Tagged: Radiosonde

Aggregating Weather Balloon Data Online with a Custom Raspberry Pi Image

Thanks to a RTL-SDR.COM reader for submitting a tip about radiosondy.info, a weather balloon data aggregation website made by SQ6KXY. Weather balloons carry a sensor and transmitter payload called a radiosonde. These radiosondes transmit their data to a ground station via an RF signal, which is typically at around 400 - 406 MHz in most countries. With an RTL-SDR and decoder software (related tutorial) it is possible to receive and decode their weather data, and also often their GPS location data. The location data can be used to find and collect radiosondes once they reach the ground.

SQ6KXY has created a website called radiosondy.info which aims to aggregate and make weather balloon data received by contributors public. It is similar to sites like flightradar24 which aggregate ADS-B data from aircraft. The main page allows you to view radiosondes that are currently flying, and the archive of previous flights.

To make contributing to the site as simple as possible, SQ6KXY has created a custom image for the Raspberry Pi, which is automatically generated by the website for your particular user account, local radiosonde frequency requirements, and number of SDRs. They don't specifically mention it, but we assume that contributors are mostly using RTL-SDRs in their receivers. The custom image is available for generation after signing up.

Web tool to generate a custom Raspberry Pi Image for Radiosonde Tracking
Web tool to generate a custom Raspberry Pi Image for Radiosonde Tracking

Tutorial on using RS to Decode and Plot Radiosondes

A radiosonde is a small weather sensor package that is typically attached to a weather balloon. As it rises into the atmosphere it measures parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, GPS location etc, and transmits this data back down to a receiver base station using a radio signal.

Zilog's RS is a free open source radiosonde decoder for Linux and it supports a wide range of radiosonde protocols. Together with an RTL-SDR it is possible to receive radiosonde signals, and decode them using RS.

Over on his website, happysat has recently uploaded a tutorial that shows how to use RS with an RTL-SDR, CubicSDR or GQRX, and FoxtrotGPS, a GPS plotting program for visualizing the location of the radiosonde. The tutorial covers some tricky points like setting up audio piping in Linux, and getting the GPS data into a virtual COM port to use with FoxtrotGPS.

Alternatively, there are also Windows GUI based sonde decoders that can be used with the RTL-SDR such as SondeMonitor which costs 25 Euros, but also covers a wide range of sonde protocols, and RS41 Decoder which is a GUI for the RS41 sonde protocol only. If you are interested we have a tutorial on setting up radiosonde decoding in Windows with SondeMonitor available here.

Plotting the Sonde Location with an RTL-SDR, GQRX, RS and FoxtrotGPS.
Plotting the Sonde Location with an RTL-SDR, GQRX, RS and FoxtrotGPS.

RS41 RadioSonde Tracking Software

A radiosonde is a small weather sensor package that is typically attached to a weather balloon. As it rises into the atmosphere it measures parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, GPS location etc, and transmits this data back down to a receiver base station using a radio signal. The RS41 is one of the newer radiosonde modules sold by  radiosonde manufacturer Vaisala, and is currently one of the most popular radiosondes in use by meteorological agencies. The signal is typically found at around 400 MHz and can be received with an RTL-SDR and an antenna tuned for 400 MHz. We have a general tutorial on radiosonde decoding available here.

There are several software packages that can decode RS41 data, such as the multi-radiosonde decoder Windows program called SondeMonitor (25 euros), or the free Linux command line software called RS. Recently a new free Windows GUI based RS41 decoder has been released by IW1GIS. The software can display on Google maps the current location and previous path of the radiosonde, as well as it's weather data telemetry.

Main features are:

  • Directly decoding of GFSK signal received by the FM radio receiver (the use of a Software Defined Radio is recommended).
  • Capability to connect and command SDRSharp software by mean of Net Remote Control plugin.
  • Advanced frequencies scan and decode: RS41 Tracker is able to look for RS41 radiosonde signal in a given list of frequencies, starting the radiosonde decoding when a valid signal is detected.
  • Real time showing radiosonde position on google map (internet connection is required)
  • Map auto centered on radiosonde position
  • Map type selectable by user (road, satellite, hybrid, terrain).
  • Burst killer detailed information and launch time estimation.
  • Radiosonde RAW data save
  • Post processing of RS41 RAW data file
  • Tracking information (elevation, bearing, slant range)
  • Radiosonde track saved on kml file
  • Ghost track shown on map (loading from kml file)
  • Shortcut for google maps in browser
RS41 Tracker Software
RS41 Tracker Software

