Thank you to Tomasz Lemiech for writing in and sharing with us the release of his new software "dumphfdl". Tomasz is the author of dumpvdl2 and also maintains RTLSDR-Airband. Regarding dumphfdl Tomasz writes:
dumphfdl is a multichannel HFDL decoder for Linux. HFDL (High Frequency Data Link) is a protocol used for radio communications between aircraft and a network of ground stations using high frequency (HF) radio waves. Thanks to the ability of short waves to propagate over long distances, HFDL is particularly useful in remote areas (eg. over oceans or polar regions) where other ground-based communications services are out of range. While many aircraft carriers prefer satellite communications these days, HFDL is still operational and in use.
Available HFDL decoding applications typically run on Windows and take an audio signal on input. The signal has to be delivered to the decoder via a physical cable from an external shortwave receiver or via a virtual cable from an SDR. This makes these apps inherently single-channel. This shortcoming does not apply to dumphfdl which interfaces directly with the SDR, so no pipes or virtual audio cables are needed. The program can decode multiple HFDL channels simultaneously, up to available CPU power and SDR bandwidth (there is no fixed channel count limit).
dumphfdl uses SoapySDR library (https://github.com/pothosware/SoapySDR) to communicate with the radio. Any HF-capable receiver for which a SoapySDR driver exists, should work. I have tested it briefly with an RTL-SDR v3 dongle in direct sampling mode. While I had a bit of a success with it, HFDL signals are often quite weak, so a real HF radio (like SDRPlay RSP1A or Airspy HF+) gives much better results (more decoded messages).
The program may log decoded messages to a file or send them over the network for external processing and storage.
HFDL messages often contain diagnostic data accompanied with aircraft position information. The program may extract this data from decoded messages and provide a positional data feed for external plane tracking apps (eg. Virtual Radar Server). An example screenshot from VRS is attached - taken after about 2 hours of decoding eight HFDL channels spread across three HFDL subbands: 6.6, 8.9, and 10.0 MHz with two dumphfdl instances on two radios - RSP1A and Airspy HF+. Definitely a nice way to expand the coverage of a home ADS-B radar :-)
Refer to the README.md file in the project repository for more details. The program is still under development, so new features and further improvements might be expected in subsequent releases.
Over on YouTube Sarah is back this week with a new video on her channel SignalsEverywhere. In this video she shows how to decode HF WEFAX (weather fax) images using an Airspy HF+ Discovery software defined radio with a YouLoop antenna. HF weather faxes are daily weather chart images transmitted as an analogue signal over the HF bands by coastal stations. They are mostly used by ships at sea.
First Sarah shows where to find a lists of WEFAX frequencies and schedules for her area, and then goes on to demonstrate a WEFAX signal being received and decoded using SDR#, VB-Audio Cable and the FLDIGI decoder.
Decoding HF WEFAX Weather Fax with SDR Software Defined Radio | Airspy HF Discovery
The RadioBerry is a HF transceiver board designed to be used as an add on 'hat' for the Raspberry Pi. It uses the same AD9866 chip as the Hermes Lite 2 SDR which gives it a 12-bit ADC with one RX and one TX channel, a maximum bandwidth of up to 384 kHz, and an operating frequency range of 0 to 30 MHz.
In the video TechMinds shows how to connect and setup the Radioberry software on the Pi and how to stream from the Pi to SDR-Console V3 on a PC. He goes on to demonstrate the Radioberry receiving HF signals, noting that the performance is good, although he uses an Ethernet connection and Pi 4 for best performance.
TechMinds notes that he will test the transmit functionality in a future video, once he receives a preamp designed to be used with the Radioberry.
In the previous episode Rob from the Frugal Radio YouTube channel showed us how to decode HF ACARS using PC-HFDL and an HF capable SDR such as the Airspy HF+. In that episode he mentioned that it is possible to decode HF ACARS using a WebSDR as well.
In this weeks episode, Rob shows us how to do just that, making use of WebSDR receivers and the PC-HFDL software. Like the previous episode we see how to plot the aircraft HF ACARS position data on Google Earth and how to read and interpret some example messages received.
In Rob's latest episode of his excellent aviation communications series on his Frugal Radio YouTube channel he shows how to decode aircraft HF ACARS (HFDL) using a software defined radio. HFDL is short for "high frequency data link", and is a method aircraft use for sending text and data communications to ground stations. It is an alternative to VHF or satellite ACARS communications methods.
In the video he shows how he's been able to receive HFDL from all over the world using a simple HF dipole antenna and an Airspy HF+ Discovery. He goes on to show how to find HFDL signals, and how to decode signals using SDR# and the PC-HFDL software. Finally he shows examples of aircraft received, and how to interpret some of the information being received, including location information.
How to decode HF ACARS (HFDL) free with your SDR - Monitoring Aviation Communications Episode 8
In this weeks video Rob from his Frugal Radio YouTube channel shows us how he's turned an old piece of scrap electrical extension cord into an effective HF antenna for his Airspy HF+ SDR. The scrap wire is combined with a US$15 NooElec 9:1 balun which helps improve the impedance match of the antenna. He then stretches the dipole out through his backyard and then hooks it up to his Airspy HF+.
The results show good reception across the 20m, 80m, 40m amateur radio bands, as well as on HF ATC aircraft communications, US coast guard weather information broadcasts and the AM broadcast band.
I made an HF Dipole for free! Reception was good on my AirSpy HF+ Discovery SDR!
Thank you to Mitsunobu for writing in and sharing news about the release of his new product which is a Hi-Z (high impedance) to 50 Ohm matching transformer. This transformer allows you to use small antennas such as short telescopic whips for HF/SW reception on software defined radios.
Generally for HF reception you would want to use a full sized antenna, which can be many meters long and certainly not portable. However, by using an high impedance transformer it becomes possible to use smaller portable antennas. Reception with a small antenna and transformer will still be suboptimal compared to a full sized HF antenna, however, if the signals are strong enough the transformer will allow you to receive them decently.
In the tests shown on his blog (in Japanese, use Google Translate) he shows how the transformer adapter can be connected to a small telescopic whip and Malachite DSP SDR for portable use. Later he also shows how the adapter can make our Dipole Kit antenna work well for HF on a RTL-SDR Blog V3 with direct sampling.
Rob from Frugal Radio has recently uploaded the next episode in his excellent YouTube series on Aviation monitoring. In this episode Rob covers HF aviation communications. Rob writes:
Whether you are using a Software Defined Radio (SDR), an old school HF receiver, or utilizing a WebSDR, there is plenty to monitor when you know where to look.
This video will give you the basics of where to find the Aviation Communications that take place from 3-30 MHz (HF / Shortwave).
This episode covers VOLMET broadcasts, the Major World Air Route Areas (MWARA), and Military Nets like the US Global Communications System (HFGCS).
Remember, these signals travel thousands of miles. It can be quite exciting to receive them over such great distances. When editing this video I was listening to a VOLMET station in Auckland, New Zealand - a distance of over 7500 miles (12,200km) away!
Monitoring HF Aviation Voice Communications with your SDR Radio or a WebSDR