In one of his latest videos, Rob from the Frugal Radio YouTube channel gives us an interesting alternative way to enjoy a theatre show by demonstrating what he heard on his Airspy SDR when taking it to a Christmas theatre show. In a modern theatre show the actors and actresses typically wear hidden wireless microphones and earpieces, allowing their voices to be amplified and instructions from the producers and directors to be heard. If close enough, these devices can easily be picked up with a SDR and antenna.
In his video Rob explains what sort of radio devices and frequencies are used at the theatre, and despite a few set backs he manages to listen in on these devices from the lobby and from just outside the theatre complex.
Some of the things he hears includes backstage instructions from the directors and production team and of course audio from the performers, including backstage conversations.
2021 SDR Guide Ep 12 : SDR Theatre fail with my AirSpy R2 and RTL-SDR dipole kit
Over on his blog Derek (OK9SGC) has recently uploaded a very comprehensive beginners guide to receiving HRPT weather satellite images. HRPT reception can be a little daunting as it requires a good L-Band dish setup which involves choosing and building a feed, and importantly, a way to track the satellite with the dish as it moves across the sky. Tracking can be achieved manually by hand, but that can be very difficult and so a motorized tracking mount is recommended.
This is unlike the much easier to receive NOAA APT or Meteor LRPT satellite signals in the VHF band which can be received by a V-dipole antenna, or the geostationary GOES HRIT satellites that can be received with a WiFi grid dish and LNA. Both of which do not require tracking.
The advantage of HRPT however, is that you end up with high resolution, close-up, and uncompressed images of the earth. For example Derek notes that NOAA APT gives 4km/px resolution, and Meteor LRPT gives much better 1km/px resolution but it is heavily compressed. Whereas HRPT gives peak resolutions of 1km/px uncompressed. There are also nine satellites in operation sending HRPT, so there are more opportunities to receive.
Derek has created a very comprehensive beginners guide that covers almost everything from purchasing and building the hardware, to finding and tracking the satellites, to setting up the software and decoding images. He notes that an RTL-SDR can be used as the receiver, and that a WiFi dish with GOES SAWBird LNA can work, although the difficult tracking requirements are still there so a smaller offset dish with custom helix feed might be preferred. Derek also provides useful tips, like the fact that the NOAA15 HRPT signal is quite a lot weaker than others.
A new decoder for RS41 and DFM09 radiosondes has been released as a plugin for SDR++ by dbDexter. A radiosonde is a sensor package with RF transmitter that is attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two per day in order to gather weather forecast data. With an RTL-SDR, appropriate antenna and a decoder it is possible to receive this data, and plot the GPS location on a map.
Installing a plugin for SDR++ requires adding the build options to the SDR++ source, and building SDR++, so it could be a little difficult for Windows, but relatively simple build instructions for Linux are provided in the Readme.
Over on Twitter FelixTRG (@OK9UWU) has tested the plugin out and has found it to work well.
dbDexter developed a WX radiosonde decoding plugin for @ryzerth's SDR++, i tested it rn on Vaisala RS41 launched from Prostejov (CZ) and works wonders.
Tested on linux, question when it will be in win release is on Ryzehttps://t.co/K5vq2iJnW1
Supports RS41 and DFM09 so far. pic.twitter.com/XEK4tci3Vd
In his post Marko explains the architecture he's set up which consists of multiple antennas, and a Raspberry Pi running multiple RTL-SDRs right by each unique antenna. The Raspberry Pi's send the complete receiver bandwidth over the network to a more powerful virtual server running OpenWebRX. This architecture allows for scalability, and for many users to be able to connect at once.
The rest of Marko's post shows how he set up OpenWebRX and supporting software such as SoapyRemote, which handles the network transfer of the raw SDR data. Marko has created a YouTube video demonstrating multiple connections to the OpenWebRX server, and you can also try out his server directly via this link https://sdr.v4.si.
Thank you to Marco Greco, author of Guglielmo for writing in and noting that v0.3 has now been released. Guglielmo is a Linux based RTL-SDR FM and DAB tuner software that supports SDRs including the RTL-SDR, Airspy, SDRplay, HackRF and LimeSDR. It is designed to be an easy to use program designed for media users, rather than hobbyist technical users. He notes:
In the last two releases I have substantially improved FM and RDS decoding and added support for MOT slides.
MOT slides allow DAB broadcasters to send JPEG or PNG images files over the DAB broadcast, and compatible receivers will display it.
Gerrit's weather station wirelessly displays data on a wirelessly connected LCD screen, but he notes how difficult it is to view historical data, or to graph trends. Having discovered that the rtl_433 RTL-SDR decoder supports his particular weather station (a Fine Offset Electronics WH1080/WH3080 compatible Weather Station (Alecto WS-4000)), Gerrit decided to write some code to log data to a SQL database, and display that data via a Python Dash.plotly web interface. The RTL-SDR, rtl_433 and custom software all run on a Raspberry Pi.
The interface allows Gerrit to view live and historical data all on neatly plotted graphs. HIs complete open source code can be found on Github.
The La Crosse weather station system consists of a LCD base station, and various wireless sensors. Ryan first discovered that the devices used the 915 MHz frequency band via details written on the device itself. His next step was to open up Universal Radio Hacker and use one of his SDRs to record a packet. URH then allowed him to convert that data into bits for packet analysis. The rest of his post goes into detail on how he set the symbol rate, discovered the preamble and reverse engineered the CRC code.
The next step he took was to generate a spoofed packet generated by URH and transmitted by the PlutoSDR. This allowed him to set the base station display to any temperature that he specified. But he ran into a problem where only the first packet he sent after power up was received. Eventually he discovered that the system sets a randomized interval for each of the transmitters at startup, and data outside of that interval is ignored.
Ryan's post explains his whole though process and progress in detail, so is an excellent study for anyone looking to get into reverse engineering wireless signals.
SDRAngel is a general purpose software defined radio program that is compatible with most SDRs including the RTL-SDR. We've posted about it several times before on the blog, however we did not realize how much progress has occurred with developing various built in plugins and decoders for it.
Thanks to Jon for writing in and sharing with us a demonstration video that the SDRAngel team have released on their YouTube channel. From the video we can see that SDRAngel now comes stock with a whole host of built in decoders and apps for various radio applications making it close to an all-in-one SDR platform. The built in applications include:
ADS-B Decoder: Decodes aircraft ADS-B data and plots aircraft positions on a map
NOAA APT Decoder: Decodes NOAA weather satellite images (in black and white only)
DVB-S: Decodes and plays Digital TV DVB-S and DVB-S2 video
AIS: Decodes marine AIS data and plots vessel positions on a map
VOR: Decodes VOR aircraft navigational beacons, and plots bearing lines on a map, allowing you to determine your receivers position.
DAB+: Decodes and plays DAB digital audio signals
Radio Astronomy Hydrogen Line: With an appropriate radio telescope connected to the SDR, integrates and displays the Hydrogen Line FFT with various settings, and a map of the galaxy showing where your dish is pointing. Can also control a dish rotator.
Radio Astronomy Solar Observations: Similar to the Hydrogen line app, allows you to make solar measurements.
Broadcast FM: Decoding and playback. Includes RDS decoding.
Noise Figure Measurements: Together with a noise source you can measure the noise figure of a SDR.