Reprogramming Vaisala RS-41 Radiosondes to Transmit APRS, RTTY, CW in the Ham or ISM Bands

Radiosondes are light weight sensor packages that are attached to weather balloons. They transmit live RF weather telemetry down to earth as they rise. With an RTL-SDR and appropriate antenna it can be possible to decode this telemetry. One related hobby that a few people enjoy is radiosonde chasing, which is tracking and collecting radiosondes once they have fallen back to the earth. Some people collect them as trophies, and others like to repurpose them. For example in this previous post we've seen how some radiosondes can be repurposed into L-band antennas for RTL-SDR's.

Another way to repurpose radiosondes has recently been submitted to us by regular contributor 'happysat' who wrote in and let us know that it is actually possible to reprogram the commonly used Vaisala RS-41 radiosondes into being able to transmit ham radio APRS, RTTY or CW mode signals in the ISM or ham bands. The initial hack was first performed by SQ5RWU, and then OM3BC who managed to create easier to use software that could reflash the radiosondes internal firmware via the serial port on the radiosonde. This hack could be useful for any ham requiring a cheap transmitter for their own high altitude balloon experiments.

Happysat ended up testing this software with some RS-41 radiosondes that he had, and managed to receive some generated signals with an RTL-SDR of his. Some photos that he's submitted are shown at the end of this post.

In addition to the above, happysat also wanted to mention his other radiosonde re-purposing project which was turning a DFM-06 and DFM-09 into a functional GPS unit that could be used for navigation when connected to a laptop, or to sync time on PCs.

Transmit APRS

Transmit APRS

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PE2BZ's Modded RS41 with Solar Panels

PE2BZ's Modded RS41 with Solar Panels

RS41 Programmer

RS41 Programmer

Aggregating Weather Balloon Data Online with a Custom Raspberry Pi Image

Thanks to a RTL-SDR.COM reader for submitting a tip about radiosondy.info, a weather balloon data aggregation website made by SQ6KXY. Weather balloons carry a sensor and transmitter payload called a radiosonde. These radiosondes transmit their data to a ground station via an RF signal, which is typically at around 400 - 406 MHz in most countries. With an RTL-SDR and decoder software (related tutorial) it is possible to receive and decode their weather data, and also often their GPS location data. The location data can be used to find and collect radiosondes once they reach the ground.

SQ6KXY has created a website called radiosondy.info which aims to aggregate and make weather balloon data received by contributors public. It is similar to sites like flightradar24 which aggregate ADS-B data from aircraft. The main page allows you to view radiosondes that are currently flying, and the archive of previous flights.

To make contributing to the site as simple as possible, SQ6KXY has created a custom image for the Raspberry Pi, which is automatically generated by the website for your particular user account, local radiosonde frequency requirements, and number of SDRs. They don't specifically mention it, but we assume that contributors are mostly using RTL-SDRs in their receivers. The custom image is available for generation after signing up.

Web tool to generate a custom Raspberry Pi Image for Radiosonde Tracking
Web tool to generate a custom Raspberry Pi Image for Radiosonde Tracking

Tutorial on using RS to Decode and Plot Radiosondes

A radiosonde is a small weather sensor package that is typically attached to a weather balloon. As it rises into the atmosphere it measures parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, GPS location etc, and transmits this data back down to a receiver base station using a radio signal.

Zilog's RS is a free open source radiosonde decoder for Linux and it supports a wide range of radiosonde protocols. Together with an RTL-SDR it is possible to receive radiosonde signals, and decode them using RS.

Over on his website, happysat has recently uploaded a tutorial that shows how to use RS with an RTL-SDR, CubicSDR or GQRX, and FoxtrotGPS, a GPS plotting program for visualizing the location of the radiosonde. The tutorial covers some tricky points like setting up audio piping in Linux, and getting the GPS data into a virtual COM port to use with FoxtrotGPS.

Alternatively, there are also Windows GUI based sonde decoders that can be used with the RTL-SDR such as SondeMonitor which costs 25 Euros, but also covers a wide range of sonde protocols, and RS41 Decoder which is a GUI for the RS41 sonde protocol only. If you are interested we have a tutorial on setting up radiosonde decoding in Windows with SondeMonitor available here.

