Category: Digital Signals

Decoding EMWIN Weather Information VHF Rebroadcasts with an RTL-SDR

EMWIN is an acronym for Emergency Managers Weather Information Network, and is a service for emergency managers that provides weather forecasts, warnings, graphics and other information in real time. EMWIN is broadcast from geostationary NOAA GOES satellites, and if you have a GOES SDR receiver setup it is possible to receive and decode EMWIN data.

However, if you don't want to set up a GOES receiver, KD9IXX writes on his blog how he investigated EMWIN and found that 24/7 dedicated EMWIN VHF repeaters are common around the US. Having found an EMWIN repeater in his area at 163.37 MHz he used the TrueTTY decoder and was able to successfully decode the 1200 baud 8-bit ASCII encoded signal and receive weather text information. He notes that VHF EMWIN is an excellent source of non-internet based weather data that could be useful to anyone requiring weather data in emergency circumstances.

EMWIN VHF Repeater Decoded with TrueTTY
EMWIN VHF Repeater Decoded with TrueTTY

Creating a DAB+ Radio Station with a LimeSDR

Thank you to Godrey L for submitting his article/tutorial that shows us how to broadcast a DAB/DAB+ radio station using a LimeSDR and ODR-mmbTools. The LimeSDR Mini is a US$159 12-bit TX/RX capable SDR that can tune between 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, with a maximum bandwidth of up to 30.72 MHz. ODR-mmbTools is an open source DAB transmission chain which is compatible with USRP and LimeSDR SDRs.

DAB stands for Digital Audio Broadcast and is a digital broadcast radio signal that is available in many countries outside of the USA. The digital signal encodes several radio stations, and it is considered a modern alternative/replacement for standard analog broadcast FM.

The tutorial is split into four parts. The first part simply explains what SDRs are and in particular discusses the LimeSDR and how it can be used with ODR-mmbTools. Part two discusses what hardware you need, and explains what each component of the ODR-mmbTools software does. Part three gets into the actual setup of the software on Linux. Part four finishes with actually transmitting the signal and decoding it with an RTL-SDR and the Welle.io DAB decoder.

The end result is a DAB radio station with three stations being broadcast.

LimeSDR Transmitting 3 DAB stations, and receiving it with an RTL-SDR and Welle.io.
LimeSDR Transmitting 3 DAB stations, and receiving it with an RTL-SDR and Welle.io.

Scanner School Podcast Talks SDR Topics with Signals Everywhere Host

Recently Scanner School released episode 70 of their podcast, and on this episode they talk about various SDR topics with Corrosive from the Signals Everywhere YouTube channel. If you follow out blog, you'll know that Corrosive is a YouTuber that is consistently putting out high quality YouTube videos on a range of SDR and other radio related topics.

Scanner School is an online workshop that aims to help you get setup with an RTL-SDR based DMR/NXDN/P25 trunking system in four classes. They also have a weekly podcast. The description of this weeks podcast with Corrosive reads:

Corrosive has been working on his YouTube channel for about 4 years, and has a ton of videos on the SDR topic. If there is something that I am looking a trying when it comes to SDR, the first place I look is on Corrosive's channel.

Today we talk about some advanced SDR topics, both for receiving and transmitting.

While we talk about the more advanced topics of SDR today, I know we all have to start somewhere. If you are looking for online training to help you get started with SDR, check out our new Intro to SDR Workshop. This course will guide you though purchasing an excellent and affordable SDR to get started with.

Additionally, we will turn this SDR into a DMR, P25, and NXDN trunked receiver that can do more than your expensive scanner.


Help Support RadioCapture – A Project that Records Entire Trunked Radio Systems and Provides Online Access to Audio

RadioCapture.com is a website run by Matt Mills that is capable of automatically capturing trunked radio communications from various agencies such as the emergency services and creating publicly accessible historical and live logs of the audio. This is a concept different to radio scanner streams, as all audio is logged and historical audio can be accessed easily at any time.

The system is based on SDR hardware such as the RTL-SDR. Currently Matt runs a receiver in Denver and captures Denver PD which can be listened to on the site without needing to log in. Once logged in (registration is free), other talkgroups available include various agencies in Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

RadioCapture.com currently available Talkgroups being logged
RadioCapture.com: Currently available talkgroups being logged

Recently Matt has put a call out for people to help support the site via Patreon. He notes that RadioCapture is currently run as a hobby, but with monetary support he hopes to be able to expand the site into a business and have receivers listening and uploading worldwide. He writes:

Hey! Thanks for supporting the continued operation and development of Radiocapture.com. This is a hobby project I've been working on this since late 2011. I'd like to turn it into a real business with your help.

Radiocapture.com is a software defined radio system I built that captures entire trunked radio systems. It demodulates and captures every call on every channel of one, or many systems.

