Tagged: kerberossdr

DragonOS: KerberosSDR Bearing Server Setup with RDFMapper

DragonOS is a ready to use Linux OS image that includes many SDR programs preinstalled and ready to use. The creator Aaron also runs a YouTube channel that has multiple tutorial videos demonstrating software built into DragonOS.

In a recent video Aaron has provided a two part tutorial showing how to set up and use KerberosSDR with the RDFMapper software on DragonOS. This allows you to network multiple KerberosSDR units together and display each units radio bearing on the same map. Two or more bearings crossing can be used to determine the location of a transmitter. In the future Aaron will use this setup to have multiple mobile and fixed  KerberosSDR units connected together via Zero Tier. Aaron writes:

In this first video I show how to install software to control the KerberosSDR – A 4-Channel Phase Coherent RTL-SDR for Passive Radar, Direction Finding and more onto DragonOS Focal (Lubuntu 20.04 based). A fork of the main code is required due to some changes in dependencies and packages. This fork is only meant for or at least tested on Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Lubuntu 20.04.

I also show some issues you may experience due to poor quality USB cables, insufficient power, and/or issues with USB ports being used to power the KerberosSDR or connect to it.

In this second video I show how to install and use RDFMapper with the KerberosSDR software and Android App. I also cover some common problems I've experienced with the current KerberosSDR Android App.

Recommended to watch the first video if you are planning to run the KerberosSDR on a PC or a SBC like the Raspberry Pi. This video and setup procedure can be adapted to use the Raspberry Pi/Android App instead of a PC. 

I plan to make a couple more videos on this topic. By the end, it should be possible to have multiple KerberosSDR stations, both mobile and stationary, linked to one instance of RDFMapper over Zero Tier all simultaneously performing direction finding on one frequency.

KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction findingpassive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently in stock and available on the Othernet store.

DragonOS Focal KerberosSDR setup (20.04 fork, x86_64 Laptop) part 1

DragonOS Focal KerberosSDR w/ Bearing Server setup (RDFMapper, Android App, x86_64 Laptop) part 2

KerberosSDR Tracking a Drone Carrying an FM Beacon

KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction findingpassive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently in stock and available on the Othernet store.

Recently Zuokun Li et al from the University of East China Normal University published an open access conference paper that documents their results at using a KerberosSDR to track a drone. As typical drone control frequencies at 2.4 GHz are outside the range of the RTL-SDRs used on the KerberosSDR, they carried a 446 MHz FM beacon on the drone.

In their experiment they set up both circular and linear antenna arrays for the KerberosSDR, then flew the drone in front of the antenna array while recording the bearings calculated by the KerberosSDR system. The results showed that the KerberosSDR was able to successfully track the drone's bearing with either antenna array, however the linear array produced more accurate results as expected.

We note that a linear array cannot differentiate if an object is in front or behind the array. However, if this knowledge is known it can be used instead of a circular array to get more accurate bearings that are less affected by multipath.

If you're interested in this, you might also like our articles on using a KerberosSDR to track a weather balloon, to locate a P25 transmitter, or our Android app in car demos

The KerberosSDR + Drone Setup
Results from the drones at three locations.

KerberosSDR: Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

The KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding, passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring.

KerberosSDR can be purchased from our partner store at https://othernet.is/products/kerberossdr-4x-coherent-rtl-sdr.

In one of our latest tests we've been able to track a weather balloon radiosonde via the direction finding ability of KerberosSDR. These balloons are launched twice daily by meteorological agencies around the world, and the radiosonde carried by the balloon transmits an RS-41 signal continuously throughout it's flight sending back telemetry such as weather information and GPS coordinates. The KerberosSDR tracks the bearing towards the balloon using only the raw signal - it does not decode. Having the actual GPS location from the RS41 data allows us to compare and confirm that the KerberosSDR is indeed tracking the bearing of the balloon.

In this test we used the excellent 4-element dipole array made by Arrow Antennas. In particular we used the 406 MHz element version as the RS-41 signal is broadcast at 403 MHz. The antenna array is mounted on the roof, the KerberosSDR is in the attic connected to a Raspberry Pi 4. Our KerberosSDR Android app is used to plot the bearings. A separate RTL-SDR running on the video recording PC is connected to it's own antenna and is used to receive and decode the RS41 signal. The free software RS41 Tracker is used to decode and map the balloon for location confirmation. 

