Over on YouTube user ModernHam has uploaded a useful tutorial showing how to use our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles for FT8 monitoring. The RTL-SDR Blog V3 has a built in direct sampling circuit which allows for reception of HF signals without the need for any upconverter. FT8 is an amateur radio weak signal digital communications mode which can be received all around the world even with low transmit power.
In his setup he uses SDR# and Virtual Audio Cable to pipe audio to the WSJT-X decoder. His video goes through all the steps and settings that need to be set and then shows a demo of some signals being received. ModernHam also has another video uploaded a few days earlier which is a more general introduction to FT8 decoding.
If you're interested we uploaded a tutorial last year that shows how to set up a Raspberry Pi 3 based FT8 decoding station with a V3 dongle.
Decoding FT8 with a RTL-SDR (Software defined Radio)
Over on YouTube user Shortwave Bavaria has uploaded a video that demonstrates HFDL reception. HFDL is short for High Frequency Data Link and is a signal used by aircraft to communicate short messages with ground stations over long distances. It is often used in place of VHF ACARS when flying over oceans.
In his video Shortwave Bavaria uses a 26.5m end fed wire, and a Cloud-IQ SDR. But we note that any HF capable SDR can be used to receive HFDL. SDR-Console V3 is used as the receiver, and MultiPSK Professional edition as the decoder. Many HFDL messages contain location data, so aircraft can be plotted on a map and he demonstrates this using Google Earth. In the video he notes how amazing it is that flights from across the globe can be received with his set up.
Amazing Decoding HFDL reception with SDR over central Europe
The Hermes-Lite is able to be very low cost (less than $300) because it is based on the AD9866 chip which is a mass produced RF front end (LNA + ADC & DAC) used in cable modems. Because it is a mass produced commodity, the chip only costs approx. US$35-$25 on Mouser depending on quantity. The chip has a 12-bit 80 MHz ADC and DAC, meaning that if used without any analog mixer front end (like in the Hermes-Lite) it can receive the entire spectrum between 0.1 to 38 MHz all at once.
The Hermes-Lite is also a lot more than just the RF chip, as it contains a set of switched RF filters and a 5W power amplifier for TX. It also interfaces with a PC via Ethernet and has a built in FPGA for DSP processing.
Recently Steve presented at the FOSSi Foundation Latch-Up conference on May 4-5, and a YouTube recording of his presentation is shown below.
Elektor is a popular electronics magazine and hobbyist kit store. Recently they have published a book titled "SDR Hands-on Book" written by Burkhard Kainka. The book is intended as a companion to their Arduino SDR shield kit, which is a low cost module that allows you to turn an Arduino into a 150 kHz to 30 MHz capable SDR. It is based on the G8JCFSDR, which is an RF front end downconverter that allows a PC soundcard to be used as an SDR analog to digital converter.
Kainka's book goes over introductory topics such as shortwave reception, explains signal to noise ratio and interference, different types of antennas, software, digital modes, SDR measurements, receiving and finally WSPR and QRP transmission. If you're interested Jan Buiting also recently reviewed the book on the Elektor website.
Elektor are currently running a promotion and are selling the book + Arduino shield for a reduced price of €49.90.
Over on his blog, DXer OH2-2192 was frustrated by lots of local electrical noise showing up on the HF bands on his Airspy + Spyverter SDR receiver. He discovered that the majority of the noise he was seeing was coming from the switch mode power supplies that power the electronic devices used in his setup. Switch mode power supplies are very common in the modern world, with almost every electronic device using one to efficiently convert wall AC into DC power. However, they convert power by rapidly switching on and off, and these on/off square wave pulses cause a lot of RF noise especially on the HF spectrum.
Over on YouTube user TheGazLab has uploaded a video that reviews the Airspy HF+, and also shows how to use the HF+ with SDR# and WSJT-X in order to create a FT8 monitor. The Airspy HF+ is high dynamic range HF/VHF receiver designed for DXing.
In the video TheGazLab demonstrates to us the decoding in real time, and explains the CAT control SDR# plugin that he's using. The CAT control plugin when combined with a virtual serial port driver allows the WSJT-X program to automatically tune SDR# to the FT8 frequency selected in WSJT-X.
Later in the video he also discusses the SpyServer network which allows SDR# users to connect to remote public Airspy and RTL-SDR units over the internet. He demonstrates connecting to a public server in the UK, and decoding FT8 via the remote server. The video also shows the new SpyServer interface by @zakhttp which nicely lays out the world SpyServer network on a map, making it easy to choose a desired location to listen to.
Airspy HFPlus, SDR# and WSJT-X with full CAT control decoding FT-8
WSPR is an amateur radio digital HF mode designed to be decodable even if the signal is transmitted with very low power and is very weak. It can be used to help determine HF radio propagation conditions as WSPR reception reports are typically automatically uploaded to wsprnet. Direct sampling mode on the RTL-SDR V3 allows you to receive HF signals without the need for an upconverter. For best results it is recommended to use a simple bandpass filter for the band of interest.
Zoltan's tutorial comes with a companion YouTube video where he demonstrates his set up. He uses a random wire antenna on his roof directly connected to an RTL-SDR V3, which is connected to a Raspberry Pi 3. The Pi 3 communicates to his home network via an Ethernet cable.
Making a standalone WSPR receiver with RPi and RTL-SDR V3 using rtlsdr-wsprd
The World Radio TV Handbook (WRTH) is a directory book (or CD) of world radio stations on LW, MW, SW and FM. In addition to the directory they also do reviews of radios/SDRs, and recently they reviewed the Airspy HF+ (pdf). The Airspy HF+ is high dynamic range HF/VHF receiver designed for DXing.
According to the review, WRTH give the Airspy HF+ the award of being the best value HF SDR for 2019. The review takes note of the HF+'s excellent dynamic range and then goes on to validate the manufacturers claimed specifications. Finally they write how they tested it during a contest at 7 MHz, and found no overloading or spurious responses apart from a minor noise floor increase when an extremely strong local CW station was encountered.