torrentbox and ADS-B RTL-SDR Server all on the same Raspberry Pi 3

Most readers are familiar with the Raspberry Pi 3 and how it can be used with RTL-SDR applications such as ADS-B reception. However, one does not need to dedicate an entire Pi 3 to a single task as they are more than powerful enough to run multiple applications at once.

Over on his blog 'Radio for Everyone' Akos has uploaded a tutorial that shows how he set his Raspberry Pi 3 up as a simultaneous Network Attached Storage (NAS), Torrentbox  and ADS-B server. A NAS is simply a hard drive or other data storage device that can be accessed easily over a network instead of having to be connected directly to a PC. A torrentbox is a device such as a Raspberry Pi 3 running torrent software so that you can download torrent files 24/7 without needing a PC on all the time.

Akos' tutorial shows how to set everything up from scratch, starting from writing the Raspbian SD Card and connecting to it via SSH. He then goes on to show how to install the torrent software, set up the NAS and finally set up ADS-B reception.

Pi 3 as a NAS, torrentbox and ADS-B server.
Pi 3 as a NAS, torrentbox and ADS-B server.

Receiving Satellite TV Beacons with an RTL-SDR and LNB

Thank you to an anonymous contributor for sharing his experiences with trying to receive satellite TV beacons with his RTL-SDR. Satellite TV is typically up at 10.7 to 11.7 GHz which is far too high for an RTL-SDR to receive. So to receive these frequencies with the RTL-SDR he uses a satellite TV LNB (an LNB is essentially a downconverter and satellite dish feed), a DIY Bias T and a 90 cm dish. He writes:

Almost all television satellites have a special frequency for transmitting a beacon signal. The beacon signal is a reference signal with fixed frequency, power and [maybe] without modulation that is sent usually by satellites. One of the most important techniques used for satellite wave propagation studies is satellite beacon signal measurement. (http://eej.aut.ac.ir/article_433.html)

I used an universal LNB, DIY bias-T and a fixed 90cm dish pointed at 26 degrees East. By connecting 18 volts DC to LNB I am able to activate the 9750 Mhz local oscillator and horizontal operating mode of LNB.

Means that anything received with LNB between 10.7-11.7 GHz can be easily seen in 950-1950 MHz range, using RTL-SDR.

I used this set-up to receive the GEO satellites beacons. A list of beacon frequencies" http://frequencyplansatellites.altervista.org/Beacon-Telemetry_Europe-Africa-MiddleEast.html.

It is useful for measuring attenuation caused by heavy rain in Ku band or accurate dish positioning or even measuring frequency drift in LNB local oscillator caused by wind and temp change during a timespan.

It seems that the right signal is Eutelsat 21B and left Es'hail 1.

In picture 4 signal captured immediately after turning on LNB. but all others are captured after at least 5 hours of warming up.

MAYBE oscillator needs a stabilize time or temp change may caused the drift.

If you are interested in receiving these beacons, Daniel Estevez has also performed similar experiments with his RTL-SDR and an LNB as well, and has written about it on his blog.

Below we show some images of beacons shown in SDR# that the anonymous contributor received with his setup.

sattv_beacon_3
sattv_beacon_4
eutelsat-21b-beacon-zoomed-in
signal-drifted-after-1-hour-passed

RTLSDR-Airband V3 Released

Thanks to RTL-SDR.com reader Lee Donaghy for writing in and little us know that RTLSDR-Airband was recently updated to include SoapySDR support. This allows the software to now work with almost any SDR including the RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF, LimeSDR and more. They have also removed the 8-channels per device limitation and applied various bug fixes too. The full changelog is posted at the end of this post.

RTLSDR-Airband is a Linux based command line tool that allows you to simultaneously monitor multiple AM or FM channels per SDR within the same chunk of bandwidth. It is great for monitoring narrowband communications such as aircraft control and can be used to feed websites like liveatc.net, or for use with a Icecast server, or simply for continuously recording multiple channels to an MP3 file locally. It is also very useful for those running on low powered computing hardware who want software that uses less CPU power than a full GUI program like GQRX or CubicSDR.

