Category: LimeSDR

LimeSDR Angle of Arrival Experiments at 145 MHz

Two J-Poles used in LimeSDR Angle of Arrival Experiments.
Two J-Poles used in LimeSDR Angle of Arrival Experiments.

Together with some Spanish amateur radio operators, Daniel Estevez performed an experiment with the goal of detecting the angle of arrival of meteor reflections coming from the GRAVES radar at 143.05 MHz.

The GRAVES radar at 143.05 MHz is often used by amateur radio astronomers as a way to detect the echos of meteors entering the atmosphere. The basic idea is that meteors leave behind a trail of ionized air which is reflective to RF energy. This RF reflective air can reflect the signal from the powerful GRAVES space radar in France, allowing the radar signal to be briefly received from far away. Detecting the angle of arrival from these reflections could help determine where the meteor entered the atmosphere.

Their experiments used a pair of J-Pole antennas and a LimeSDR receiver. The LimeSDR has two channels and can receive the signal coherently from both channels. The phase difference in the received signals from the two antennas can then be measured, and the angle of arrival calculated.

In their testing the first tested with 145 MHz amateur radio satellites. Unfortunately due to the low elevation of the antennas and multipath from terrain obstructions an angle could not be calculated. In a second experiment they tried receiving terrestrial APRS signals. With APRS they were successful and were able to determine the angle of arrival from multiple stations. Unfortunately for GRAVES meteor echoes they were not entirely successful, citing multipath issues due to houses, and the need for a clear view of the horizon.

We note that it may be possible to perform similar experiments with our KerberosSDR coherent RTL-SDR unit.

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

LimeRFE: A LimeSDR RF Front End for Ham, Cellular and Wideband Networks

Over on CrowdSupply LimeMicro are currently preparing to crowdfund their next project called 'LimeRFE'. LimeRFE is an RF front end power amplifier with filtering. It is designed to be used in conjunction with a LimeSDR or LimeSDR Mini. The LimeSDR and LimeSDR Mini are 12-bit TX and RX capable SDRs that were crowdfunded in the past. The LimeSDRs appear to be mostly aimed at cellular/industrial/commercial use cases, but there have been efforts (mostly from Marty Wittrock) to make the LimeSDR useful for ham radio.

For ham radio usage the LimeRFE front end module contains band filters for the HF band (1.6 - 30 MHz), the 2m band (144 - 146 MHz), the 70cm band (430 - 440 MHz), the 23cm band (1240 - 1325 MHz), the 13cm band (2300 - 2450 MHz) and the 3300 - 3500 MHz band. They do note that for HF use, additional filtering may still be required. On these bands the power amplifier is capable of boosting the power up to a P1 point of 35 dBm on the lower bands down to 26.5 dBm at 3 GHz.

The LimeRFE is not yet available for CrowdFundng as it is still in the prototype stages, but they note that the board is close to being finalized. You can sign up to be notified of when the board is ready on the Crowd Supply page.

LimeRFE Rendering
LimeRFE Rendering

SignalsEverywhere Tutorial: Updating LimeSDR Mini Firmware and Installing Drivers

Over on his YouTube channel SignalsEverywhere, Corrosive has uploaded a tutorial video that shows how to update the LimeSDR firmware and drivers. 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. The specs and price of the LimeSDR mini are pretty good, but documentation for actually using it can be a bit confusing, so videos like Corrosive's tutorial are great.

LimeSDR Mini Tutorial Drivers and Firmware Update on Windows 7/10

Using a LimeSDR / PlutoSDR to Transmit Digital Amateur Television with DATV Express

Over on YouTube Corrosive from channel SignalsEverywhere has uploaded a new video in his series on Digital Amateur Television (DATV). The new video shows us how to use a transmit capable SDR like a LimeSDR or PlutoSDR to transmit DATV with a free Windows program called DATV Express.

In the video he explains the various transmit and video encoding settings, and then demonstrates the signal being received on SDRAngel with an RTL-SDR (which he explained in his previous video)

Transmitting DVB-S DATV Digital Amateur Television with LimeSDR / Pluto on Windows with DATV Express

A LimeSDR Mini Based Doppler Radar

Thanks to Luigi (aka @luigifcruz and PU2SPY) for writing in and submitting to us his LimeSDR based doppler radar blog post. The LimeSDR Mini is a low cost two port TX and RX capable SDR. Luigi's doppler based radar makes use of one TX port to transmit the radar signal, and the RX port to receive the reflection. The idea is that the if the object being measured is moving, the received reflected signal will be altered in phase due to the doppler effect.

