Over on YouTube user Evariste Okcestbon has uploaded a video showing his simple pocket DATV system that consists of a LimeSDR running on a Raspberry Pi Zero transmitting live camera images via DATV which is received by an RTL-SDR running on a Raspberry Pi 3.
If you didn't already know, DATV stands for Digital Amateur Television and is a digital mode somewhat similar to digital over the air TV signals that can be used by hams for transmitting their own TV signals on the ham bands. The LimeSDR Mini is a $139 US transmit and receive capable SDR that is currently crowdfunding and available for pre-order on Crowdsupply. It is expected to ship at the end of February 2018.
Evariste uses a range of software packages on each Raspberry Pi. He writes the following in the video description:
Description of a minimal Digital Tv chain : Transmitter and Receiver.
Hardware used on Tx : PiZero,Picam,LimeSDR Mini
Hardware used on Rx : Raspberry Pi 2, RTL-SDR,Monitor
Software used on Tx : avc2ts,dvb2iq,limetx
Software used on Rx : rtl_sdr,leandvb,kisspectrum,ts2es,hello_video
QRadioLink is a Linux and Android compatible radio app that can run on smartphones. It can be used to receive and transmit digital radio signals with a compatible SDR such as an RTL-SDR (RX only), or a LimeSDR Mini (TX and RX). The following video by Adrian M shows QRadioLink running on an Android phone with a LimeSDR Mini connected to it. An external battery pack is also connected to maintain power levels over a longer time.
In the video Adrian shows how this combination can be used as a fully portable radio transceiver. The video first shows him receiving broadcast FM, digital amateur radio voice (Codec2 & Opus is supported), narrowband FM and SSB signals. Later in the video he transmits a digital voice signal using the microphone on his Android phone. He notes that an external amplifier would still be needed if you wanted more transmission power.
Late last month we posted about the Fairwaves XTRX SDR which is a Mini PCIE TX/RX capable SDR with 10 MHz - 3.7 GHz tuning range and 120 MSPS sample rate that costs $199 US and is currently crowdfunding on CrowdSupply. At the time of this post the XTRX is currently 84% funded.
Recently the XTRX team released an update regarding the HF performance below 30 MHz. The update shows that signal attenuation starts to significantly reduce in the HF bands with the 3dB point being at 11 MHz. At 6 MHz the attenuation is at 13 dB, and at 2 MHz it's up to 29 dB. This attenuation may not be too bad though especially for strong HF signals, or perhaps a preamp like the LNA4HF could be used. They attempted to review their design to reduce the attenuation, but found that there is no easy fix especially with having such restricted space as in a PCIE card.
They also note that HF reception with the LMS7002 chip used on the XTRX can be problematic as the LO is fixed to a minimum of 30 MHz. So to receive below 30 MHz the receiving bandwidth needs to be increased which can cause saturation from any strong out of band signals. However, they tested with some very simple external bandpass filters for the 49m band (5.8 - 6.2 MHz) and had decent results.
The XTRX team also added a new breakout header to the board which provides direct connections to the LMS7002 chip ADCs for direct sampling. This could provide even better HF performance with an appropriate custom frontend.
The idea is to keep the barrier of entry to SDR as low as possible, by making SDR programming accessible to kids as well. The software is currently a work in progress, but they write that they are attempting to develop the Scratch blocks necessary to enable the transmission and reception of text messages. Something like that would make a great learning tool for educators.
The video demo shows Scratch and the LimeSDR running on a Raspberry Pi 3. During the demo he creates a simple 433 MHz spectrum display by connecting up several blocks.
The LimeSDR Mini is a smaller and cheaper version of their LimeSDR which has slightly reduced specifications. The main changes are the slightly restricted frequency range of 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz, and half the maximum bandwidth at 30.72 MHz. The mini also only has 1×1 TX/RX channels.
Recently the LimeSDR was released for crowdfunding on crowdsupply.com and already has raised $165,000 of it’s $100,000 threshold with 12 days remaining. Currently you can back the project for $139 with shipping expected on Dec 31.
Just last week we posted about how Marty Wittrock was able to get his LimeSDR receiving perfectly on his LattePanda mini Windows 10 PC with SDRAngel. Now Marty has uploaded a new video which shows the LimeSDR running on the LattePanda and SDRAngel again, but this time transmitting 40m LSB voice. At this stage Marty is well on his way to creating a fully portable LimeSDR based ham transceiver. He writes about his setup:
Setup: LattePanda Win10/64-bit, LCD, Capacitive Touchscreen, LimeSDR and SDRAngel Win32 with a transmit device loaded…Also using a USB 2.0 audio device to make the microphone and speaker audio connections…WORKS GREAT..!!
The LimeSDR is a RX and TX capable SDR with a frequency range of 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, 12-bit ADC and 2×2 RX/TX channels. Recently the LimeSDR team have been crowdfunding for their new ‘LimeSDR Mini’ which is a smaller and cheaper feature reduced version of the standard LimeSDR. While all the early bird $99 USD units have been sold out, they are still available at the $139 USD price. Currently the crowdfunding campaign has already reached it’s $100,000 USD target with 35 days left.
