SDRangel is a free open source software defined radio program that is compatible with many SDRs, including RTL-SDRs. SDRAngel is set apart from other programs because of it's huge swath of built in demodulators and decoders.
In one of his latest YouTube videos, Matt who runs the Tech Minds YouTube channels has posted a demonstration of the Radiosonde decoder plugin for SDR++ called sdrpp_radionsonde.
SDR++ is a software defined radio receiver program that is compatible with almost every SDR, including the RTL-SDR. Like other SDR programs, is has plugin capability, allowing third parties to develop additional features like decoders.
In the video Matt first shows how to install the plugin, demonstrates it being used with an example RS-41 radiosonde, and then shows how to use the log file outputs like the GPX track file on a free GPX map plotting website.
Radiosonde Decoder Plugin for SDR++
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. With an RTL-SDR, appropriate antenna and decoding software it is possible to decode the telemetry signal and gather the weather data yourself. You can also use the GPS data to chase and collect the fallen radiosonde package. We have an alternative tutorial on setting up a basic radiosonde decoder in Windows here.
The author, Dave Schneider explains how chasing and hunting weather balloons can be a fun sport. To help with his hunt Dave uses an RTL-SDR, a directional antenna and the Sondehub Tracker website.
First Dave logged onto Sondehub Tracker which aggregates multiple weather balloon signals received by volunteer ground stations. One feature of Sondehub is that it can predict an approximate landing position of a balloon. It however cannot track a balloon right to its final landing spot as usually the ground station will loose signal when the balloon gets too low.
Knowing the approximate landing position, Dave drove out to the indicated location and then took out his RTL-SDR and directional antenna and was able to track and find the radiosonde by decoding the telemetry signal with Sonde Monitor.
A new decoder for RS41 and DFM09 radiosondes has been released as a plugin for SDR++ by dbDexter. A radiosonde is a sensor package with RF transmitter that is attached to a weather balloon. Meteorological agencies around the world typically launch two per day in order to gather weather forecast data. With an RTL-SDR, appropriate antenna and a decoder it is possible to receive this data, and plot the GPS location on a map.
Installing a plugin for SDR++ requires adding the build options to the SDR++ source, and building SDR++, so it could be a little difficult for Windows, but relatively simple build instructions for Linux are provided in the Readme.
Over on Twitter FelixTRG (@OK9UWU) has tested the plugin out and has found it to work well.
dbDexter developed a WX radiosonde decoding plugin for @ryzerth's SDR++, i tested it rn on Vaisala RS41 launched from Prostejov (CZ) and works wonders.
Tested on linux, question when it will be in win release is on Ryzehttps://t.co/K5vq2iJnW1
Supports RS41 and DFM09 so far. pic.twitter.com/XEK4tci3Vd
Mark Jessop (@vk5qi) has recently been experimenting with a LED based hardware vehicle heads up display (HUD) that he has created to be used together with our KerberosSDR. The KerberosSDR combined with four antennas in a circular array determines the bearing towards a transmitter, and then the HUD displays this bearing visually on a circle.
The HUD is cleverly designed so that the LEDs reflect on the windshield of the car, allowing for the lights to be safely seen on the windshield while driving. More videos of the HUD being developed and used can be seen on his Twitter feed.
In the video below Mark also shows how he combines KerberosSDR bearing data with his Chase Mapper software, which he uses for tracking down radiosonde weather balloons.
For the last few months I've been piecing together a radio direction finding (also known as 'fox-hunting') system using a RTLSDR-Blog Kerberos-SDR, a custom-made antenna array, and my 'ChaseMapper' software. I have also recently added a 'heads up display' (HUD) box which displays the direction-of-arrival and SNR data from the Kerberos-SDR software.
I hope to put together a longer video showing how the system goes together sometime in the future, but this short clip shows how the system is used in the final approach to a radio transmitter (in this case, a 144 MHz transmitter from one of the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group organised night fox-hunts).
