The project is described as a "hackable, open source, ESP32 amateur radio board with walkie-talkie functionality and data communication". We note that this is not a software defined radio, rather it's a highly customizable software controlled radio.
The advertising claims that you can communicate between SOCORAD32 devices by voice and text for up to 5km at 2W of power. No commercial or amateur radio license is required to use this radio since it operates in the 400 - 470 MHz license free bands that are available in many countries. Although we note that these bands in many countries may have power restrictions well below 2W, which would restrict range.
In recent updates they note that they have been refining the PCB and now added a battery holder and moved the push to talk button to a new position.
During crowd funding the device is selling for US$80 + $8 US shipping / $18 worldwide shipping.
Earlier in the month we posted about how rtl_433 has been ported to ESP32 devices that are combined with CC1101 or SC127X transceiver chips, such as the low cost LILYGO LoRa 32 boards available on Aliexpress.
Over on YouTube Matt from the Tech Minds channel has uploaded a video showing how to set up rtl_433 on an ESP32 device, and how to set it up with a home automation service like Home Assistant, Node Red or OpenHAB via an MQTT broker.
PCB boards that combine these two chips can be found cheaply on Aliexpress as LoRa boards, under the name "LILYGO LoRa 32". If you are unaware, ESP32 chips cheaply combine a WiFi and Bluetooth modem with a microcontroller that is capable of hosting a webserver. CC1101 and SC127X are low cost low power hardware transceiver chips made for IOT devices. We've posted about LILYGO boards in the past as they've been used with interesting projects such as Meshtastic, and for weather balloon tracking.
This project could be useful for home automation as a module has been made available for openMQTTGateway. Instead of dedicating a more powerful Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR, you can now dedicate a much cheaper and much lower power device to the task.
Because it covers 400 - 470 MHz the device can be used without a license in the license free bands available in most countries. It's able to connect with a standard smartphone over Bluetooth, and can transmit and receive voice, supports voice encryption and compression, and can also transmit and receive SMS data.
SOCORAD32, aka the ESP32Software Controlled Radio, is a professional-grade hackable walkie-talkie for amateur radio exploration, voice, and data communication using simple AT commands. Just add a speaker and a battery and you get a fully functional walkie-talkie radio. With the onboard dedicated Push To Talk (PTT) button, SOCORAD32 can be used straight out of the box without touching a single line of code!
Unlike using complicated SDR for amateur radio operation, SOCORAD32 is an amateur radio-tailored device that makes things simpler. Using uncomplicated AT commands, users can configure the audio volume, tone squelching, CTCSS, CDSS codes, etc. SOCORAD32’s frequency range covers the license-free bands for most countries.
SOCORAD32 also features all of the operations of a standard walkie-talkie. It employs a proprietary RF design featuring the RDA1846 IC. This is the same IC used in commercial walkie-talkies such as in Baofeng, Motorola and Hytera. Because of this, SOCORAD32 can communicate with commercial walkie-talkies with ease.
In addition to all of this, SOCORAD32 utilizes powerful ESP32 Bluetooth functionality. All SOCORAD32 settings can be adjusted via a connected mobile device using a serial Bluetooth app of any choice, while also being adjustable via the dedicated physical buttons. You can store as many channels as you would like in the onboard memory of the ESP32. SOCORAD32 can also communicate data, so you can explore the amateur radio frequencys for IoT or send texts. Texts can be read via the onboard OLED screen or via a Bluetooth connected mobile device.
Beyond communication SOCORAD32 is fully open source and hackable. For high level enthusiasts the RF module can be opened and tinkered with, allowing features like upgrading the power amplifier, among other adaptations.
Overall, SOCORAD32 makes it fun and interesting to explore the intricacies of amateur radio, portable two-way radio walkie-talkies, and long distance audio or data communications similar to LoRa. All done using easy to understand AT commands and the power of the ESP32 module.
A radiosonde is a small sensor and radio package normally attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two balloons a day from several locations to gather data for weather prediction. We have featured radiosondes several times on this blog as it is easy to use an RTL-SDR and computer to receive and decode their signals, which can used to hunt down the fallen sonde, or to receive the weather telemetry data.
Recently RTL-SDR.COM reader António submitted a link to an interesting project called "MySondy" which is created by Mirko Dalmonte (IZ4PNN). MySondy is custom firmware for TTGO Lora32 433 MHz boards which allows them to be turned into a radiosonde tracker. A TTGO is a cheap ~US$20 LoRa32 IoT dev board with an onboard WiFi + Bluetooth enabled ESP32 microcontroller and OLED display. Some of the slightly higher priced units come with a built in GPS receiver as well. With the custom firmware it is capable of receiving and decoding common radiosonde protocols such as RS41, M10, RS92 and DFM.
There is also an Android App called MySondy Go and MySondy FINDER which connect to the TTGO via Bluetooth. This app plots the location of the radiosonde on a map, allowing you to easily follow and track down the balloon. You can also go to mysondy.altervista.org to see public MySondy stations. Clicking on a blinking dot will connect you with the MySondy server, allowing you to see tracked sondes.
The firmware and software appear to be fairly new, so there isn't much information about this that we could find just yet. Also we note that all manuals and information about the project is written in Italian, except for a French magazine article (pdf) that António sent us to upload.
We note that these TTGO ESP32 LoRa boards are quite interesting by themselves, with other custom firmware available to do things like create a Paxcounter which counts the number of mobile devices in an area via WiFi and Bluetooth signals, and the ability to use them as a GPS enabled Mesh network based text message radio.