Last month Jeff Deaton from "Edge of Space Sciences" (EOSS) presented a talk called "SDR Multi Balloon Tracking", where he discusses how EOSS are using RTL-SDR receivers to track their APRS high altitude balloons. EOSS is a Denver, Colorado based non-profit organization that promotes science and education by exploring frontiers in amateur radio and high altitude balloons. The talk overview reads:
Review of the software defined APRS system being used to track multiple balloon flights at EOSS. Overview of primary features like the graphical user interface and landing predictions as well as a discussion of the open source software used to power the system like GnuRadio, Dire Wolf, and Aprsc.
It appears that they've created some interesting software that they run on small portable computers that they take in chase vehicles. The software uses an RTL-SDR to receive the APRS signal from the high altitude balloons that they've launched, allowing them to track and predict the flight path, and ultimately recover the balloons and attached cameras.
RPiTX is software that enables the Raspberry Pi to transmit any modulated signal over a wide range of frequencies using just a single GPIO pin. However, the transmission contains multiple harmonics and thus requires sufficient filtering in order to transmit legally within the 2M ham band. To solve this ZR6AIC uses a 2M Raspberry Pi Hat kit which he designed and created that contains two low pass filters as well at the option for an additional power amplifier.
The rest of ZR5AIC's post explains how his HAB telemetry system combines the Raspberry Pi 3, RPiTX 2M Hat, RTL-SDR, a GPS unit, battery, temperature sensor and optional camera into a full HAB transmitting system. He also explains the software and terminal commands that he uses which allows him to transmit via RPiTX a CW beacon and GPS and temperature sensor APRS telemetry data with the Direwolf software. Full instructions on setting up the alsa-loopback audio routing is also provided.
In his area of Barajas, Spain the meteorological agency recently switched to the newer RS41-SGP radiosondes. To decode these Daniel uses the open source "RS" software which is capable of decoding various radiosondes including RS41. He notes that for now it is better to use his fork of "RS" as the base version contains a bug. He also shows how the received data can be plotted in Viking, which is a program used for plotting things like GPS tracks on a map.
Finally he shows how to feed the radiosonde data to the APRS-IS network. APRS is a packet radio system used by hams which works via radio and the internet, allowing for worldwide communication by radio. Feeding the data into APRS-IS allows anyone to see the flightpath on a site like aprs.fi.
The FaradayRF is not a software defined radio, but it is a computer controlled digital TX/RX radio device. Basically it is a radio designed to communicate digital data over the 33 cm ham/ISM band. The 33 cm band is between 902 to 928 MHz in the ITU Region 2 area (Americas, Canada, Greenland and some pacific islands). It was designed for amateur radio operators out of the need for a device that allows for easy experimentation with digital radio. An amateur radio licence is required, but only at the technician level which is the easiest licence to obtain.
The product itself is a simple PCB which has on board a low power microcontroller (no OS), a GPS module, and an RF front end that can TX up to 400 mW. They write that with 400 mW a signal at 900 MHz can be transmitted up to 40 miles away. Also, by using low power micro-controllers and hardware radio (instead of SDR), they write that they were able to power the device from a single 9V battery for over 12 hours. The hardware and software is also all open source.
In some ways the FaradayRF is kind of similar to the Yardstick One/PandwaRF radios which were designed for reverse engineering or security research on digital signals. But the FaradayRF comes with SAW filtering to provide a clean output, an amplifier to boost the signal, and software aimed at providing digital comms making it more for amateur radio use.
Some applications might include point to point telemetry/comms, high altitude balloons, ocean buoys, digital voice, APRS, text messaging etc.
The FaradayRF starter set currently costs $300 USD and includes two units (one with GPS included and another without) or $330 USD with two GPS capable units.
Keith Maton (G6NHU) wrote in and wanted to share his new ready to go APRS RX iGate image for the Raspberry Pi. APRS stands for “Amateur Packet Reporting System”, and is a type of packet radio communications system used by Amateur Radio operators. They often use them to transmit short mail messages, weather sensor updates, track vehicles and for various other purposes. An iGate allows APRS messages to be transmitted over the all world via the internet via a signal chain such as: RF->iGate RX->Internet->iGate TX->RF. To run an iGate you should be a radio amateur with a callsign. A global aggregation of APRS broadcasts received by iGates can be seen at aprs.fi.
An RTL-SDR can be used to receive APRS packets easily and many amateur radio enthusiasts have been setting up APRS RX only iGates using the “direwolf” decoding software. Keith’s image simplifies the process of installing and configuring software significantly by proving a plug and play image that you just burn to an SDcard and plug into your Raspberry Pi. His post also explains how to configure the iGate correctly.
John, DK9JC N1JJC wanted to set up an RTL-SDR APRS packet iGate. APRS stands for “Amateur Packet Reporting System”, and is a type of packet radio communications system used by Amateur Radio operators. They often use them to transmit short messages, weather sensor updates, and for vehicle tracking. An iGate allows APRS messages to be transmitted over the all world via the internet like so RF->iGate RX->Internet->iGate TX->RF.
When trying to receive the APRS packets John discovered a problem. He discovered that there was a very strong 100kW broadcast FM and 50kW DAB transmitter on a transmission tower in line of sight of his antenna. The strong signals were overloading the dongle and completely wiping out the APRS packets that he was trying to receive at 144.8 MHz.
First John tried a simple bandpass filter with 0.8 dB insertion loss and 20dB attenuation. The filter still wasn’t enough, so he went and made a several coax notch filters to take out each of the interfering signals. A coax notch filter is simply a length of coax connected via a “T” junction to the main coax cable. This creates a notch of attenuation at a frequency depending on the length of the notching coax. With these notches combined with the bandpass filter he was finally able to receive APRS packets.
APRS stands for Automatic Packet Reporting System and is a packet radio protocol used by radio amateurs to broadcast real time data such as messages, announcements, weather station reports and sometimes the location of vehicles. If an APRS station has a GPS attached to it, the broadcasts will also contain the GPS coordinates. Internet Gateways or IGates are repeaters that are used to receive messages from a local radio and pass them on via the internet to a transmit capable IGate repeater anywhere in the world. To run an IGate you should be a radio amateur with a callsign. A global aggregation of APRS broadcasts received by IGates can be seen at aprs.fi.
Xastir is a Linux based program that is used for plotting Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS) data on a map. APRS is is type of packet radio system used by ham radio for real time local area digital communications. It is often used for sending messages, plotting positions on a map or providing weather station data.