Version 3.0.0 (Feb 10, 2018):

  • Major overhaul of the SDR input code - now it's modular and hardware-agnostic (no longer tightly coupled with librtlsdr).
  • Support for SoapySDR vendor-neutral SDR library - any SDR which has a plugin for SoapySDR shall now work in RTLSDR-Airband.
  • Support for Mirics DVB-T dongles via libmirisdr-4 library.
  • Support for RTLSDR is now optional and can be disabled at compilation stage.
  • Removed the 8-channels-per-device limit in multichannel mode.
  • Configurable per-device sampling rate.
  • Configurable FFT size.
  • Support for multibyte input samples.
  • Support for rawfile outputs (ie. writing raw I/Q data from a narrowband channel to a file for processing with other programs, line GNUradio or csdr).
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed rtlsdr_buffers global configuration option; buffer count can now be adjusted with a per-device "buffers" option.
  • INCOMPATIBLE CHANGE: removed syslog global configuration option; syslog logging is now enabled by default, both in foreground and background mode. To force logging to standard error, use -e command line option.
  • Added -F command line option for better cooperation with systemd. Runs the program in foreground, but without textual waterfalls. Together with -e it allows running rtl_airband as a service of type "simple" under systemd. Example rtl_airband.service file has been adjusted to reflect this change.
  • Added type device configuration option. It sets the device type (ie. the input driver which shall be used to talk to the device). "rtlsdr" is assumed as a default type for backward compatibility. If RTLSDR support has been disabled at compilation stage, then there is no default type - it must be set manually, or the program will throw an error on startup.
  • Frequencies in the config can now be expressed in Hz, kHz, MHz or GHz for improved readability.
  • Lots of bugfixes.
  • Rewritten documentation on Github Wiki.

SDR-Console V3 Beta Now Released: Console Server Now Available

SDR-Console V3 is the latest in the line of the free SDR-Console software packages from developed Simon Brown. Recently SDR-Console V3 left its 'preview' software status and moved into 'beta' production status. 

SDR-Console is a general purpose SDR program similar to other software like SDR#, HDSDR and SDRUno. SDR-Console V3 however sets itself apart by being one of the most feature rich packages with goodies like advanced DSP and NR options, frequency favorite lists, IQ recording and playback with reverse and fast forward, built in CW Skimmer and satellite tracker, independent receiver control with matrix view, signal history export, a recording scheduler, remote server and in the future support for SDRs with transmit capability.

SDRConsole V3 Beta Supported Radios
SDRConsole V3 Beta Supported Radios

One interesting feature released with the beta version is the SDR-Console server, which allows you to use an SDR remotely over a network such as a local LAN or over the internet. We tested the server on our local machine. After setting up the server account, adding an RTL-SDR radio definition and installing the server Windows service we were able to successfully connect and receive flawlessly. The server appears to limit the maximum bandwidth to 1 MHz.

SDR-Console and the server currently support multiple SDR hardware including the RTL-SDR. SDRplay have blogged about support for their line of RSP products too, and have also created a public internet connected RSP1A demo which anyone can connect to and use (assuming that you have a decent enough internet connection). A list of public Console V3 servers can be found by clicking on the 'SDR Space' button when adding a 'V3 server' radio definition in SDR-Console V3. Currently there are multiple locations and SDR hardware publically available including ELAD FDM-S1's, SDRplay units, Airspy HF+'s as well as RTL-SDR's. We tested a few remote servers and were able to easily connect to most of them and get good smooth throughput.

SDR-Console V3 can be downloaded here.

Current Console V3 Servers
Current Console V3 Servers

Below we show a screenshot of SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 receiving from a remote SDRplay RSP1A with multiple IF channels selected and with matrix view active on a second screen.

SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 Receiving Remote RSP1 in Matrix View
SDR-Console V3 Beta 1 Receiving Remote RSP1 in Matrix View

Also check out the post the swling.com blog did on the beta release to see an additional perspective and some example videos of SDR-Console V3 in action.

Video Tutorial: Setting up DMR Decoding with SDR#, DSD+ and an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user Tech Minds has uploaded a useful video which shows how to set up DMR decoding with SDR#, VB-Cable, DSD+ and an RTL-SDR dongle. He also uses the DSD plugin for SDR# which makes controlling the command line DSD+ software a little easier. If you are interested we also have a short tutorial on DMR/P25 decoding available here. The video starts from downloading and installing the software, and explains every step very carefully, so it is a very good starting video for beginners.

