Libre Space Foundation ( Greece) and the Institute of Reconfigurable & Embedded Digital Systems(REDS) of the Haute Ecole d’Ingénierie et de Gestion du Canton de Vaud – HEIG-VD (Switzerland) have been implementing a number of smaller projects as part of an Software Defined Radio MakerSpace of the European Space Agency.
This activity is part of the ARTES programme of ESA that supports innovation in satellite communications.
The findings were presented in three 2-hour slots in the afternoon at 15:00 CEST (for which you are requested to register separately) on Mon 6, Tue 7 and Wed 8 September 2021.
Monday 6 Sep was focused on the evaluation of various SDR boards and FPGA tools chains. High-rate direct sampling by SDR’s and SDR on Android will also be presented.
Tuesday 7 Sep was dedicated to building blocks that have been implemented as open source developments for Gnuradio, such as gr-leo, gr-ccsds, gr-soapy etc.
Wednesday 8 Sep was mainly about the combination of SDR and AI/ML to do signal detection and classification. In addition, an SDR testbed and spectrum monitoring will be presented.
The talks cover various SDR topics related to satellite observing. Some talks we were interested in are highlighted below, but the full list can be found on the SDRMakerspace website, or the SDRMakerspace playlist on the Libre Space Foundation YouTube channel.
On the Google Play store developer Knowle Consultants have recently released a new free application called "FM Radio (RTL-SDR)". This is a simple app that allows you to use a connected or remotely networked RTL-SDR to tune into preset broadcast FM stations. People wishing to use an Android enabled head unit in their car may be interested in the app as it makes tuning into broadcast FM stations easy just like it is on a standard radio.
They also have a similar app called "Airband Radio (RTL-SDR)" which provides a similar simple interface for tuning into airband presets.
The company ebcTech who makes AIS Share for Android has recently come out with a new app which is an Android App version of Dump1090. Dump1090 is a popular command line based ADS-B decoder for RTL-SDR dongles which allows you to receive and plot the locations of nearby aircraft on a map.
The app directly accesses the RTL-SDR via a USB OTG connection and provides a list of aircraft with planespotters.net image lookup, and a Google map display. The app is free however there is a message limit on received aircraft which can be unlocked via a low cost in-app purchase.
The author also wrote in and wanted to make a note about a special feature "In the app you can add Airport layers – This consist now 4480 Airports – most of them with corresponding homepage address / or Wikipedia link."
Over on Reddit Ian Grody (u/DutchOfBurdock) has posted about his success in using a modded Android smartphone to run an RTL-SDR Blog V3 and NOAA decoder software all within the phone itself.
In the past we posted about Ian's work in getting rtl_power scans to work in conjunction with the Tasker app, in order to generate automated frequency scans on his phone on the go. His more recent work from the past year includes showing us how it's possible to install Debian chroot on an Android phone, and run Linux software like GQRX, GNU Radio, DSD, rtl_433, multimon-ng and dump1090 directly on the phone with an RTL-SDR.
His latest Reddit post shows that the NOAA-APT decoder also runs well on the Debian chroot, leading to a truly portable NOAA decoding setup. He notes that he is now working on the possibility of Meteor M2 decoding on the phone.
Below is his video from last year demonstrating SDR GQRX and GNU Radio running on the Debain chrooted phone.
Unlike Android devices, Apple iOS devices can't run RTL-SDRs directly through their USB ports. However, they can still connect to another networked device such as a PC or Raspberry Pi running an rtl_tcp server. In the past we've seen two rtl_tcp clients for iOS released [1 , 2].
MagicSDR makes it possible to interactively explore RF spectrum using panadapter and waterfall visualization, demodulate and play AM, SSB, CW, NFM, WFM signals, collect frequencies. Built on the principle of plug-in architecture, MagicSDR - powerful and flexible next-generation SDR (software-defined radio) application. Typical applications are dx-ing, ham radio, radio astronomy, and spectrum analysis. Explore the spectrum everywhere!
MagicSDR processes signals that are streamed over the local network from the rtl_tcp server, which is running on the host computer. The smartphone itself, on which MagicSDR is running, can act as a host computer.
To start playing with MagicSDR, you need to set up a server on a host computer to which SDR peripherals (rtl-sdr dongle) will be connected or connect SDR peripherals directly to a smartphone via a USB OTG cable. To try application without SDR peripherals, MagicSDR can emulate a virtual radio device.