We are currently using the latest beta code in development (unreleased at the time of this post - it will be released within 1 to 2 months) which handles non-continuous intermittent signals better.

Arrow Antennas 4-Element Dipole Array Mounted on Roof

The short video below shows a timelapse of the RS41 decoder tracking a balloon which circled the south of our KerberosSDR. The red line indicates the zero degree direction of the antenna array, while the blue line indicates the estimated direction of the balloon determined via the MUSIC radio direction finding technique.

The GPS balloon map from RS41 tracker is overlayed on top of the KerberosSDR Android app map for clarity via video editing. We can see that it mostly tracks the balloon to within a few degrees. When the blue bearing line diverges this is due to the balloon's line of sight path to the antennas being obscured by terrain, buildings or trees. When this is the case a multipath signal reflecting off surrounding hills tends to become dominant.

In the second short video below the weather balloon tracked northwards. Towards the north, north west and north east we have antenna obstructions in the form of rising terrain, houses and hills, so the overall accuracy is poorer. However, it still tracks within a few degrees most of the time.

Finally the YouTube video below shows the same as the above, but in the second half includes the full screen including the KerberosSDR DoA graphs and SDR# waterfall showing signal strength.

KerberosSDR Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

In the future we hope to test with two or more KerberosSDR units producing multiple bearing lines on RDFMapper, hopefully resulting in cross points that can be used to estimate the actual location of the balloon.

DragonOS KerberosSDR Tutorials: Setting up Networked Direction Finding, Monitoring Multiple Signals Simultaneously

DragonOS is a ready to use Linux OS that includes various SDR programs preinstalled. The creator Aaron also runs a YouTube channel that contains multiple tutorial videos for DragonOS. One of the latest videos he's released is a tutorial that shows how to use one of our KerberosSDR (4x Coherent RTL-SDR) units to set up networked direction finding. To do this he uses our core KerberosSDR DSP software, along with RDFMapper, a third party bearing visualization tool with the ability to display bearing from multiple networked direction finding units.

The tutorial goes through the KerberosSDR software install procedure, shows how to set up the various parameters in the software, and then demonstrates it providing data to the RDFMapper software via our open source pyRDFMapper-KSDR-Adapter program. With this setup, you could run multiple KerberosSDR units around a city and use them to locate a signal source rapidly.

KerberosSDR Uploading Bearing data to RDFMapper
KerberosSDR Uploading Bearing data to RDFMapper

DragonOS LTS/10 Bearing Server (KerberosSDR, RDFMapper)

In addition to the direction finding video he's got another video that shows how to use a KerberosSDR and HackRF to simultaneously monitor various signals like home gas meters, ADS-B data, and 433 MHz ISM band devices using programs like rtlamr, rtladsb and rtl_433. What's particularly interesting is how he uses a program called Kismet to manage each radio on the device.

DragonOS LTS/10 KerberosSDR + HackRF One (qspectrumanalyzer, kismet, rtl_433, rtlamr, rtladsb)

KerberosSDR: Tracking Aircraft on a Map via Passive Radar and Beamforming Only (Future Code Demonstration)

If you've been following KerberosSDR development (our US$149 4 channel coherent RTL-SDR), then you'll know that one interesting experiment that you can set up with it is a passive radar. Passive radar makes use of already exiting strong transmitters that broadcast signals such as FM, DAB and HDTV.

With one directional antenna pointing towards the transmitter, and one pointing in the general direction of moving objects like aircraft, it's possible to detect the transmitted signal being reflected off the aircraft's body.From the time delay and doppler shift detected in the reflected signal, a simple distance/speed plot showing the aircraft in motion can be created. This previous post shows an example of what information you could potentially collect in a range/speed graph over time. In the past we've also used passive radar to detect vehicles and measure how much traffic is in a neighbourhood.

However, with two antennas we can only get the detected object's range and distance information. If we use four antennas (one pointing towards the transmitter, and three pointing in the direction of objects), it is possible to use beam forming techniques combined to obtain an estimated map coordinate of the object. This is possible as we then we have distance information available from the passive radar algorithm, and bearing information available from the beam forming algorithm.

