Over on YouTube TechMinds has posted his latest video which shows an overview of the features available in OpenWebRX, and also how to set it up on a Raspberry Pi. OpenWebRX is software which allows you to access your SDR remotely via the internet or local network through a web browser. All major SDRs are supported including RTL-SDRs. The software includes a waterfall display, all the standard demodulators, as well as several digital decoders for DMR, YSF, NXDN, D-Star, POCSAG, APRS, FT8, FT4, WSPR, JT65 and JT9.
In the video TechMinds first demonstrates OpenWebRX in action, showing reception of HF SSB amateur radio signals, decoding FT8 and plotting received grids on a map, decoding and plotting APRS on a map and decoding YSF/DSTAR/DMR digital voice. After this demonstration he goes on to show how to set up the OpenWebRX server on a Raspberry Pi via the installation image.
With an RTL-SDR, an appropriate satellite antenna and LNA it is possible to receive visible light images from geostationary satellites such as GOES/Himawari and GK-2A. However, in a 24 hour cycle there will only be one or two images that show the Earth fully illuminated by the sun. The rest of the day parts or all of the Earth will be dark with not even clouds visible. To get around this the satellites also use an Infrared (IR) camera which can see clouds at all times. However, these images are greyscale and not very visually appealing.
To fix this aesthetic issue there is now a recently released multiplatform tool called "Sanchez" which will combine a high resolution underlay image with the greyscale IR image in order to create a more beautiful image. The software is command line based and can run on a batch of collected images.
The Electrosense network is an open source project aiming to deploy radio spectrum sensors worldwide. The idea is to help analyze and understand radio spectrum usage across the globe. Each sensor consists of an RTL-SDR, Raspberry Pi and an optional downconverter to receive the higher bands. If you're interested we wrote an overview of the project in a previous post.
Recently we received a sample of their Up/Downconverter expansion board which is used to expand the frequency range of the RTL-SDR to 0 MHz to 6 GHz. The converter board is entirely open source with the design files available on GitHub. The team note that they are also working on a V2 version which will be cheaper and smaller. The schematic and Firmware for the V2 is also available right now, but it is still under early testing and may change.
The board is not for sale, however you can apply to be considered for a free unit if you want to host your own Electrosense node and meet their criteria. If you do not you can still produce the board yourself. The team mention that the design is easily hand soldered, but there are a few difficult LGA components like the PLL, crystals and mixer which require a heat gun to solder. A the same time they also note that it is possible to get PCB manufacture and SMT assembly done for you for dirt cheap by PCB prototype companies like JLC PCB.
The Expansion Up/Downconverter Board
The converter board has 4-input SMA ports (only 3 are used) and one output port which connects to the RTL-SDR. The first input port is for the HF antenna input. This input connects to the circuit which converts 0 - 30 MHz into a higher frequency which can be received by the RTL-SDR. The second port is simply a pass through for the standard 24 MHz - 1.766 GHz range of a normal SDR. The third port is unused, and the fourth port connects the antenna to the downconverter circuit which allows us to receive from 1.766 GHz to 6 GHz.
This weeks video on the TechMinds channel explores the various online web SDRs that are available to access for free. Accessing these online SDRs does not require any hardware apart from a PC and internet connection, although of course you are then receiving signals from a different location to yourself.
In the video he shows how to access the SDR# Spy Server Network which mostly consists of Airpsy and RTL-SDR units, the SDR-Console V3 Server network which consists of a wide array of different SDRs, the browser based WebSDR network which is mostly soundcard based SDRs but also RTL-SDR and other SDRs, and finally the KiwiSDR network which is made up of KiwiSDRs.
Using Software Defined Radio Without SDR Hardware - WebSDR
In her last video Sarah from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel showed us how to set up SDRTrunk for reception of digital P25 Police and other services with two RTL-SDR dongles. On this weeks episode Sarah shows us how to set up Broadcastify with SDRTrunk. Broadcastify is a an online service that allows you to stream audio from your SDR or scanner radio to their website for anyone to listen to. We note that sharing audio or some talkgroups may not be legal in all countries so please do your research first.
In the video Sarah shows the full setup process involving setting up a Broadcastify account, creating an alias list, adding talkgroups to share and finally setting up the Icecast server for streaming to the Broadcastify servers.
Thank you to John D for writing in and letting us know that Wired magazine has recently run an article about the "Nyansat" project. Nyansat aims to bring low cost open source satellite ground stations to the masses. The goal is to democratize citizen access to space by allowing for easier collection of satellite data, or even for collaborative citizen science radio astronomy projects such as the detection of space debris or undocumented satellites. John writes:
While most people think of a satellite ground station as a giant dish mounted on top of a building in the desert, technically any radio receiver that tunes into a satellite's signal can be called a ground station. Somewhere between the giant dish and the GPS chip in your phone is a ground station that uses a directional antenna to pull in the faint signals. So unless you're only interested in geosynchronous satellites, the antenna needs to be aimed at the satellite, and that's where NyanSat comes in.
The design of the NyanSat consists of a pan-tilt head, an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for precise azimuth and elevation measurements, a motor-driver board, an optional OLED display, an optional GPS module, and is powered by an ESP32. Full source code is available in their git repo, found at https://github.com/RedBalloonShenanigans/antenny. The NyanSat's software is written in micropython specifically for the ESP32, but obviously could be ported if desired.
Mounting an antenna, adding an RTL-SDR, and actually tuning in a satellite, is still up to the builder.
One of the goals of the NyanSat project is to eventually build up a network of ground stations that can collaborate to contribute frequently updated satellite ephemeris information.
When they're in stock, the project's sponsor, Red Balloon Security, has occasionally been offering a kit containing a custom PCB that is pre-populated with the ESP32 and motor driver; a pan-tilt gimbal; an IMU; and an RTL-SDR. They've been selling them for $1.00(!), just to get them out in the hands of people. Keep your eye open in case they get another batch in.
NyanSat will also present a live twitch demo at this years online DefCon conference on Friday Aug 7 6:30-8PM EDT and Sat Aug 8 6:30-8PM EDT. On Sun Aug 9 12:30 EDT they will hold another event where they judge the best work of the Nyansat community.
The SatNOGS project which we have covered many times before on this blog is quite similar with it's own open source antenna rotator design, however the Nyansat design looks a bit easier to build as it doesn't require 3D printed parts. Although critically from their demos we haven't seen what sort of sized antennas the gimbal chosen by Nyansat is capable of moving.
In their example Sage use a dipole antenna and analysis frequency of 30 MHz. The notebook doesn't offer much additional information, but provides Python Numpy and Scipy code which can be used to detect and plot the lightning pulses.
In this episode of Frugal Radio's series of SDR beginners guide videos he discusses some antenna basics. He shows the most common types of antennas, provides several tips to help improve reception, and shows how to properly tune antennas using online calculators.
Near the end of the video he shows our multipurpose dipole antenna kit and shows how to adjust the telescopic elements for best reception. He demonstrates that simply extending the elements to the maximum length does not result in the best tuning, rather you need to tune the element length for the frequency being received to get the best results.
2020 SDR Guide Ep 4 : Antenna Basics for SDR Beginners inc RTL-SDR / Nooelec NESDR SMArt bundle