A new RTL-SDR compatible DRM decoding Android app called "STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio" has recently been released on the Google Play store for US$5.49, and on Amazon DE for EUR4.49. The author notes that a Windows version will also be published soon. Digital Radio Monodial (DRM) is a type of digital audio shortwave radio signal that is used by some international shortwave radio broadcasters.
The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio allows you to conveniently enjoy any DRM live radio broadcast on your Android smartphone or tablet. No Internet connection required. All you need is an SDR RF dongle or receiver connected to your device via USB.
DRM or Digital Radio Mondiale is the global digital radio standard used for all digital international transmissions as well as for national and local services in many countries. To learn more about DRM and its features visit www.drm.org.
The STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for ease-of-use and supports all core features of the DRM standard:
Listener-centric and easy to navigate app design and user interface
Multiple user interface languages. Currently supported: English, German, Simplified Chinese
Convenient frequency tuning and DRM Service selection
DRM Service labels and graphical service logos
Full service metadata: programme/app type, language, country of origin, etc.
All standardized DRM audio codecs incl. xHE-AAC with optimized tune-in performance for a quick start of audio playback
Journaline, DRM’s advanced text application, allows to interactively browse through latest news, sports and weather updates, programme background information and schedules, distance learning/RadioSchooling text books, travel information, and much more
Full Journaline feature set including hot-button interactivity, geo-references and embedded/linked images
Convenient and fast Journaline information access with update notifications for page-content (and automatic updates for menus), as well as persistent caching for instant content access when switching between DRM services
DRM text messages incl. DL+ support
Unicode support for all textual elements: service labels, text messages, Journaline
DRM EWF – Emergency Warning Functionality within the DRM transmission: in case of an emergency alarm signal, automatically re-tunes from the current service to the emergency programme; presents the emergency audio along with multi-lingual Journaline content to provide in-depth instructions with interactive access and to serve non-native speakers or hearing impaired users
In addition, STARWAVES DRM SoftRadio is designed for maximum tuning flexibility and performance:
Free tuning to any DRM broadcast frequency
Supports all DRM frequency bands – from the former AM bands (LW/MW/SW) to the VHF bands (including the FM band), depending only on RF dongle functionality
Supports all DRM robustness modes (A-E), modulation parameters and on-air signal bandwidths
Optimized frequency tuning and re-sync performance
Graphical spectrum view to check the signal on the tuned frequency
For live reception, an SDR RF dongle must be connected to the device’s USB port (with USB host functionality). The following SDR RF dongle families are currently supported, along with a range of specifically tested models:
Airspy HF+ family: Airspy HF Discovery, Airspy HF+ (Dual Port). (Note: Airspy Mini and R2 are NOT supported.)
SDRplay family: SDRPlay RSP1A, SDRPlay RSPdx, SDRPlay RSPduo, SDRPlay RSP1, SDRPlay RSP2, SDRPlay RSP2pro, MSI.SDR Panadapter (Note: SDRPlay family support on Android is currently limited to the 32-bit version of this app.)
RTL-SDR family: The experimental support for RTL-SDR based RF dongles requires that you manually start the following separate tool before opening this app (on standard port '14423'): The app 'SDR driver' can be installed from the Google Play Store and other Android app stores.
Thank you to José Carlos Rueda for submitting his project called "a-radio: a web virtual reality radio power spectrum analyzer". The idea behind the project is to first use an RTL-SDR together with rtl_power and heatmap.py to generate a heatmap image of the RF spectrum. This image is then projected into a 3D 360 degree view and hosted on a web server via José's script for the a-frame VR web framework, allowing the heatmap to be viewed with a virtual reality (VR) smartphone headset. José' recommends using a cheap VR headset like Google Cardboard which can be used with your Android smartphone.
José notes that the project is just a proof of concept, but he hopes to inspire future work around the combination of RF and VR.
Over on his YouTube channel Tech Minds has recently released a new video demonstrating how to use an RTL-SDR portably via an Android tablet and an OTG cable. In the video he goes through the various Android software options available including general receiver software such as RF Analyzer (free) and SDR Touch (£5.99) as well as AVARE ADSB for ADS-B aircraft reception. He goes on to demonstrate each program in action.
Portable RTL - SDR Software Defined Radio with Android