Category: RTL-SDR

Radwave Updates: Browse SETI Spectrum Data on your Android Device

Back in February 2019 we first posted about Radwave, an Android SDR App for RTL-SDR dongles. It has some interesting features not found in other Apps like the ability to easily zoom, pause and rewind the spectrum at any time.

The author has decided to make use of these spectrum browsing enhancements by providing access to full SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) spectrum data sets which can be browsed via the app for a small fee. From a post on our forums the author of Radwave writes:

I've been developing Radwave, which is an RTL-SDR Android app for exploring the spectrum. I recently added some new functionality, allowing users to interactively explore full resolution SETI data hosted in the cloud - no SDR needed. You can see a preview of it here https://youtu.be/8ZJFzKcWejA and download it from https://play.google.com/store/apps/deta ... ve.android

This data comes from Breakthrough Listen. These datasets are quite large, and Radwave does all the bulk downloading, processing and hosting of the datasets, allowing you to easily navigate your way through the spectrum. If you find something cool, you can tag it and share it.

Currently there are three datasets available in the first bundle ($10 USD): Voyager 1 and two 'Oumuamua collections (surveys of the the first observed interstellar object in our solar system). The data is big, and is hosted in AWS. That gets pricey, so I'll be adding more collections to this first bundle as funding permits. If there are certain datasets you're interested in seeing, definitely let me know.

 

radwave intro 20200225

Starlink Doppler Reflections Caught with an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube William IU2EFA has been uploading multiple short "meteor scatter" videos. This involves using an RTL-SDR to briefly receive distant radio stations via the RF signal reflecting off the ionized trail left by meteors entering the atmosphere. However, in a similar fashion satellites orbiting the earth can also reflect distant radio stations. 

In one of his latest videos William caught a train of Starlink satellites reflecting the signal from the Graves radar in France. To do this he uses a 10 element VHF Yagi, and an RTL-SDR running with HDSDR and SpectrumLab. In the video you can see and hear the change in frequency caused by the doppler shift.

Starlink is a SpaceX project aiming to bring ubiquitous satellite internet to the entire world. Currently 358 Starlink satellites are in orbit, and the end goal is to have 12000.

IU2EFA Starlink 2020-03-22 06:39:00 UTC

A Homemade Boat Computer with RTL-SDR for Weather Fax, NavTex and more

Over on Hackaday we've seen a post about [mgrouch]'s "boat computer" which consists of a Raspberry Pi 4, HDMI display, and a whole slew of sensors and receivers useful for a marine environment including an RTL-SDR.

The built in equipment includes a GNSS receiver, orientation sensors, AIS receiver, 4G and WiFi, lightning EMI sensor and alarm, optional autopilot integration, rudder angle sensor, connections to boat instruments like wind, depth, speed, temperature, barometric and humidity sensors, an Iridium receiver, and finally an RTL-SDR for receiving weather fax, NavTex, satellite weather, AIS, RTL 433, morse code and more. It really is an "all-in-one" device.

His blog post explains in detail how each of the components work in the system, and in particular for the RTL-SDR he shows how you can use the boat computer to receive FM via GQRX, and NavTex via the Java based Frisnit Navtex decoder. Navtex is a marine radio service that transmits at 518 kHz or 490 kHz. It provides text data regarding weather forecasts, weather warnings, navigational information, and urgent maritime safety messages. For his antenna he writes that he uses a 10 kHz - 30 MHz Mini Whip antenna that he purchased on Aliexpress.

mgrouch's Boat Computer with RTL-SDR
mgrouch's Boat Computer with RTL-SDR

A Comprehensive Lab Comparison between Multiple Software Defined Radios

Librespace, who are the people behind the open hardware/source SatNOGS satellite ground station project have recently released a comprehensive paper (pdf) that compares multiple software defined radios available on the market in a realistic laboratory based signal environment. The testing was performed by Alexandru Csete (@csete) who is the programmer behind GQRX and Gpredict and Sheila Christiansen (@astro_sheila) who is a Space Systems Engineer at Alexandru's company AC Satcom. Their goal was to evaluate multiple SDRs for use in SatNOGS ground stations and other satellite receiving applications. 

The SDRs tested include the RTL-SDR Blog V3, Airspy Mini, SDRplay RSPduo, LimeSDR Mini, BladeRF 2.0 Micro, Ettus USRP B210 and the PlutoSDR. In their tests they measure the noise figure, dynamic range, RX/TX spectral purity, TX power output and transmitter modulation error ratio of each SDR in various satellite bands from VHF to C-band.

