Receiving Inmarsat L-Band AERO with a DVB-T Antenna, Amplifier and Airspy Mini

To show that a specialized antenna is not required to receive L-band Inmarsat AERO satellite signals, YouTube user SkyWatcher has uploaded a video showing how he was able to receive these signals with a cheap DVB-T antenna. SkyWatcher writes:

I’ve recently upgraded from my RTL-SDR sticks (E4000, R820T2) to an Airspy Mini.

I did some testing during the last week and found it very interesting that I was able to receive Inmarsat L-Band signals indoors, with just a DVB-T antenna and amplifier behind the window, no downconverter, no special antenna, no super low-noise amplifier. The window is facing south, with a few degrees to the east and the satellite I’ve received was Inmarsat 15.43W. So, angle antenna to satellite should be estimated 20 degrees.

I’ve used a 18dB DVB-T/Satellite-TV inline amplifier as a ‘LNA’ (noise < 5dB) and a VHF/UHF DVB-T antenna which seems to be a stacked dipole, and therefore should be quite wideband and should make a reasonable general purpose antenna. Anyway, I did not expect it to work on 1.5GHZ at all. Also, I want to mention that the inline amplifier is rated 5 to 18V, but it works just fine with the 4.5V from the Airspy Mini.

It seems that with 10dB S/N, Aero reception is possible and with about 12dB S/N, it is getting reliable.

In general, I am very satisfied with the upgrade to the Airspy Mini. It has a much lower noisfloor and a much cleaner spectrum, compared to my old RTL SDRs. Also, I am very happy with the CPU-usage which is only about 12% on my i5-3210M when using 2.4MHz bandwith, and 18-20% with a bandwith of 4.8MHz.

Together with the ability to use SpectrumSpy and the very useful decimation-feature, the Airspy Mini is the best option to upgrade from a RTL-SDR for me at the moment. Anyway, of course this is just my very personal opinion… 😉

AERO is essentially the satellite based version of ACARS, and the L-band signals contains short ground to air messages with things like weather reports and flight plans intended to be transmitted to aircraft. To decode it with an SDR, the JAERO software can be used.

Inmarsat Aero Indoor Reception

4 comments

  1. Michael Robertson

    Looks interesting. A couple of questions what model LNA do you use?
    Also have you tried replacing the airspy mini with a rtlsdr to see if it actually works…I’d be very interested.

  2. whocares

    Yes but unless it can decode emails and phone calls, frankly it’s as boring as watching paint dry. Pointless

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