Tamas Peto who wrote our open source KerberosSDR code has been working on some new upcoming features for the KerberosSDR software, and beamformed direction finding of passive radar is one of them.  We note that to be clear this software is not yet released, and we still expect there to be several months before it is ready. At the moment all data was processed manually offline after collecting data with a KerberosSDR as part of this early test.

The image below shows an example of a recent measurement made from an aircraft. The red tracks show the actual ADS-B GPS coordinates of the aircraft, and the black line indicates the positional data measured from a DAB signal reflecting off the aircraft body. The orange line to the east indicates the main lobe of the three beam formed directional antennas, and the lines to the west indicate transmit towers.

The measured trajectory is only about 1-2 km off the actual one. Tamas notes that the position offset may be because at the moment altitude is not measured yet.

If you're interested in more information, Tamas created a PowerPoint presentation which can be downloaded from our Google Drive.

Passive Radar with Beamforming and Direction Finding
Passive Radar with Beamforming and Direction Finding

Other upcoming features that are planned for the KebrerosSDR code include being able to use direction finding on short bursty signals, improvements to networked direction finding and beamforming which may be useful for applications like radio astronomy and performance improvements.

KerberosSDR can be purchased from the Othernet store or Hacker Warehouse, and every purchase helps us fund development of more interesting features like passive radar beamforming!

A FM Radio Passive Radar System from Two RTL-SDR Dongles

Over on his blog, Max Manning has posted about his senior year design project which was an RTL-SDR based passive radar system that he created with his project partner Derek Capone. Max's writeup explains what passive radar is, and how the theory works in a very easy to understand way, utilizing graphs and short animations to help with the understanding. The rest of the post then goes into some deeper math, which is also fully explained.

Passive Radar works by using already existing powerful transmitters such as those for TV/FM. A receiver listens for these signals being reflected off of objects like aircraft and vehicles, and compares the reflection with a signal received directly from the transmitter. From this information a speed/range graph of detected objects can be calculated

For hardware, the team used two RTL-SDR dongles with the local oscillators connected together. A standard dipole is used as the reference antenna, and a 5-element Yagi is used as the surveillance antenna.

Max's post is a great read for those trying to understand how to do passive radar with a KerberosSDR which is our 4x coherent input RTL-SDR unit available from the Othernet store or Hacker warehouse. Being a radio capable of coherency, it is useful for applications like passive radar and direction finding. 

Their code is all open source and available on GitHub. We note that their code should also work with KerberosSDR with only either zero to minor modifications required. However, for the KerberosSDR we also have our own passive radar code available which might be a little easier to setup via the GUI.

Passive Radar with Two RTL-SDR dongles sharing a single clock.
Passive Radar with Two RTL-SDR dongles sharing a single clock.

KerberosSDR 4-Channel RTL-SDR Passive Radar with Peak Hold Display

Recently we've been testing a simple peak hold for the KerberosSDR passive radar display. This results in some nice graphs that show aircraft and vehicle activity over time. 

Passive radar works by using already existing transmitters such as those for HDTV and listening for reflections that bounce off of RF reflective objects. With a two antenna setup, it is possible to generate a bistatic range/doppler speed graph of reflected objects.

With the reference Yagi antenna pointed towards a 600 MHz DVB-T tower, and the surveillance antenna pointed to an airport we were able to obtain the graph below. The top two large traces show aircraft heading towards our station, whereas the bottom traces show aircraft leaving the airport. Also visible are multiple blips with smaller doppler speeds, and these correspond to vehicles.

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Display Peak Hold
KerberosSDR Passive Radar Display Peak Hold

The code on the KerberosSDR git will be updated in a few days time. We are also working on a more comprehensive passive radar tutorial that will try to explain concepts like processing gain, bistatic ranges and other important tips for getting good passive radar results. At the same time we're also working on improving direction finding ease of use by prototyping antenna switches for calibration, and working on getting 4-channel beamformed passive radar working which will allow us to plot passive radar returns on a real map.

The KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding, passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently available from the Othernet store and Hacker Warehouse for US$149.95.

New Product in Store: RTL-SDR Blog Magnetic Whip Antenna Set (Great for KerberosSDR Direction Finding)

We've recently released a new Magnetic Whip Antenna Set in our store. The set consists of a heavy duty magnetic mount antenna base with 2M RG59, a 9.5cm fixed whip antenna (usable from 400 MHz to 2 GHz+), and a 17cm to 1m telescopic whip (usable from 100 MHz - 400 MHz).