One important ‘feature reduction’ to note is that the LimeSDR Mini can only tune down to 10 MHz, so it may not be as useful as the full $289 USD LimeSDR for creating a SDR based ham transceiver like what Marty is doing.
Thanks to Marty Wittrock for sharing with us his latest news about his experiences with the LimeSDR. Over on YouTube he’s uploaded a video showing that the LimeSDR can run perfectly on a ‘LattePanda‘ which is a full Win10 64-bit PC in a Raspberry Pi sized package. The one Marty uses costs about $209 with a fully activated Windows 10 licence and has 64G eMMC memory, a 1.44 GHz CPU and 4GB of RAM. The cheaper version with 2GB of RAM and 32GB eMMC memory only costs $119 USD. Of interest is that the LattePanda also comes with an Arduino co-processor for various GPIO projects, which could be useful for switching in and out various radio blocks like filters and LNAs.
In his video Marty shows that the SDRAngel software run the LimeSDR smoothly on the LattePanda, and he demonstrates receiving the 30M band. He writes:
Ladies and Gentlemen may I present to you: The LimeSDR operating on receive on the 30m Shortwave Band using SDRAngel running on a Windows 10, 64-bit, 4G (RAM) 64G (FLASH) operating at 1.8 GHz on a LattePanda – – THE SMALLEST WINDOWS 10 PC ON EARTH..! No kidding, this makes my MSI ‘hockey puck’ PC look monstrous…The LattePanda is about the same size as my LimeSDR and a VERY POWERFUL little PC, too…I’m INCREDIBLY impressed with this tiny PC…This Single Board Computer also has an integrated Arduino processor such that all the bandswitching and other functions required to make a Software Defined Transceiver will be very trivial to add-in…The ‘proof of concept’ is complete – – this shows that it CAN BE DONE to make the LimeSDR into a compact, wideband Software Defined Transceiver that can be run on a car battery if needed…Watch the video and see for yourself…CHEERS..!
In a second newer video he demonstrates the system running on a 7″ LCD touchscreen. He writes:
Here’s a follow-up YouTube video I did when I laced-up the LattePanda to a 7″ LCD and the companion Capacitive Touchscreen for the LimeSDR. This thing is awesome and very compact – it’s amazing. I’m planning to take those same components and mount them into a walnut case that I’m getting made from furniture-grade wood from Amana. The case will be sloped and will have enough room to put the LattePanda, LimeSDR, USB 3.0 hub, and *maybe* the PA – but I have to think that the PA will be outboard along with the Bandpass Filter Card assembly, too. I am planning to make a preselector/receive preamplifier for the LimeSDR that will reside in the case, too. The LattePanda not only has the Intel CherryTrail processor there for Windows, but it also has an integrated Arduino processor on the board along with the Arduino development software and the GPIO on the LattePanda to drive the BPF, PA, T/R switching, and the receive preamplifier/preselector/filter. No kidding – when this is all done this thing is going to be unstoppable. SDRAngel is open source so adding the communications for band switching will not be hard to do between Edouiard’s source in Win32 and to the Arduino through DLL calls. I’m even giving some serious thought about how LimeSDR-Mini will be included as an alternative with an even smaller footprint for this.
Looks like the LimeSDR is slowly starting to all come together as a fully usable system for ham radio thanks to the efforts of people like Marty. Remember that Lime are currently crowdfunding for their latest LimeSDR Mini product, which is a cheaper $139 version of their LimeSDR. Currently almost $85k of the required $100k has already been raised, with still 40 days to go.
Back in June 2016 the first LimeSDR crowdfunding campaign completed raising over a million dollars in pre-orders at a cost of $249 – $299 per LimeSDR unit. THe LimeSDR is a RX and TX capable SDR with a frequency range of 100 kHz – 3.8 GHz, bandwidth of up to 61.44 MHz, 12-bit ADC and 2×2 RX/TX channels.
Currently the LimeSDR Mini is being sold on the crowdfunding site CrowdSupply for $139, but the first 500 early bird backer can get the lower price of $99. Accessories such as an acrylic enclosure and set of whip antennas are also available for $40. Crowdfunding is due to end on October 30 and the units are expected to ship on Dec 31, 2017. Note that in the last few minutes that it took to write this article the number of pledges went up by 5 (started at 41), so we’d suggest being quick to claim the early bird if you are interested.
The LimeSDR Mini looks like it could compete favorably with the PlutoSDR, which is another recently released $99 SDR with TX capabilities. Both the PlutoSDR and LimeSDR Mini are 12-bit devices, but the LimeSDR Mini has the larger 30 MHz bandwidth available, and can tune lower. In contrast the PlutoSDR only has a stable bandwidth of about 4 MHz, although it can be pushed higher with dropped samples. The PlutoSDR also has a tuning range (with hack) of 70 MHz – 6 GHz, vs the 10 MHz – 3.5 GHz of the LimeSDR Mini. Another plus of the LimeSDR products is that they are fully open source.
These are exciting times for SDR enthusiasts with cheap TX capable radios now starting to proliferate on the market!