The antenna array consists of two 4-element nested arrays, one with 200mm antenna spacing for the 70cm band, and another with 425mm antenna spacing for the 2m band. The array is mounted to my car roof-racks, with phase-matched coax entering the car through a window-mounted bulkhead.
The red lines on the map indicate a bearing line produced by the Kerberos-SDR software. As we drive around the fox location, bearings are plotted, and we look for where they cross. There are always some inaccurate bearings due to multi-path issues, and misalignment between bearing acquisition time and the position/heading of the car, but it works well enough to be able to allow navigation to the transmitter location. The display can get fairly busy, so there are options to threshold by signal quality, and to 'age out' bearings over time.
The beeping noise you hear in the video is the signal from the radio transmitter, in this case a 144.390 MHz beacon which transmits short CW 'pips'. We were listening to the signal with an Icom IC-705 attached to an omnidirectional antenna so we knew when the transmitter started and stopped (and hence when to trust any bearings produced by the DoA system).
Towards the end of the video you can see the HUD in action, with the blue lights showing the estimated signal arrival direction, relative to the front of the car. As I slowly drive past the transmitter location (which I could see out the side of the car), the bearings swing to the right, and the SNR shows as being very strong. This is exactly what the display was intended for - it's not about getting hyper-accurate bearings, but more knowing when you need to turn left/right, or get out of the car!
Thanks to Will Anthony for capturing the video while I was driving!
Finding a Radio Fox using a Kerberos-SDR + ChaseMapper
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 (RDF), passive radar and beam forming become possible. It can also be used as four separate RTL-SDRs for multichannel monitoring.
KerberosSDR is soon to be replaced with the upgraded KrakenSDR, which will begin crowd funding on Crowd Supply later this year. Be sure to sign up on the Crowd Supply page to be updated once the campaign releases as due to long supply chain crisis related lead times, only a limited amount of stock will be initially available.
Earlier in August we posted about radiosondy.info and the MySondy radiosonde receiver. Radiosondy.info is an internet service that aggregates radiosonde weather balloon data received and decoded by RTL-SDR users all over the world. MySondy is a cheap TTGO LoRa receiver that is modified with custom firmware and combined with a companion Android app in order to create a portable radiosonde receiver. 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. With cheap hardware like an RTL-SDR and the right decoding software it is possible to receive weather and GPS data from the weather balloons launched in your area.
Over on his popular YouTube channel, Andreas Spiess "the guy with the Swiss accent" has uploaded a video featuring the RadioSondy and the MySondy receiver projects. In the video Andreas first explains what a radiosonde is, and who launches them. He goes on to show the RadioSondy website and how to track balloons on it. He then shows the portable MySondy receiver for tracking radiosondes, before finally showing how to set up a permanent fixed ground station with RTL-SDR and Raspberry Pi for contributing to the RadioSondy aggregation website.
In amongst the demonstrations he also goes on several hunts for weather balloons that have landed near him, ultimately recovering two radiosondes and one intact balloon. The radiosondes were initially tracked with the RadioSondy fixed RTL-SDR ground stations, then when in the vicinity of the landed balloon pinpointed and found with the MySondy hardware.
#360 Tracking and Chasing Weather Balloons with TTGO LoRa Board and Raspberry Pi. Fun and Adventure
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.
Over on YouTube OLHZN High Altitude Balloons has posted a very entertaining video showing how to use an RTL-SDR and small grid dish antenna to track and recover a fallen weather balloon and its radiosonde. OLHZN writes:
The US National Weather Service (#NWS) launches over 200 weather balloons everyday carrying an LMS-6 #radiosonde / rawinsonde made by Lockheed Martin to an altitude of over 100,000 ft. and you can track & follow the flights from home and even find the landing site and pick them up! This is a fun #DIY project that you can do yourself from home and I'll show you how to do it here along with some tips so you can go find yourself a weather balloon & radiosonde!
How to track & recover a NWS weather balloon & radiosonde 🎈🎈 Ham Radio DIY