Click Here to Visit our Store

The antenna set costs US$14.95 each with free shipping. And if you buy four sets you will receive a 15% discount. Currently available to ship worldwide right now from our warehouse in China, and they will be on Amazon in 2-3 weeks.

One application of our KerberosSDR 4-Tuner Coherent RTL-SDR is radio direction finding. This requires four quality omni-directional antennas. We were disappointed to find that there were no high quality magnetic whip antennas available on the market for a low price that we could use with KerberosSDR so we made our own.

The magnetic base is designed carefully with conductive metal that is properly connected to the shield of the coax cable. Most cheap antenna bases just leave the shield connection floating and this causes insufficient coupling to the underlying ground plane resulting in poor performance and poor results when it comes to direction finding and reception.

We've tested this set with KerberosSDR and it is known to work well. The antenna can also of course be used for any other receiving purpose if you prefer to use a whip antenna over our multipurpose dipole antenna set.

In the first two images in the image slider below you can see a comparison between a black base that is not properly bonded to the coax shield, vs the RTL-SDR Blog silver base which is correctly bonded to the coax shield. Both tests used the 9.5cm whip antenna. You can see that the RTL-SDR Blog silver base provides a much lower noise floor and higher signal SNR due to the better ground plane. Also we note that when placing the antenna bases on a metallic surface to create a larger ground plane, the black base showed no further improvement, whereas the RTL-SDR Blog silver base did.

The final three images in the slider show the SWR plots of the two whips on the base. We can see that the 9.5cm whip provides an SWR of less than six below 412 MHz. The telescopic whip can be adjusted to provide better SWR for lower frequencies.

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)
Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)
9.5cm Whip SWR Plot
Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot
Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot
RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base) Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base) 9.5cm Whip SWR Plot Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot

DragonOS: KerberosSDR Bearing Server Setup with RDFMapper

DragonOS is a ready to use Linux OS image that includes many SDR programs preinstalled and ready to use. The creator Aaron also runs a YouTube channel that has multiple tutorial videos demonstrating software built into DragonOS.

In a recent video Aaron has provided a two part tutorial showing how to set up and use KerberosSDR with the RDFMapper software on DragonOS. This allows you to network multiple KerberosSDR units together and display each units radio bearing on the same map. Two or more bearings crossing can be used to determine the location of a transmitter. In the future Aaron will use this setup to have multiple mobile and fixed  KerberosSDR units connected together via Zero Tier. Aaron writes:

In this first video I show how to install software to control the KerberosSDR – A 4-Channel Phase Coherent RTL-SDR for Passive Radar, Direction Finding and more onto DragonOS Focal (Lubuntu 20.04 based). A fork of the main code is required due to some changes in dependencies and packages. This fork is only meant for or at least tested on Ubuntu, Kubuntu, and Lubuntu 20.04.

I also show some issues you may experience due to poor quality USB cables, insufficient power, and/or issues with USB ports being used to power the KerberosSDR or connect to it.

In this second video I show how to install and use RDFMapper with the KerberosSDR software and Android App. I also cover some common problems I've experienced with the current KerberosSDR Android App.

Recommended to watch the first video if you are planning to run the KerberosSDR on a PC or a SBC like the Raspberry Pi. This video and setup procedure can be adapted to use the Raspberry Pi/Android App instead of a PC. 

I plan to make a couple more videos on this topic. By the end, it should be possible to have multiple KerberosSDR stations, both mobile and stationary, linked to one instance of RDFMapper over Zero Tier all simultaneously performing direction finding on one frequency.

KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction findingpassive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently in stock and available on the Othernet store.

DragonOS Focal KerberosSDR setup (20.04 fork, x86_64 Laptop) part 1

DragonOS Focal KerberosSDR w/ Bearing Server setup (RDFMapper, Android App, x86_64 Laptop) part 2

KerberosSDR Tracking a Drone Carrying an FM Beacon

KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction findingpassive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently in stock and available on the Othernet store.

Recently Zuokun Li et al from the University of East China Normal University published an open access conference paper that documents their results at using a KerberosSDR to track a drone. As typical drone control frequencies at 2.4 GHz are outside the range of the RTL-SDRs used on the KerberosSDR, they carried a 446 MHz FM beacon on the drone.

