Category: RTL-SDR

KrakenSDR: Passive Radar Demonstration

KrakenSDR is a 5-tuner coherent software defined radio based on RTL-SDR. It is the successor to the KerberosSDR and will be crowdfunded on Crowd Supply in a couple of months time. Please sign up to the KrakenSDR Crowd Supply mailing list to be notified as soon as the campaign begins.

The KrakenSDR (prototype - enclosure may change slightly)

Passive Radar uses existing FM, TV or mobile phone transmitters. The signal from these transmitters reflects off objects such as road vehicles and aircraft. By using two antennas on two receive channels, and an algorithm to compare the reflected signal against a clean reference copy of the actual signal, we can achieve a radar like display of bi-static range vs doppler speed.

In this test KrakenSDR is used as a two antenna passive radar system. The reference antenna points towards a horizontally polarized 620 MHz DVB-T transmitter, and the surveillance antenna points towards an Airport.

Passive Radar setup with two TV Yagis

Reflections of aircraft and road vehicles can be seen on the map as red dots/trails. Notice how we can also determine the overall neighborhood activity of road vehicles as we pointed out in a previous KerberosSDR post.

Of note is that we've placed the surveillance antenna in a vertically polarized configuration. With passive radar you want to keep the reference signal out of the surveillance channel, as ideally the surveillance channel only receives the reflections. Using the surveillance antenna in vertical polarization achieves 20dB attenuation of the horizontally polarized DVB-T signal. The reflections are assumed to be randomly polarized, so the vertically polarized antenna should pick up the reflection just the same no matter what polarization is used. This scheme woks especially well in our setup as the angle between the reference transmitter and target reflected objects is small.

This test uses the older KerberosSDR code (slightly modified to allow for trails), however new passive radar code is being worked on for the new KrakenSDR code base which will be released later this year. We expect the new code to also be able to make use of GPU accelerated CUDA hardware, such as the NVIDIA Jetson. This will allow for a much faster update rate and/or more processing gain.

The new KrakenSDR code will also try to make use of the additional three unused channels. With these extra channels we should be able to add a direction finding array that will help to plot on a map the actual location and elevation of the reflections.

KrakenSDR Passive Radar Demonstration 1

Frugal Radio: Monitoring General Aviation VHF Communications

Rob from Frugal Radio has recently uploaded the next part his airband monitoring series. This episode covers the topic of monitoring General Aviation communications, which consists of communications with non-military and non-airline aircraft.

In the video Rob discusses what you might hear on general aviation channels, including things like parachuters, news helicopters, air ambulances, police aircraft, aerial surveyors, ultralights, aerobatics, flight training, private and corporate, and sightseeing. He then discusses the various frequencies in use in Canada, North America and the UK.

Monitoring General Aviation Communications in VHF Air Band

STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio: A new Android DRM Decoder for RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRPlay

A new RTL-SDR compatible DRM decoding Android app called "STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio" has recently been released on the Google Play store for US$5.49, and on Amazon DE for EUR4.49. The author notes that a Windows version will also be published soon. Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) is a type of digital audio shortwave radio signal that is used by some international shortwave radio broadcasters.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio allows you to conveniently enjoy any DRM live radio broadcast on your Android smartphone or tablet. No Internet connection required. All you need is an SDR RF dongle or receiver connected to your device via USB.

DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the global digital radio standard used for all digital international transmissions as well as for national and local services in many countries. To learn more about DRM and its features visit www.drm.org.

The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for ease-of-use and supports all core features of the DRM standard:

  • Listener-centric and easy to navigate app design and user interface
  • Multiple user interface languages. Currently supported: English, German, Simplified Chinese
  • Convenient frequency tuning and DRM Service selection
  • DRM Service labels and graphical service logos
  • Full service metadata: programme/app type, language, country of origin, etc.
  • All standardized DRM audio codecs incl. xHE-AAC with optimized tune-in performance for a quick start of audio playback
  • Journaline, DRM’s advanced text application, allows to interactively browse through latest news, sports and weather updates, programme background information and schedules, distance learning/RadioSchooling text books, travel information, and much more
  • Full Journaline feature set including hot-button interactivity, geo-references and embedded/linked images
  • Convenient and fast Journaline information access with update notifications for page-content (and automatic updates for menus), as well as persistent caching for instant content access when switching between DRM services
  • DRM text messages incl. DL+ support
  • Slideshow images
  • Unicode support for all textual elements: service labels, text messages, Journaline
  • DRM EWF – Emergency Warning Functionality within the DRM transmission: in case of an emergency alarm signal, automatically re-tunes from the current service to the emergency programme; presents the emergency audio along with multi-lingual Journaline content to provide in-depth instructions with interactive access and to serve non-native speakers or hearing impaired users