In terms of hardware, Luigi's radar uses the LimeSDR Mini as the TX/RX radio, a Raspberry Pi 3 as the computing hardware, an SPF5189Z based LNA on the RX side, and two cantenna antennas. It transmits a continuous wave signal at 2.4 GHz.

Luigi's LimeSDR Based Doppler Radar
Luigi's LimeSDR Based Doppler Radar

On the software side it uses a GNU Radio program to transmit, receive and process the returned signal. Luigi's post goes over the DSP concepts in greater detail, but the basic idea is to measure the phase shift between the transmitted and reflected signal via a Multiply Conjugate block, and then decimate the output to increase the resolution. The result is then output on a frequency domain waterfall graph. The GNU Radio is all open source and available on Luigi's Github.

In order to test the system Luigi first set up a test to measure an electric fan's blade speed. The result was clearly visible line in the spectrogram which moved depending on the speed setting that the fan was set to.

Software Defined Radar - Continuous Wave Doppler Radar w/ LimeSDR

In his second test Luigi measures the speed of vehicles by placing the radar on the sidewalk, pointed at cars. The result was clear indication of the vehicle passes as shown by the longer vertical lines on the graph below. The smaller lines have been attributed to pedestrians passing by.

LimeSDR Vehicle Doppler Radar Results: Each long line indicates a vehicle, and shorter lines indicate pedestrians.
LimeSDR Vehicle Doppler Radar Results: Each long line indicates a vehicle, and shorter lines indicate pedestrians.

In a third test, Luigi measured vehicle speeds in tougher conditions, with the radar placed 50 meters away from the highway, at 45 degrees, and with weeds in the way. The radar still generated obvious lines indicating vehicles passes. Finally, in his fourth test, Luigi tested the speed accuracy of his radar by measuring a car driving at a known speed. The results showed excellent accuracy.

Software Defined Radar - Continuous Wave Doppler Radar w/ LimeSDR

LimeNET Micro Now Crowdfunding

Lime Microsystems, creators of the LimeSDR, LimeSDR Mini and LimeNET SDR devices have recently begun crowdfunding for a new product they are calling LimeNET Micro. LimeNET Micro is described as a software defined radio platform with an integrated processor for creating self contained wireless networks. In other words it is a LimeSDR LMS7002M SDR transceiver chip with an included Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3, FPGA, GNSS module, EEPROM and Flash memory attached to it.

The LimeNET Micro is capable of full duplex TX and RX (1 port each) with the typical LimeSDR frequency range of 10 MHz - 3.5 GHz. However a major difference is that the LimeNET Micro is only capable of a 0.27 MHz bandwidth, whereas other LimeSDR products are capable of bandwidths up to 30.72 MHz. One interesting additional feature is that the LimeSDR Micro comes with a GNSS module that can be used to receive GPS/GLONASS etc for high accuracy timing if required.

Some use cases that they envision LimeNET micro being useful for include:

  • Inexpensive enterprise and personal networks
  • Rural, autonomous, and resilient networks
  • Universal IoT communications hubs
  • Rapid deployment infrastructure for emergency response
  • Remote radio solutions for amateur radio and radio astronomy
  • Integration into application-specific RF appliances
  • Radio spectrum survey
  • Passive wireless geolocation
  • PHY and security research
  • RF-aware robotics

The price is $269 USD and this includes a Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3. Higher end kits can be purchased which include Acrylic ($399) or Aluminum enclosures ($459).

LimeNET Micro with Raspberry Pi Compute 3 Module attached.
LimeNET Micro with Raspberry Pi Compute 3 Module attached.

Using a LimeSDR To Detect Aircraft Reflections from a 2.3 GHz Beacon

Over on his blog author Daniel Estevez has described how he's been listening to aircraft reflections from a 2.3 GHz 2W beacon. The beacon is 10km away from Daniels location and transmits a tone and CW identification at 2320.865 MHz. As aircraft fly nearby to his location Daniel was able to observe aircraft reflections of the beacon, and was able to match them with ADS-B position and velocity reports.

The hardware that he used was a LimeSDR and a 9dBi 2.4GHz planar WiFi antenna patch. By aiming the antenna away from the transmitter, and using his car as a shield to block the transmitter he was able to receive some reflections. Daniel recorded several reflections including one produced by a nearby car.

By combining his results with ADS-B data he was able to superimpose the results, and color aircraft tracks by either a negative or positive doppler shift which was observed from the reflection. By combining the ADS-B data with the time stamps, he was also able to mark the reflections from each aircraft.

Marking Aircraft Reflections at 2.3 GHz against ADS-B Data
Marking Aircraft Reflections at 2.3 GHz against ADS-B Data