SDR Special Tool Kit: A Ruggedized Enclosure for two RTL-SDR V3 Dongles

Terminal Armament, one of our resellers of RTL-SDR V3 dongles in the USA has created a companion product called the SDR Special Tool Kit (SDR-STK) which is a tactical ruggedized enclosure for two RTL-SDR V3 dongles. The SDR-STK consists of a two port USB hub enclosed in a water-resistant housing, and a rugged screw on USB-A cable. Two SMA connectors protrude out the top. The design is open source with designs and software due to be released on their GitHub in time.

The SDR-STK is estimated to ship within 5-7 weeks, and is available for pre-order via the Terminal Armament website.

The RTL-SDR dongle has long been the standard for an entry-level software defined radio. And while we do love it, the USB dongle form-factor is simply not suited for rigorous outdoor use. This is why we've developed the SDR-STK.

The SDR-STK is a ruggedized two-port USB hub specifically designed to fit two standard RTL-SDR dongles, and provide a durable, water-resistant housing. Having two dongles also grants capabilities not available with just one; these go beyond simply increasing the bandwidth. With one receiver acting as a tuner, you can have the second one preforming other tasks such as wide-band scanning, listening to a trunked radio control channel, or simply receiving other information such as ADS-B packets.

The SDR-STK isn't just a one-off hardware product. In the coming weeks while the pre-order is active, we will be releasing various software utilities for the SDR-STK on our GitHub, as well as the PCB schematic files. We're firm believers in Open-Source hardware software, and we hope to use this launch to kickstart several other communication related products and projects such as better Android SDR applications, and other SIGINT tools.

The SDR-STK includes itself, and a custom 1.5 foot USB Type A Male cable. Antennas and RTL-SDR's are not included unless specified or ordered in conjunction with the SDR-STK.

The RTL-SDR Just Got Better - Terminal Armament SDR-STK

11 comments

  1. Stefan Wagener

    Seriously?
    $175 plus shipping just for the enclosure? I don’t think so. My SDR V3 dongles have done without it and will do so in the future!

      • Roy

        Vlad, this does beg the question, however: There is still a PC required for the system to work – so there is still a need for half the system to be “dry, sitting inside”. For the record, I think it’s a cool idea, and my comment below was to justify the cost – as I believe people think that at-home FDM printing is the be-all-end-all solution to part production – where in reality it is not. I think there is a use for this product, and I believe the cost is legitimate. What I don’t believe, however, is that it is a solution for the masses – as you could basically replicate the usefulness by running antenna coax to the SDRs location, right next to the PC.

        • Vlad

          There is plenty of SDR software available for hardware other than desktops, and as stated, we will be working on more. You can already use this with an Android phone/EUD and run a spectrum analyzer in conjunction with something like an ADS-B receiver. Raspberry Pi’s are a great SDR host. Toughbooks are commonplace for field use and can run all of the software your desktop can. We’ve already tested one of our scripts on an tiny openWRT board running an 802.11 mesh.

        • K.w

          It’s built around tactical usage, on your plate carrier or chest rig type stuff where it risks being in dirt, rolled on and damaged, I didn’t think the price was all that bad …

  2. Roy

    Neat idea, but what about cooling? The dongles are known to generate some heat – it looks like you have to remove the dongle PCBs from the stock housing to fit them in the STK, do you lose the thermal pad/case conduction path? Also, are there small “patch cables” between the dongles and the inside of the STK? Very pricey, but I can understand why seeing as the endcaps are all 3D printed with a technology OTHER than the ubiquitous FDM that everybody has in their basements….

    • Vlad

      We’ve done extensive long-duration tests and haven’t found cooling to be an issue, and yes, there are two SMA cables that connect the SDR’s to the endcap. MJF isn’t too terribly expensive, and we don’t print it in-house (the machines can run into the millions of dollars). We choose it because we needed custom geometry to fit all of the connectors, and wanted to avoid milling to keep costs down. This is also a very niche product for a very niche market, and we’re not riding on millions of dollars military contracts or investor money so our required operational margins are going to be higher (and honestly, they’re about the same as the industry average for PCB only products from similar hardware startups.)

      This also isn’t just a hardware product. We really believe in SDR technology, and want to see it move forward. As stated in the video, we’re going to be releasing some proof-of-concept software utilities soon on our GitHub, but we’re also going to use this to fund development for other open-source projects in the SDR space. I’m sure it might seem like a lot of “in the future” talk right now, but I hope that people can see the “why” behind this, not just the “what.”

      ~Vlad

      • PJ

        I had two RTLs in a fiberglass enclosure, no fan, running a Pi3b for 2 years in the heat in TX. Pi3b never failed nor did the 2 x SDRs. Those two summers we had months of 100 F Temps or higher. What would be cool is if you could run a small ARM in that enclosure and SSH from your phone

        • Vlad

          One of our later plans is to add some sort of embedded SBC for processing/data downlink. There’s a few low cost openWRT boards that could be used to potentially make a fairly cheap TDOA node.

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