In their experiment they set up both circular and linear antenna arrays for the KerberosSDR, then flew the drone in front of the antenna array while recording the bearings calculated by the KerberosSDR system. The results showed that the KerberosSDR was able to successfully track the drone's bearing with either antenna array, however the linear array produced more accurate results as expected.

We note that a linear array cannot differentiate if an object is in front or behind the array. However, if this knowledge is known it can be used instead of a circular array to get more accurate bearings that are less affected by multipath.

If you're interested in this, you might also like our articles on using a KerberosSDR to track a weather balloon, to locate a P25 transmitter, or our Android app in car demos

The KerberosSDR + Drone Setup
Results from the drones at three locations.

KerberosSDR: Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

The KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously successfully crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding, passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring.

KerberosSDR can be purchased from our partner store at https://othernet.is/products/kerberossdr-4x-coherent-rtl-sdr.

In one of our latest tests we've been able to track a weather balloon radiosonde via the direction finding ability of KerberosSDR. These balloons are launched twice daily by meteorological agencies around the world, and the radiosonde carried by the balloon transmits an RS-41 signal continuously throughout it's flight sending back telemetry such as weather information and GPS coordinates. The KerberosSDR tracks the bearing towards the balloon using only the raw signal - it does not decode. Having the actual GPS location from the RS41 data allows us to compare and confirm that the KerberosSDR is indeed tracking the bearing of the balloon.

In this test we used the excellent 4-element dipole array made by Arrow Antennas. In particular we used the 406 MHz element version as the RS-41 signal is broadcast at 403 MHz. The antenna array is mounted on the roof, the KerberosSDR is in the attic connected to a Raspberry Pi 4. Our KerberosSDR Android app is used to plot the bearings. A separate RTL-SDR running on the video recording PC is connected to it's own antenna and is used to receive and decode the RS41 signal. The free software RS41 Tracker is used to decode and map the balloon for location confirmation. 

We are currently using the latest beta code in development (unreleased at the time of this post - it will be released within 1 to 2 months) which handles non-continuous intermittent signals better.

Arrow Antennas 4-Element Dipole Array Mounted on Roof

The short video below shows a timelapse of the RS41 decoder tracking a balloon which circled the south of our KerberosSDR. The red line indicates the zero degree direction of the antenna array, while the blue line indicates the estimated direction of the balloon determined via the MUSIC radio direction finding technique.

The GPS balloon map from RS41 tracker is overlayed on top of the KerberosSDR Android app map for clarity via video editing. We can see that it mostly tracks the balloon to within a few degrees. When the blue bearing line diverges this is due to the balloon's line of sight path to the antennas being obscured by terrain, buildings or trees. When this is the case a multipath signal reflecting off surrounding hills tends to become dominant.

In the second short video below the weather balloon tracked northwards. Towards the north, north west and north east we have antenna obstructions in the form of rising terrain, houses and hills, so the overall accuracy is poorer. However, it still tracks within a few degrees most of the time.

Finally the YouTube video below shows the same as the above, but in the second half includes the full screen including the KerberosSDR DoA graphs and SDR# waterfall showing signal strength.

KerberosSDR Tracking a Weather Balloon Radiosonde with Radio Direction Finding

In the future we hope to test with two or more KerberosSDR units producing multiple bearing lines on RDFMapper, hopefully resulting in cross points that can be used to estimate the actual location of the balloon.

DragonOS KerberosSDR Tutorials: Setting up Networked Direction Finding, Monitoring Multiple Signals Simultaneously

DragonOS is a ready to use Linux OS that includes various SDR programs preinstalled. The creator Aaron also runs a YouTube channel that contains multiple tutorial videos for DragonOS. One of the latest videos he's released is a tutorial that shows how to use one of our KerberosSDR (4x Coherent RTL-SDR) units to set up networked direction finding. To do this he uses our core KerberosSDR DSP software, along with RDFMapper, a third party bearing visualization tool with the ability to display bearing from multiple networked direction finding units.

The tutorial goes through the KerberosSDR software install procedure, shows how to set up the various parameters in the software, and then demonstrates it providing data to the RDFMapper software via our open source pyRDFMapper-KSDR-Adapter program. With this setup, you could run multiple KerberosSDR units around a city and use them to locate a signal source rapidly.