Plotting the Sonde Location with an RTL-SDR, GQRX, RS and FoxtrotGPS.
Plotting the Sonde Location with an RTL-SDR, GQRX, RS and FoxtrotGPS.

RS41 RadioSonde Tracking Software

A radiosonde is a small weather sensor package that is typically attached to a weather balloon. As it rises into the atmosphere it measures parameters such as temperature, humidity, pressure, GPS location etc, and transmits this data back down to a receiver base station using a radio signal. The RS41 is one of the newer radiosonde modules sold by  radiosonde manufacturer Vaisala, and is currently one of the most popular radiosondes in use by meteorological agencies. The signal is typically found at around 400 MHz and can be received with an RTL-SDR and an antenna tuned for 400 MHz. We have a general tutorial on radiosonde decoding available here.

There are several software packages that can decode RS41 data, such as the multi-radiosonde decoder Windows program called SondeMonitor (25 euros), or the free Linux command line software called RS. Recently a new free Windows GUI based RS41 decoder has been released by IW1GIS. The software can display on Google maps the current location and previous path of the radiosonde, as well as it's weather data telemetry.

Main features are:

  • Directly decoding of GFSK signal received by the FM radio receiver (the use of a Software Defined Radio is recommended).
  • Capability to connect and command SDRSharp software by mean of Net Remote Control plugin.
  • Advanced frequencies scan and decode: RS41 Tracker is able to look for RS41 radiosonde signal in a given list of frequencies, starting the radiosonde decoding when a valid signal is detected.
  • Real time showing radiosonde position on google map (internet connection is required)
  • Map auto centered on radiosonde position
  • Map type selectable by user (road, satellite, hybrid, terrain).
  • Burst killer detailed information and launch time estimation.
  • Radiosonde RAW data save
  • Post processing of RS41 RAW data file
  • Tracking information (elevation, bearing, slant range)
  • Radiosonde track saved on kml file
  • Ghost track shown on map (loading from kml file)
  • Shortcut for google maps in browser
RS41 Tracker Software
RS41 Tracker Software

Reprogramming Vaisala RS-41 Radiosondes to Transmit APRS, RTTY, CW in the Ham or ISM Bands

Radiosondes are light weight sensor packages that are attached to weather balloons. They transmit live RF weather telemetry down to earth as they rise. With an RTL-SDR and appropriate antenna it can be possible to decode this telemetry. One related hobby that a few people enjoy is radiosonde chasing, which is tracking and collecting radiosondes once they have fallen back to the earth. Some people collect them as trophies, and others like to repurpose them. For example in this previous post we've seen how some radiosondes can be repurposed into L-band antennas for RTL-SDR's.

Another way to repurpose radiosondes has recently been submitted to us by regular contributor 'happysat' who wrote in and let us know that it is actually possible to reprogram the commonly used Vaisala RS-41 radiosondes into being able to transmit ham radio APRS, RTTY or CW mode signals in the ISM or ham bands. The initial hack was first performed by SQ5RWU, and then OM3BC who managed to create easier to use software that could reflash the radiosondes internal firmware via the serial port on the radiosonde. This hack could be useful for any ham requiring a cheap transmitter for their own high altitude balloon experiments.

Happysat ended up testing this software with some RS-41 radiosondes that he had, and managed to receive some generated signals with an RTL-SDR of his. Some photos that he's submitted are shown at the end of this post.

In addition to the above, happysat also wanted to mention his other radiosonde re-purposing project which was turning a DFM-06 and DFM-09 into a functional GPS unit that could be used for navigation when connected to a laptop, or to sync time on PCs.

Transmit APRS

Transmit APRS

xub
w7
PE2BZ's Modded RS41 with Solar Panels

PE2BZ's Modded RS41 with Solar Panels

RS41 Programmer

RS41 Programmer

Wired Article about Radiosonde (Weather Balloon) Hunting

Wired.com has recently run a short article about Roland F5ZV's hobby of radiosonde hunting. A radiosonde is a small box containing electronic sensors that measure things like wind, temperature, humidity and also give out a GPS location. The radiosonde is carried into the upper atmosphere by a weather balloon, and these probes are usually launched twice a day in many locations around the world by meteorological agencies. The data is useful for weather forecasting and research.

The wired article discusses the hobby of radiosonde hunting, which is the sport of using radios to hunt and collect the radiosonde as it bursts and falls back to earth. He also writes how he was able to convince the Swiss Meteorological agency to allow him to attach a GoPro to a radiosonde which allowed him to capture some interesting images.

