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.
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
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.
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.
We have recently been able to obtain a small number of YouLoop HF/VHF portable receive only passive antennas that were produced by the owner of Airspy. The YouLoop is available in our store priced at US$34.95 including free worldwide shipping. It comes with the balun "tee" connector, coax inverter, 2x 1m semi-rigid coax cables for a ~60cm loop, and 1x 2m semi-rigid coax for the feedline. Note that US customers may wish to purchase from airspy.us as they have local US stock. We are focusing on non-US orders for this product and we only have very limited stock at the moment - UPDATE: Now out of stock. We have reordered more and should be back in stock by end of March.
If you don't know what a "YouLoop" is, it is a simple passive magnetic loop antenna design which consists of a ring of coax cable and a low loss 1:1 or 4:1 balun. The design was recently popularized by Youssef (prog) the owner of Airspy, and he has put up a page explaining how the design works here. Many users on Twitter have been reporting good results with HF reception with the design. It appears to be especially useful in urban environments where there is lots of local noise.
Left Discovery with YouLoop Antenna, Rigth Discovery with HF Hoxin Vertical Antenna.
Same configuration in sdr#, both in roof with 25m RG213 cable.
A lot of noise in the vertical antenna, Barcelona noisy city. pic.twitter.com/NNYdpsmNTo
Being passive, it has no amplification and so it works best with a low noise SDR like an Airspy HF+. However we have also found decent results with SDRplay SDRs, and a standard RTL-SDR Blog V3 running in direct sampling mode, although RTL AGC mode needs to be turned on for an extra boost. Improved results can be obtained by using a low cost HF amplifier on the front end, and even our wideband LNA which is advertised as working down to 50 MHz still does actually give a decent boost from 5 MHz and up.
Also the design has some advantages in that it has very low electrical interference pickup, and has no electronics that can overload from signals that are too strong. Overloading from strong signals is something that can easily affect cheap magnetic loop antennas like the MLA-30, and even higher end loop antennas too. Being a magnetic loop, it also naturally filters out electric field interference which is extremely common in urban environments, and is the reason why e-field antennas like miniwhips often perform poorly.
The antenna is designed to be extremely portable, being lightweight and easy to assemble/disassemble. As such it is not designed to be weatherproof, so if you do decide to mount it permanently please make use of weatherproofing tape.
Unlike fixed magnetic loops, the YouLoop design is also easy to experiment with. By using longer coax cables you can easily create a larger loop which can result in stronger signals. We found that replacing the 1m loop cables with 2m lengths gave quite nice results for us. If you have the space you could try even larger loops too.
The design also doubles as a great VHF antenna with reception up to 300 MHz possible when used in a folded dipole configuration. To do that, simply flatten the loop into a dipole shape.
Finally, if you prefer the YouLoop can also be constructed by yourself. The Twitter post below shows the basic design. Search Twitter for "YouLoop antenna" for more discussion on the design too.
The Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Tracking Network (UAPTN) is an effort to set up crowd sourced Raspberry Pi powered cameras all over the world in order to record videos of "unidentified aerial phenomena" AKA UFOs. In order to rule out false positives from known aircraft, they are recommending that contributors install a FlightAware RTL-SDR in their system for aircraft tracking.
For this purpose doing your own ADS-B flight tracking would be required as most commercial flight tracking sites censor military and private jets. The only site that does not censor data is ADS-B Exchange. However, of course military aircraft conducting operations are always able to turn ADS-B off if required for the mission which is what the UAP network will probably detect the most.
If UFO tracking does not interest you, then you might instead be interested in creating a RTL-SDR based GhostBox to talk to spirits!
A few days ago we posted about the release of the new NooElec Ham-It-Up Nano upconverter which sells for US$49.95 on their store and Amazon. Upconverters enable SDRs that cannot tune in the HF bands to receive HF by shifting the low HF frequencies "up" into a range receivable by most VHF/UHF capable SDRs.
In his latest video Techminds reviews the Nano together with an E4000 tuner based RTL-SDR with built in bias tee. In the video he demonstrates it working with the SDR# software, and shows how to set the Shift parameter to ensure that the correct frequency offset it set. He goes on to demonstrate reception through the various HF bands confirming that the unit works as expected.
Hamvention, the largest yearly amateur radio event has been cancelled this year due to concerns over the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It was due to be held during May 15 - May 18, 2020. Chairman Jack Gerbs writes:
The Hamvention Executive Committee has been monitoring the COVID19 pandemic. We have worked very closely with our local and state health Departments.
It is with a very heavy heart the Hamvention Executive Committee has decided to cancel Hamvention for this year. This decision is extremely difficult for us but with around two months until the Great Gathering we felt this action necessary. More specific details regarding the closure will soon be posted here.
Thank you for your understanding in this time of International Crisis.
According to the ARRL cancelled events tracker, a number of other amateur radio events across the USA have also been cancelled, and we're seeing similar reports for most other countries too. At this stage we expect that most events will be cancelled over the next few months.
RTL-SDR Blog V3 Stock & Shipments
Due to manufacturing delays and slowdowns related to the Coronavirus our multipurpose dipole antenna set, and set including antenna and dongle is currently out of stock on our international webstore. We expect to be able to restock by the end of the month. There remains sufficient stock of the dongle itself. Our wideband LNA will also be back in stock next month.
Amazon USA is still stocked with all products, however there may be a short out of stock period within 1-2 weeks as we await for the arrival of replenishing stock in the USA.
In regards to international shipments please expect that there could be delays. At the moment we are seeing most mail still getting through in a timely manner, however this could change over the coming weeks as more travel restrictions come into play.
It is expected that other radio related products could also soon be out of stock, or delayed due to the situation.
We thought it would be nice to put out a special edition of the podcast to help listeners keep up their morale during this difficult time. So we’ll do our regular kind of show, but we’ll try to emphasize things you can do to stay busy and keep up morale while stuck at home.
Over on The SWLing Blog Thomas has put out a post about social distancing and how to keep occupied without leaving the house, and another post about how shortwave broadcasters are now adding regular Coronavirus information and news to their broadcasts.