Signal Direction Finding with an RTL-SDR, Raspberry Pi and REDHAWK

Something we missed posting about from last year was this presentation on “RasHAWK”, a direction finding system (pdf) built out of a Raspberry Pi, an RTL-SDR and four antennas on a 4 way switch running software created with REDHAWK. REDHAWK is a visual DSP development platform that can be considered similar to GNU Radio or some parts of MATLAB. The authors write:

The RasHAWK team has used a Raspberry Pi as the basis for a networked RF sensor capable of supporting spectrum monitoring, signal intercept and direction finding (DF) operations.

Several RasHAWK sensors are deployed in a distributed sensor grid, wirelessly tethered to a command and control (C2) laptop. The system has the following key features and capabilities:

  • A simple operator interface to configure the sensors
  • Falling raster and PSD displays to monitor the spectrum for signal activity
  • Demodulate FM signals from target FRS radios and play audio on selected channels
  • Perform coarse DF on target emitters
  • Display a map of the surrounding terrain that is annotated with the positions of the sensors, the target emitter and calculated lines of bearing (LOB) to the target. The map provides a RF Common Operating Picture (COP) with can be viewed on WiFi enabled tablets or smartphones.

Each RawHAWK sensor can determine the bearing of transmitted signal. By combining several networked RasHAWK sensors at different locations they are able to pinpoint the actual location of the transmitter on a map.

The RasHAWK system.
The RasHAWK system.
Lines of bearings combined from three different RawHAWK sensors.
Lines of bearings combined from three different RawHAWK sensors.

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Jame Tood Erickson

I am not fond of RTL SDRs they tend to get swamped in high RF areas and arent that sensitive.
Id use a high quality HT like a Yaseu FT60 or Kenwood D74.

Jame Tood Erickson

RF is RF !

Marc Longstreet

Is there a tutorial how to build one?

Matthew Elyash

I would like to see it run a defined set of discreet frequencies, and continuously update signal strength and Bearing, then log them to a file to file. Also smaller number of antennas and tighten up the package and we have a winner. Would be willing to pay money to see that happen.


Is it capable to DF digital signals?


A vy nice device. may there a kit for HF DF availiable at this year ?

Margus Tilgar

Is there somewhere in the scheme of how to build Redhawk individual station connected directly to the laptop without Rabperri Pi?