DMR (aka MotoTRBO or TRBO) is a digital voice protocol used by Motorola radios. Software like DSD+ is required to listen to it, but it can only listen in if the signal is unencrypted.

Tech Minds has also uploaded several other tutorial videos to his channel over the last few months including guides on how to set up the ham-it-up upconverter, ADS-B tracking, using a Raspberry Pi to create a FM transmitter and more.

Visual Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#

Thank you to Eddie MacDonald for submitting his new SDR# plugin to us via our forums. Eddie's plugin is called the 'Tuner Knob Plugin', and simply enables a visual tuner knob on the screen for adjusting the frequency. This plugin could be useful especially for those running SDR# on touchscreen tablets or laptops. To install the plugin copy the .dll file to the SDR# directory and copy and paste the magicline.txt into the plugins.xml file. We tested the plugin on our PC and found it to run well.

We have uploaded the plugin here for all to download.

Eddie writes about the plugin:

Programming the plugins is not so easy considering their is very little documentation and few examples on the net. There may be a few bugs I have not caught (but i hope i have caught them all.)

This DLL was compiled and tested on a Windows 7 x64 machine and the DLL is compiled for both x86 and x64 platforms. I have tested it on SDR# Version v1.0.0.1635

I am not certain which previous versions it may or may not run on. However, being built on the 4.6 .Net framework it should work with Win7 on.

I built this plugin because i got tired of holding down buttons and waiting for the frequency changes. I figured this was a simpler method (even though some people hate rotary style controls on windows) It works exceptionally well with a touch screen.

As previously mentioned in the forum post I created the 'remote' to test my programming for future plugins for DSP

While some may not find a use for the remote I made it this way for my wife who like to cruise the dial and just see what she can pick up.

Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#
Tuner Knob Plugin for SDR#

Running a NAS, Torrentbox and ADS-B RTL-SDR Server all on the same Raspberry Pi 3

Most readers are familiar with the Raspberry Pi 3 and how it can be used with RTL-SDR applications such as ADS-B reception. However, one does not need to dedicate an entire Pi 3 to a single task as they are more than powerful enough to run multiple applications at once.

Over on his blog 'Radio for Everyone' Akos has uploaded a tutorial that shows how he set his Raspberry Pi 3 up as a simultaneous Network Attached Storage (NAS), Torrentbox  and ADS-B server. A NAS is simply a hard drive or other data storage device that can be accessed easily over a network instead of having to be connected directly to a PC. A torrentbox is a device such as a Raspberry Pi 3 running torrent software so that you can download torrent files 24/7 without needing a PC on all the time.

Akos' tutorial shows how to set everything up from scratch, starting from writing the Raspbian SD Card and connecting to it via SSH. He then goes on to show how to install the torrent software, set up the NAS and finally set up ADS-B reception.

Pi 3 as a NAS, torrentbox and ADS-B server.
Pi 3 as a NAS, torrentbox and ADS-B server.

Receiving Satellite TV Beacons with an RTL-SDR and LNB

Thank you to an anonymous contributor for sharing his experiences with trying to receive satellite TV beacons with his RTL-SDR. Satellite TV is typically up at 10.7 to 11.7 GHz which is far too high for an RTL-SDR to receive. So to receive these frequencies with the RTL-SDR he uses a satellite TV LNB (an LNB is essentially a downconverter and satellite dish feed), a DIY Bias T and a 90 cm dish. He writes:

Almost all television satellites have a special frequency for transmitting a beacon signal. The beacon signal is a reference signal with fixed frequency, power and [maybe] without modulation that is sent usually by satellites. One of the most important techniques used for satellite wave propagation studies is satellite beacon signal measurement. (http://eej.aut.ac.ir/article_433.html)

I used an universal LNB, DIY bias-T and a fixed 90cm dish pointed at 26 degrees East. By connecting 18 volts DC to LNB I am able to activate the 9750 Mhz local oscillator and horizontal operating mode of LNB.

Means that anything received with LNB between 10.7-11.7 GHz can be easily seen in 950-1950 MHz range, using RTL-SDR.

