Category: Digital Signals

An Introduction to Radio Trunking Systems with a Focus on P25 and SDR Trunk

Thank you to Carl Makin (VK1KCM) for submitting a video that he produced for his local ham radio club in Australia. In the video Carl first gives an overview on radio trunking systems and explains why they are used to improve spectrum efficiency.

He goes on to focus solely on P25 digital voice trunking networks. Carl is based in NSW, Australia so he talks a bit about what P25 services are available in his area and which ones are unencrypted. Finally he demonstrates the SDR Trunk software decoding one of his local P25 networks with two RTL-SDR dongles, and explains what information we can see in the software.

Carl VK1KCM on P25 Trunked

TechMinds: How to Track Weather Balloons Using SDR

In his latest video Tech Minds has uploaded a video showing how to use an SDR to receive transmissions from radiosondes carried by weather balloons. Every day meteorological agencies around the world launch weather balloons several times a day. Each balloon carries a device called a radiosonde which continuously transmits weather telemetry to a ground station. With an SDR, antenna and free software it's possible to decode these radiosonde signals yourself from home.

In the video Tech Minds uses an RSPdx, SDRuno, VBCable and the RS41 Tracker software to receive telemetry from an RS-41 radiosonde launched in his area. We note that an RTL-SDR and SDR# could also be used. He shows the various bits of weather information available from the telemetry including information like temperature, pressure, humidity and the dew point. GPS and hardware status data is also available. Finally he shows how to view the balloon's flight path in Google Earth.

How To Track Weather Balloons Using SDR

DSD (Open Source) with dPMR Decoding and Windows Binaries Released

Digital Speech Decoder (DSD) is an open source program for decoding signals containing digital speech, such as DMR and P25. The open source version has been mostly surpassed in use over the last few years by the closed source DSD+ version. However, work is still ongoing on the open source version, and a recent fork by Louis-Erig HERVE @LouisErigHerve has added support for Digital Private Mobile Radio (dPMR) decoding.

dPMR is an open, non-proprietary trunked radio standard that supports both data and digital voice transmission. A licence free variation for short range communications called dPMR466 uses the 446.1–446.2 MHz band. Other modes allow for efficient peer to peer to peer operation (mode 1), operation with a base station repeater (mode 2), or with a trunking signal (mode 3).  All dPMR signals operate in FDMA mode with an efficient bandwidth of only 6.25 kHz. dPMR is also known as Icom IDAS and Kenwood NEXEDGE.

Code for Louis-Erig's DSD fork can be found on his GitHub, and he has also released binaries for Windows on his website. Over on his Twitter he has also been mentioning that he has been able to get around the basic privacy modes on DMR.

dPMR radios, data stations and repeater hardware.
dPMR radios, data stations and repeater hardware.

DragonOS: DSP and Signal Analysis with Composable-SDR, Inspectrum and an RTL-SDR

DragonOS is a ready to use Linux OS image that includes various SDR programs preinstalled. The creator Aaron also runs a YouTube channel that contains multiple tutorial videos for DragonOS

One of the latest videos shows us how to use composable-sdr and Inspectrum to capture and analyze signals. Both programs are pre-built into the latest version of DragonOS. Composable-sdr is a set of DSP processing blocks for SDRs embedded in Haskell. One thing it does well is allowing users to easily capture and record demodulated signals for later use via the terminal. Inspectrum is a tool for analysing and reverse engineering signals that have been recorded.

In the video Aaron explores many of the composable-sdr examples discussed on it's GitHub readme page. Including analyzing a wav file recorded with Composable-sdr with Inspectrum and demodulating and recording a wideband FM signal. He also mentions how it's possible to create a PMR446 scanner that records up to 16 channels at once, and how decode helicopter FSK data from audio heard on YouTube (which we mentioned in a previous post).

DragonOS LTS DSP and signal analysis with Composable-SDR + Inspectrum (RTL-SDR)

Tech Minds: Testing the OpenEar DMR TETRA ADSB POCSAG Decoder for RTL-SDR

Back in March we posted about the release of OpenEar, a standalone TETRA decoder for the RTL-SDR. Since then OpenEar has undergone massive developments, not only improving upon the TETRA decoder, but adding DMR, ADS-B and POCSAG decoders as well as a waterfall display.

Recently Tech Minds reviewed this software on his YouTube channel. In the video he shows how to download the software, install the rtlsdr.dll file, and run and use the software. He then demonstrates reception of an amateur radio DMR repeater, reception of POCSAG pager messages and finally reception of ADS-B aircraft messages.

OpenEar Digital Decoder - DMR TETRA P25 ADSB POCSAG RTL-SDR

Tech Minds: Decoding GMDSS Maritime Distress Messages

In a recent YouTube video Tech Minds shows how to decode GMDSS (Global Maritime Distress and Safety System) messages which are broadcast on MW and HF. In the video he explains the DSC (Digital Selective Calling) which allows calls to be made to individual ships, a group or all stations. He goes on to demonstrate the YADD GMDSS DSC decoder running via the HF audio piped in from SDRUno and received with an SDRPlay RSPdx.

How To Decode Maritime Distress Messages GMDSS DSC

TETRA-Kit: A New Open Source TETRA Decoder

Thank you to Larry for submitting information about his latest project called TETRA-Kit. TETRA-Kit is an extensible open source TETRA downlink decoder for Linux that makes use of GNU Radio as the first stage, so it should be compatible with any SDR supported by GNU Radio, including the RTL-SDR. Larry writes:

[TETRA-Kit] is inspired by a lot of existing stuff (see 'Previous work' in the project page) but started from scratch with those following ideas:

  • Stays as close as possible to TETRA specification layers defined in ETSI EN 300 392-2 v3.4.1 (2010-08)
  • Transmit downlink informations (including speech frames) in Json plain text format to be recorded or analyzed by an external program
  • Reassociate speech frames with a simple method based on associated caller id and usage marker (save messages transmitted simultaneously in separated files)
  • KISS

The decoder implements a soft synchronizer allowing missing frames (50 bursts) before loosing synchronization.

It consists in 3 parts:

  • A physical layer transforming PI/4 DQPSK rf signal to bits (RF frontend is NESDR at 2MBPS)
  • A decoder, which is the actual TETRA stack reading bits and transforming it to Json text
  • A recorder, which read Json stack output and reorder speech frames into separate files

The ETSI codec is also provided so unencrypted speech can be played.

Software is written in C++ and licensed under GPLv3 and use few external softwares with compatible licensing.

TETRA is a type of digital voice and trunked radio communications system that stands for “Terrestrial Trunked Radio”. It is used in many parts of the world, but not in the USA.

TETRA-Kit Screenshot
TETRA-Kit Screenshot

Techminds: Testing out the new Plugins Feature on SDRuno V1.4 RC1

Earlier in the month SDRplay released SDRuno V1.4 RC1. This is a beta version that amongst other changes now has the capability to run "plugins". Plugins allow developers to easily create modules that extend the functionality of the SDRUno software. For example right now there is a plugin included with V1.4 RC1 that allows users to listen to DAB audio. Up until recently plugin functionality has only been available in Airspy's SDR# software, so it's good to see SDRuno finally including this feature too.

Over on the Techminds YouTube channel Matthew has uploaded a short video where he tests out the new plugins feature. First he tests out the DAB decoder, noting that the CoreAAC codec needs to be installed first separately. Later he tests the second plugin which is an audio recorder that allows users to record audio to MP3.

SDRPlay SDRuno Plugins Feature - NEW!