In addition, STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for maximum tuning flexibility and performance:

  • Free tuning to any DRM broadcast frequency
  • Supports all DRM frequency bands – from the former AM bands (LW/MW/SW) to the VHF bands (including the FM band), depending only on RF dongle functionality
  • Supports all DRM robustness modes (A-E), modulation parameters and on-air signal bandwidths
  • Optimized frequency tuning and re-sync performance
  • Graphical spectrum view to check the signal on the tuned frequency

For live reception, an SDR RF dongle must be connected to the device’s USB port (with USB host functionality). The following SDR RF dongle families are currently supported, along with a range of specifically tested models:

  • Airspy HF+ family: Airspy HF Discovery, Airspy HF+ (Dual Port). (Note: Airspy Mini and R2 are NOT supported.)
  • SDRplay family: SDRPlay RSP1A, SDRPlay RSPdx, SDRPlay RSPduo, SDRPlay RSP1, SDRPlay RSP2, SDRPlay RSP2pro, MSI.SDR Panadapter (Note: SDRPlay family support on Android is currently limited to the 32-bit version of this app.)
  • RTL-SDR family: The experimental support for RTL-SDR based RF dongles requires that you manually start the following separate tool before opening this app (on standard port '14423'): The app 'SDR driver' can be installed from the Google Play Store and other Android app stores.
Starwaves DRM Decoder App Screenshots

Feeding Audio from SDR# To Multiple PCs over TCP

Thank you to M Khanfar for submitting his latest video that shows us how to use a launcher that he's created called "GUI SDR TCP STREAMER" (which is actually a combination of several freeware Windows programs including Advanced IP Scanner and TCP Streamer) to stream demodulated audio from SDR# to other PCs over a network connection.

TCP Streamer takes the audio from SDR# via VB-Cable, streams it over TCP to the client PC, then plays the audio on the client side speakers. We note that TCP Streamer should also work with any other SDR program that can output audio to VB-Cable.

SDR Audio TCP Streamer

Two reviews of our new L-Band Patch Antenna + Stock Update

Last month we released our new L-band active patch antenna for sale, and not too long after we had a review from Frugal Radio praising it. We now have two more YouTube reviews available to share.

The first is from Tech Minds who does a teardown and demonstrates it receiving and decoding the Inmarsat STD-C NCS channel, receiving and decoding GPS and receiving Iridium signals. The second is from Mike Ladd from SDRplay, who tests it with an SDRplay RSP1A software defined radio. He shows that the patch works perfectly with an RSP1A, and demonstrates it receiving and decoding STD-C while mounted on the dash of his vehicle.

L-Band Patch Stock Availability Note: We note that we are already close to selling out of the first batch of these units as they sold much faster than expected! New sales of this patch are currently backordered but we expect to have a few more units from this first batch available by the end of next week. Also the freighter with Amazon USA stock should be arriving any day now, but it could still take a few weeks to get through the port and reach the warehouse due to the current port delays.

The second production batch of this antenna might still be a while away due to the electronic component shortage crisis occurring now, so if you were thinking about picking one up, please order ASAP.

RTL-SDR BLOG L-BAND Patch Antenna Version 2 - Inmarsat - Iridium - GPS

SDRplay RSP1a - RTL SDR Blog L-Band Patch antenna

SpaceX Falcon 9 Video Now Encrypted

Back in early and mid March we posted about how several amateur radio hobbyists worked together to receive and figure out how to decode text telemetry as well as live video from SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets using low cost antennas and SDRs.

Unfortunately the fun has abruptly come to an end, with listeners discovering that the latest launch is now fully encrypted. Given the fact that the data stream was undiscovered and likely unencrypted for the last decade, it seems reasonable to assume that SpaceX added encryption in response to media publicity from the decoding discovery. There is also speculation that it may be due to NOAA space camera laws which caused livestream censorship back in 2018.