I used this set-up to receive the GEO satellites beacons. A list of beacon frequencies" http://frequencyplansatellites.altervista.org/Beacon-Telemetry_Europe-Africa-MiddleEast.html.

It is useful for measuring attenuation caused by heavy rain in Ku band or accurate dish positioning or even measuring frequency drift in LNB local oscillator caused by wind and temp change during a timespan.

It seems that the right signal is Eutelsat 21B and left Es'hail 1.

In picture 4 signal captured immediately after turning on LNB. but all others are captured after at least 5 hours of warming up.

MAYBE oscillator needs a stabilize time or temp change may caused the drift.

If you are interested in receiving these beacons, Daniel Estevez has also performed similar experiments with his RTL-SDR and an LNB as well, and has written about it on his blog.

Below we show some images of beacons shown in SDR# that the anonymous contributor received with his setup.

sattv_beacon_3
sattv_beacon_4
eutelsat-21b-beacon-zoomed-in
signal-drifted-after-1-hour-passed

Improving HRPT Reception + A Free HRPT Decoder

Back in December Tysonpower showed us  how he was able to receive HRPT weather satellite images with a 80cm and 1.2m satellite dish, LNA and Airspy Mini. 

If you didn't already know, HRPT signals are a little different to the more commonly received NOAA APT or Meteor M2 LRPT images which most readers may be more familiar with. HRPT images are more difficult to receive as they are broadcast in the L-band at about 1.7 GHz and so receiving them requires a dish antenna (or high gain Yagi antenna), L-band dish feed, LNA and a high bandwidth SDR such as an Airspy Mini. The result is a high resolution and uncompressed image with several more color channels compared to APT and LRPT images.

In the last video Tysonpower was successful with receiving HRPT images with his setup. But recently over on his YouTube channel and on his blog Tysonpower has shown how he has improved his HRPT reception by first optimizing the feed and adding in a copper matching line which helps improve the impedance matching of the feed. He also added an L-Band filter tuned to the HRPT signal which he notes made the biggest improvement, and he also moved all the components into a watertight box for permanent outdoor mounting. With these changes he's now able to consistently pull in some very nice imagery. All the images are still received by hand tracking the satellite dish as the satellite passes over, but he notes that he plans to experiment with motorized trackers in the future.

Note that the video shown below is narrated in German, but English subtitles are provided if you turn on YouTube captions.

A sample HRPT image received by Tysonpower.
A sample HRPT image received by Tysonpower.

In addition to the above Tysonpower also writes that he has created a free HRPT decoder for the HRPT signals originating from NOAA satellites. He writes regarding HRPT decoders:

I found it quite complicated to find a decoder for HRPT when i started and there is still no one that you can just Download.

The only free Decoder is the gr-noaa example in gnu radio that has a depricated wx GUI and uses a input from a specific SDR. I used that gr-noaa example and created a decoder that uses the modern QT GUI and has a clean interface. You just put in a wav IQ file from SDR# for example and it will decode the Data into the file you entered. It is not the best one out there in form of signal processing, but a good start i would say.

The decoder can be downloaded from tynet.eu/hrpt-decoder. Below is a second YouTube video where Tysonpower explains how to use the decoder.

OpenWebRX now Supports the Airspy HF+

Thanks to Stefan Dambeck for letting us know that there is now a fork of libairspyhf made by DL9RDZ which contains an adapted version of airspyhf_rx (the raw IQ generator). This enables the Airspy HF+ to be easily integrated into OpenWebRX.

If you weren't aware, OpenWebRX is a browser based SDR interface and server software that allows an SDR to be used by multiple people at the same time over the internet. It performs audio demodulation and compression on the server side allowing for very low and efficient network usage.  In this way it is different to Airspy official server solution SpyServer which sends the IQ data over the network. So an OpenWebRX server uses significantly less network bandwidth and might be more suitable for those on slower or capped internet connections.

At the moment we're not seeing any public HF+ servers available on the OpenWebRX database at sdr.hu, but this may change in the future.

Airspy HF+ Running on the OpenWebRX Web Browser Interface
Airspy HF+ Running on the OpenWebRX Web Browser Interface