KerberosSDR Uploading Bearing data to RDFMapper
KerberosSDR Uploading Bearing data to RDFMapper

DragonOS LTS/10 Bearing Server (KerberosSDR, RDFMapper)

In addition to the direction finding video he's got another video that shows how to use a KerberosSDR and HackRF to simultaneously monitor various signals like home gas meters, ADS-B data, and 433 MHz ISM band devices using programs like rtlamr, rtladsb and rtl_433. What's particularly interesting is how he uses a program called Kismet to manage each radio on the device.

DragonOS LTS/10 KerberosSDR + HackRF One (qspectrumanalyzer, kismet, rtl_433, rtlamr, rtladsb)

KerberosSDR: Tracking Aircraft on a Map via Passive Radar and Beamforming Only (Future Code Demonstration)

If you've been following KerberosSDR development (our US$149 4 channel coherent RTL-SDR), then you'll know that one interesting experiment that you can set up with it is a passive radar. Passive radar makes use of already exiting strong transmitters that broadcast signals such as FM, DAB and HDTV.

With one directional antenna pointing towards the transmitter, and one pointing in the general direction of moving objects like aircraft, it's possible to detect the transmitted signal being reflected off the aircraft's body.From the time delay and doppler shift detected in the reflected signal, a simple distance/speed plot showing the aircraft in motion can be created. This previous post shows an example of what information you could potentially collect in a range/speed graph over time. In the past we've also used passive radar to detect vehicles and measure how much traffic is in a neighbourhood.

However, with two antennas we can only get the detected object's range and distance information. If we use four antennas (one pointing towards the transmitter, and three pointing in the direction of objects), it is possible to use beam forming techniques combined to obtain an estimated map coordinate of the object. This is possible as we then we have distance information available from the passive radar algorithm, and bearing information available from the beam forming algorithm.

Tamas Peto who wrote our open source KerberosSDR code has been working on some new upcoming features for the KerberosSDR software, and beamformed direction finding of passive radar is one of them.  We note that to be clear this software is not yet released, and we still expect there to be several months before it is ready. At the moment all data was processed manually offline after collecting data with a KerberosSDR as part of this early test.

The image below shows an example of a recent measurement made from an aircraft. The red tracks show the actual ADS-B GPS coordinates of the aircraft, and the black line indicates the positional data measured from a DAB signal reflecting off the aircraft body. The orange line to the east indicates the main lobe of the three beam formed directional antennas, and the lines to the west indicate transmit towers.

The measured trajectory is only about 1-2 km off the actual one. Tamas notes that the position offset may be because at the moment altitude is not measured yet.

If you're interested in more information, Tamas created a PowerPoint presentation which can be downloaded from our Google Drive.

Passive Radar with Beamforming and Direction Finding
Passive Radar with Beamforming and Direction Finding

Other upcoming features that are planned for the KebrerosSDR code include being able to use direction finding on short bursty signals, improvements to networked direction finding and beamforming which may be useful for applications like radio astronomy and performance improvements.

KerberosSDR can be purchased from the Othernet store or Hacker Warehouse, and every purchase helps us fund development of more interesting features like passive radar beamforming!

A FM Radio Passive Radar System from Two RTL-SDR Dongles

Over on his blog, Max Manning has posted about his senior year design project which was an RTL-SDR based passive radar system that he created with his project partner Derek Capone. Max's writeup explains what passive radar is, and how the theory works in a very easy to understand way, utilizing graphs and short animations to help with the understanding. The rest of the post then goes into some deeper math, which is also fully explained.

Passive Radar works by using already existing powerful transmitters such as those for TV/FM. A receiver listens for these signals being reflected off of objects like aircraft and vehicles, and compares the reflection with a signal received directly from the transmitter. From this information a speed/range graph of detected objects can be calculated

For hardware, the team used two RTL-SDR dongles with the local oscillators connected together. A standard dipole is used as the reference antenna, and a 5-element Yagi is used as the surveillance antenna.

Max's post is a great read for those trying to understand how to do passive radar with a KerberosSDR which is our 4x coherent input RTL-SDR unit available from the Othernet store or Hacker warehouse. Being a radio capable of coherency, it is useful for applications like passive radar and direction finding. 