Over on Reddit u/derekcz has posted about the encryption, and has left us with some final still images reminding us of the fun that was had.

We also wanted to note that if you're disappointed because you ran out and bought antennas and gear specifically to receive Falcon 9 video, you could sill make use of the gear to receive GOES weather satellites, or to detect the Hydrogen line in the galactic plane.

Falcon 9 Video Telemetry Stills

Unleash the Kraken(SDR): 5-Channel Coherent Capable RTL-SDR Coming Soon (Direction Finding, Passive Radar)

Back at the end of 2018 we successfully crowdfunded KerberosSDR on Indiegogo which was our first coherent capable RTL-SDR that consisted of four RTL-SDRs on a common clock, with built in noise source and phase synchronization hardware. KerberosSDR enabled interesting experiments such as radio direction finding and passive radar to be implemented at a much lower cost.

KerberosSDR has taught us many things, and we're now working on the next iteration which will be a significantly refined version known as "KrakenSDR". KrakenSDR will be a five channel common clocked RTL-SDR, with built in noise source and automatic phase synchronization hardware.

KrakenSDR will be crowdfunded on CrowdSupply, and we currently have a pre-launch page active at crowdsupply.com/krakenrf/krakensdr

Please sign up to the CrowdSupply KrakenSDR email list on the CrowdSupply page to be notified once crowdfunding is launched so that you will be sure to catch the early bird pricing discounts. We expect to be able to launch sometime within the next two months.

KrakenSDR Prototype with 5-Magnetic Whip Antennas

Unlike KerberosSDR, KrakenSDR has built in switching hardware that when combined with the new software, will automatically achieve sample and phase calibration without needing to manually disconnect the antennas each time the unit is powered up, or each time the frequency is changed. This allows for much easier mobile and remote use scenarios.

The addition of the fifth tuner also allows us to use a five element antenna array, which results in much improved direction finding accuracy and better multipath rejection. USB-C is also now used on both ports for greater port reliability, the PCB has been redesigned for lower noise, software controlled bias tees are present on each port, and it comes in a tough CNC milled enclosure that doubles as a heat sink.

Finally there is a new open source software base which uses the new synchronization hardware to perform auto phase calibration, allows for intermittent signals to be squelched and tracked, enables long term phase synchronization monitoring, and enables new possibilities for future code expansion especially for passive radar which we will be testing in the upcoming months.

Below are three videos demonstrating the KrakenSDR in action. Please subscribe to the KrakenSDR YouTube channel for more upcoming demonstrations.

KrakenSDR Radio Direction Finding Compass Test 1

KrakenSDR Radio Direction Finding Retune with Autocalibration Test 1

KrakenSDR Vehicle Radio Direction Finding Demonstrations

If you haven't seen them yet, it may also be interesting to watch our old KerberosSDR videos as well in the playlist below.

KerberosSDR Radio Direction Finding: Heatmap + Auto Navigation to Transmitter Location Demo 1

Some of our previous KerberosSDR posts might also be of interest.

Frugal Radio: Review of our RTL-SDR Blog L-Band Patch Antenna

Over on YouTube Rob from Frugal Radio has uploaded a video reviewing our new L-Band Patch antenna which we released for sale late last month. The patch is currently on a release sale for US$44.95 including free standard airmail shipping to most countries. We will be ending the sale this Wednesday at which point the price will go to US$49.95, still with free standard airmail shipping to most countries. The patch can be purchased from our web store at www.rtl-sdr.com/store.

In the video Rob demonstrates the patch receiving Inmarsat signals strongly, and decodes a few AERO signals using JAERO. He shows that the patch works on any RTL-SDR with bias tee capability as well as an Airspy Mini. Lastly he compares the unit against the SDR-Kits patch.

We note that we are also supplying a kit for a giveaway to Frugal Radio subscribers that we will announce in an upcoming video coming out a few days time.

RTL-SDR updated L-band patch antenna review - perfect for your SDR radio!

UPDATE: Giveaway information now available in the latest video below.

RTL-SDR L-Band Patch Antenna Giveaway