We'd like to remind readers that in many places in the world it is possible to receive and decode radiosonde data with an RTL-SDR, and we have a tutorial available here.

Radiosonde in flight captured by a GoPro camera.
Radiosonde in flight captured by a GoPro camera.

Turning an old Radiosonde into an Active L-Band Antenna

VK5QI's Radiosonde Collection
VK5QI's Radiosonde Collection

Over on his blog VK5QI has shown how he has was able to re-purpose an old radiosonde into a wideband active L-band antenna. Radiosondes are small packages sent up with weather balloons. They contains weather sensors, GPS and altitude meters and use an antenna and radio transmitter to transmit the telemetry data back down to a ground station. With a simple radio such as an RTL-SDR and the right software, these radiosondes can be tracked and the weather data downloaded in real time. Some hobbyists such as VK5QI go further and actually chase down the weather balloons and radiosondes as they return to earth, collecting the radiosonde as a prize.

VK5QI and his friend Will decided to put some of his radiosonde collection to good use by modifying one of his RS92 radiosondes into a cheap active L-band antenna. They did this by first opening and removing unnecessary components that may interfere such as the main CPU, GPS receiver, 16 MHz oscillator, SAW filters and balun. They left the battery, LDO's, LNA's and Quadrifilar Helix GPS antenna which is tuned to the GPS L-band frequency. Finally they soldered on a coax connector to a tap point on the PCB and it was ready to use.

They then connected the new antenna to a RTL-SDR V3 and fired up GQRX. They write that their results were quite promising with several Inmarsat and Iridium signals being visible in the spectrum. VK5QI also used gr-iridium with the antenna as was able to decode some Iridium signals.

Modified Radiosonde L-Band Antenna connected to a RTL-SDR V3.
Modified Radiosonde L-Band Antenna connected to a RTL-SDR V3.

NOAA using the SDRplay RSP2 and RTL-SDR for Receiving Weather Balloon Data

NOAA RSP2 setup for Receiving Radiosonde Data
NOAA RSP2 setup for Receiving Radiosonde Data

Over on the SDRplay forums there has been a post by a NOAA engineer showing how they are using SDRplay RSP2 units in the field for tracking their radiosonde weather balloons. A radiosonde is a small sensor package and transmitter that is carried high into the atmosphere by a weather balloon. It gathers weather data whilst transmitting the data live back down to a base stations. You can get data such as temperature, pressure, humidity, altitude and GPS location.

Bobasaurus' coworker launching a weather balloon.
Bobasaurus' coworker launching a weather balloon.

The NOAA engineer on the forum (handle 'bobasaurus') wrote SkySonde, which is the software used by NOAA to decode and plot data from the radiosondes. SkySonde is freely available for public download on the NOAA website. A PDF file showing how to use the SkySonde software with an RSP2 or RTL-SDR can be found here, and the full SkySonde manual is available here. The software consists of a client and server, with the server connecting to the RSP2 or RTL-SDR, and then sending data to the client. Both server and client can run on the same PC.

The hardware setup consists of an RSP2 (can be interchanged with an RTL-SDR), an Uputronics Radiosonde Filtered preamp and a Yagi antenna. Presumably a Yagi and LNA is not completely required, although the receivable range will be less. The RSP2 bias tee is used to power the preamp, and on a V3 RTL-SDR the bias tee should also work.

NOAA appears to use the iMet brand of radiosondes which transmit a Bell 202 signal. Bobasaurus writes that they transmit in the 401-405 MHz range. This video shows an example of such a signal. If you are in the US near an area that launches these iMet weather balloons you should be able to receive them. An alternative piece of software that supports iMet radiosondes is RS. For other radiosondes we have a tutorial that uses SondeMonitor available here.

SkySonde Radiosonde Software
SkySonde Radiosonde Software

Radiosonde Decoding

Over on his blog, nerdsville has posted about his experiences with decoding Radiosondes, a.k.a Meteorological Weather Balloons using his Funcube Dongle, which is an SDR with similar capabilities to the RTL-SDR. Using a program called SondeMonitor he was able to produce graphs balloon sensor data such as temperature, pressure, humidity and altitude.

If you are interested in decoding this type of thing we also have a tutorial on this topic available on our site.

SondeMonitor Graphs
SondeMonitor Graphs