A single RadioCapture server can capture hundreds of simultaneous voice transmissions and a bunch of sites, additionally it's designed in such a way that it can run across multiple computers. My biggest RF site uses 3 machines to capture 19 P25 systems, and easily hits more than 100 active voice channels recordings simultaneously every day.

Matt has also noted that if the site is able to become self-sustaining via Patreon, he hopes to also be able to bring out a RadioCapture kit consisting of 10-16 RTL-SDR dongles, hubs and cables which would allow anyone to easily capture and upload almost all trunked communications from their area. He also notes that at the time of writing:

RadioCapture has 701790271 unique recordings of 503779875 unique transmissions (some calls get captured on multiple transmitters) from the 21 systems that have been captured

If you're interested in talking to Matt about the site, you can also join his Rocket.Chat room at radiocapture.chat.

RadioCapture logged audio
RadioCapture playing logged audio

SignalsEverywhere: Setting Up Priority and Groups in DSDPlus Fastlane

In his last video, Corrosive from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel showed us a quick guide on setting up a Phase 1 P25 digital voice decoder with two RTL-SDR dongles and the DSDPlus Fastlane decoder.

Now in his latest video Corrosive continues with the DSDPlus tutorial and this time explains how to set up priority and groups. On a trunked radio system there may be many different agencies using the same system simultaneously. Without priorities and groups, you would be listening to all communications in the system, and following a conversation within a particular agency would be difficult. Setting up priorities and groups allows you to filter out the conversations that you are not interested in, allowing you to focus on listening in to a particular agency only.

RTL SDR Digital Radio Scanning Priority and Groups With DSDPlus Fastlane Setup Tutorial

SignalsEverywhere: Using DSDPlus Fastlane for Listening to Phase 1 P25 Trunking

DSDPlus is a popular piece of software often used with RTL-SDR dongles to listen to unencrypted digital voice signals such as P25 and DMR. Digital voice is now commonly used by many Police and emergency services as well as business radio. DSDPlus fastlane is DSD's paid upgrade which allows subscribers to access to the latest releases of DSDPlus early.

Over on the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel, Corrosive has uploaded a quick video guide that shows how to use DSDPlus Fastlane and two RTL-SDR dongles to set up a Phase 1 P25 voice decoder that automatically follows a P25 trunking channel. The basic process involves running two FMP instances which is a program in the DSDPlus suite that connects to the RTL-SDR's and receives the signal. One DSDPlus instance monitors the trunking channel, and this tunes the second FMP+DSD instance to the frequency currently active in the trunking system.

Corrosive also explains how people who are subscribed to RadioReference can download pre-populated data files that will allow the DSDPlus event log to display talkgroup information so that you can see who is talking to who.

Digital Radio Scanning With DSDPlus Setup Fastlane | Tracking Phase 1 P25 Trunking System Tutorial

A Worldwide Map for HRPT Weather Satellite Receive Stations

Recently Manuel (DO5TY aka Tysonpower from YouTube) wrote in and wanted to share his website that shows HRPT weather satellite receive stations from around the world on a map, and links to their Twitter pages where you can see the latest images that have been uploaded. The database also describes the SDR and antenna equipment used by each station. Currently there are 10 stations on the map, and Manuel encourages other people to submit their stations to the map database too. If you are interested in contributing your station to the map, please see Manuel's blog post for more information.

Since the satellite broadcasts a live image of what is currently being seen by the weather camera, each receiver location receives a live view of their part of the earth only. The end goal of Manuel's HRPT station map is to crowd source and collect multiple images of different parts of the earth to create a large HRPT composite image. In a previous post, Manuel who is based in Germany was able to create a beautiful composite image covering Germany, the Atlantic Ocean and Canada with the help of a station in Canada. With more contributors larger and more complete composite images of the Earth could be created.

HRPT is a high resolution weather satellite image signal that is broadcast from the same NOAA satellites that provide the more commonly received low resolution APT images at 137 MHz. HRPT is also broadcast from the Feng Yun and Metop-A satellites. However, HRPT transmits at 1.7 GHz, so a high gain dish antenna with motorized tracking mount, LNA and high bandwidth SDR like an Airspy is required to receive it.

HRPT Station Map
HRPT Station Map

YouTube Tutorial: Decoding POCSAG and FLEX Pager Messages on Windows with PDW

Pager systems are famously known to be insecure, and due to the lack of encryption and high transmit power anyone with an RTL-SDR or other SDR can receive and decode pager messages. The users of pagers are mostly hospitals and doctors, and IT infrastructure professionals who need to be notified of server warnings and errors quickly. We have a text tutorial on decoding these messages with an RTL-SDR available here, and there are several previous posts discussing how insecure they are. 

If you prefer a video tutorial, M6LME on YouTube has recently uploaded one where he explains the PDW pager decoding software, the VB-Audio 'banana' audio mixing software, and how to use SDR-Console with an RTL-SDR and the aforementioned software to receive and decode the signal.

How to Decode POCSAG & FLEX using an RTL-SDR Dongle