Their code is all open source and available on GitHub. We note that their code should also work with KerberosSDR with only either zero to minor modifications required. However, for the KerberosSDR we also have our own passive radar code available which might be a little easier to setup via the GUI.

Passive Radar with Two RTL-SDR dongles sharing a single clock.
Passive Radar with Two RTL-SDR dongles sharing a single clock.

KerberosSDR 4-Channel RTL-SDR Passive Radar with Peak Hold Display

Recently we've been testing a simple peak hold for the KerberosSDR passive radar display. This results in some nice graphs that show aircraft and vehicle activity over time. 

Passive radar works by using already existing transmitters such as those for HDTV and listening for reflections that bounce off of RF reflective objects. With a two antenna setup, it is possible to generate a bistatic range/doppler speed graph of reflected objects.

With the reference Yagi antenna pointed towards a 600 MHz DVB-T tower, and the surveillance antenna pointed to an airport we were able to obtain the graph below. The top two large traces show aircraft heading towards our station, whereas the bottom traces show aircraft leaving the airport. Also visible are multiple blips with smaller doppler speeds, and these correspond to vehicles.

KerberosSDR Passive Radar Display Peak Hold
KerberosSDR Passive Radar Display Peak Hold

The code on the KerberosSDR git will be updated in a few days time. We are also working on a more comprehensive passive radar tutorial that will try to explain concepts like processing gain, bistatic ranges and other important tips for getting good passive radar results. At the same time we're also working on improving direction finding ease of use by prototyping antenna switches for calibration, and working on getting 4-channel beamformed passive radar working which will allow us to plot passive radar returns on a real map.

The KerberosSDR is our 4-channel phase coherent capable RTL-SDR unit that we previously crowdfunded back in 2018.  With a 4-channel phase coherent RTL-SDR interesting applications like radio direction finding, passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as 4 separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring. KerberosSDR is currently available from the Othernet store and Hacker Warehouse for US$149.95.

New Product in Store: RTL-SDR Blog Magnetic Whip Antenna Set (Great for KerberosSDR Direction Finding)

We've recently released a new Magnetic Whip Antenna Set in our store. The set consists of a heavy duty magnetic mount antenna base with 2M RG59, a 9.5cm fixed whip antenna (usable from 400 MHz to 2 GHz+), and a 17cm to 1m telescopic whip (usable from 100 MHz - 400 MHz).

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The antenna set costs US$14.95 each with free shipping. And if you buy four sets you will receive a 15% discount. Currently available to ship worldwide right now from our warehouse in China, and they will be on Amazon in 2-3 weeks.

One application of our KerberosSDR 4-Tuner Coherent RTL-SDR is radio direction finding. This requires four quality omni-directional antennas. We were disappointed to find that there were no high quality magnetic whip antennas available on the market for a low price that we could use with KerberosSDR so we made our own.

The magnetic base is designed carefully with conductive metal that is properly connected to the shield of the coax cable. Most cheap antenna bases just leave the shield connection floating and this causes insufficient coupling to the underlying ground plane resulting in poor performance and poor results when it comes to direction finding and reception.

We've tested this set with KerberosSDR and it is known to work well. The antenna can also of course be used for any other receiving purpose if you prefer to use a whip antenna over our multipurpose dipole antenna set.

In the first two images in the image slider below you can see a comparison between a black base that is not properly bonded to the coax shield, vs the RTL-SDR Blog silver base which is correctly bonded to the coax shield. Both tests used the 9.5cm whip antenna. You can see that the RTL-SDR Blog silver base provides a much lower noise floor and higher signal SNR due to the better ground plane. Also we note that when placing the antenna bases on a metallic surface to create a larger ground plane, the black base showed no further improvement, whereas the RTL-SDR Blog silver base did.

The final three images in the slider show the SWR plots of the two whips on the base. We can see that the 9.5cm whip provides an SWR of less than six below 412 MHz. The telescopic whip can be adjusted to provide better SWR for lower frequencies.

RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base)
Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base)
9.5cm Whip SWR Plot
Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot
Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot
RTL-SDR Blog Antenna Base (Coax shield properly connected to base) Generic Black Antenna Base (Coax shield not connected to base) 9.5cm Whip SWR Plot Telescopic Whip Collapsed SWR Plot Telescopic Whip Fully Expanded SWR Plot