The paper is an excellent read, however the results are summarized below. In terms of noise figure, the SDRplay RSPduo with it's built in LNA performed the best, with all other SDRs apart from the LimeSDR being similar. The LimeSDR had the worst noise figure by a large margin.

In terms of dynamic range, the graphs below show the maximum input power of a blocking signal that the receivers can tolerate vs. different noise figures at 437 MHz. They write that this gives a good indication of which devices have the highest dynamic range at any given noise figure. The results show that when the blocking signal is at the smallest 5 kHz spacing the RSPduo has poorest dynamic range by a significant margin, but improves significantly at the 100 kHz and 1 MHz spacings. The other SDRs all varied in performance between the different blocking signal separation spacings.

Overall the PlutoSDR seems to perform quite well, with the LimeSDR performing rather poorly in most tests among other problems like the NF being sensitive to touching the enclosure, and the matching network suspected as being broken on both their test units. The owner of Airspy noted that performance may look poor in these tests as the testers used non-optimized Linux drivers, instead of the optimized Windows drivers and software, so there is no oversampling, HDR or IF Filtering enabled. The RSPduo performs very well in most tests, but very poorly in the 5 kHz spacing test.

The rest of the paper covers the TX parameters, and we highly recommend going through and comparing the individual result graphs from each SDR test if you want more information and results from tests at different frequencies. The code and recorded data can also be found on the projects Gitlab page at https://gitlab.com/librespacefoundation/sdrmakerspace/sdreval.

YouLoop Batch 2 Available for Pre-Order: Estimated Shipping in One Week

A few days ago we posted about our release of the first batch of YouLoop passive HF/VHF loop antenna kits. We underestimated the demand and sold out of kits in less than a day! We now have a second batch currently being manufactured and it should be ready to ship out in about a week from now (late March/early April).

You can currently pre-order this item from our store, and we will ship it out as soon as the stock hits the shelves on our warehouse. For this product we are focusing on non-US customers and US customers can purchase locally from airspy.us. Though we will still fulfill US orders if you want to order from us instead.

If you are interested in further information, search YouLoop on Twitter to see a bunch of new tweets about people talking about and demonstrating this antenna design.

YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF
YouLoop Portable Passive Magnetic Loop Antenna for HF and VHF

Creating an APRS I-Gate and Digipeater with Baofeng and RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube ModernHam has uploaded a video showing how to create an APRS I-Gate and Digipeater with Baofeng and RTL-SDR. He also makes use of a Raspberry Pi as the computing module and an audio cable to connect the Baofeng to the audio jack of the Pi. The tutorial then consists of a walk through of the various software setup steps, and finally how to connect the Baofeng and RTL-SDR to the Pi.

If you weren't already aware, Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) is a digital VHF mode used in amateur radio. It allows for packets of data to be sent to receiving nodes over a local area via RF. Typical uses for it are vehicle tracking, weather station telemetry, text messages, announcements and other wireless device telemetry like high altitude balloons. An I-Gate is an internet connected node which receives local APRS RF signals and uploads them to the internet, to be seen on sites like aprs.fi. TX capable I-Gates may also broadcast to the local RF network messages from APRS transmitters on the other side of the world.

APRS I-Gate and Digipeater with Baofeng and RTL-SDR

DragonOS: Debian Linux with Preinstalled Open Source SDR Software

Thank you to Aaron for submitting news about his latest project called "DragonOS" which he's been working on while in COVID-19 lock down. DragonOS is a Debian Linux based operating system which comes with many open source software defined radio programs pre-installed. It supports SDRs like the RTL-SDR, HackRF and LimeSDR.

Aaron's video below shows how to set up DragonOS in a VirtualBox, and he has two other videos on his channel showing how to set up ADS-B reception with Kismet, and how to run GR-RDS in GNURadio. He aims to continue with more tutorial videos that make use of the software installed on DragonOS in the near future.

DragonOS 10 Installer (download in description)

Screenshot of the GR-RDS Tutorial

RTL-SDR AIS Android App Now with Waterfall Display for Frequency Offset Tuning

Thank you to Christian, author of the RTL-SDR AIS Android App for letting us know that he's updated his app and it now includes a waterfall display for tuning the AIS frequency. Tuning the AIS frequency is not required on higher end RTL-SDR dongles that come with a TCXO (Temperature Compensated Oscillator), but cheaper RTL-SDRs will have significant frequency offsets that will require the offset to be determined after a few minutes of warm up time. The easiest way to do this is with a waterfall display as that allows you to tune the frequency manually.

AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and is used by ships to broadcast their GPS locations in order to help avoid collisions and aide with rescues. An RTL-SDR with the right software can be used to receive and decode these signals, and plot ship positions on a map.

RTL SDR AIS Driver App PPM