Tagged: rtl-sdr

Hacking Beepers at a Fish & Chip Shop with an RTL-SDR and HackRF

Over on YouTube Paul from "Tall Paul Tech" has uploaded a video showing how he was able to reverse engineer the wireless protocol used by a simple restaurant beeper (aka 'burger pager') notification system that is used to let customers know when their food is ready.

By reading the label on the base unit, Paul found that the beeper system transmits at 433 MHz. He was then able to record it's transmissions with an RTL-SDR. Then using Inspectrum, he was able to determine the bit string and the symbol period.

From there he was able to use a GNU Radio program to replicate the signal, allowing him to use a HackRF to activate the beepers on demand.

In the past we've posted similar stories [1][2][3].

Hacking A Fish & Chip Shop

SDRDue Updated: Passive Radar Software for RTL-SDRs

Thank you to Daniel Kaminski for writing in and sharing with us news that he has recently updated his SDRDue Passive Radar software for RTL-SDRs. The major update is that thanks to NVIDIA CUDA GPU processing, the ambiguity function can now be calculated extremely quickly, allowing for very high frame rates. Daniel writes:

Last time I was playing with my Passive Radar. I finally created an ambiguity library which is a really fast 70 frame/s analyzing a continuous string of data 2*1024*1024 bits per frame. This allowed me to record signals from slowly moving cars in real-time. I used a normal TV antenna without any modifications in one dongle mode. To support the library I created a Passive Radar program with all the parameters available for tuning. The code is open and available on GitHub. The movie is available on my website Passive radar | Web page od Daniel M. Kamiński (umcs.pl).

SDR Due Passive Radar
SDR Due Passive Radar

Job’s Radio Telescope Observes Maser W3(OH)

Over the past few years we've seen a lot of interesting observations coming from Job's Radio Telescope, which is Job Geheniau's 1.5m dish connected to an RTL-SDR (with additional filters and LNAs). He has done things like mapped the galaxy via the Hydrogen line, observed red supergiant stars, imaged a supernova remnant, detected a Pulsar, and measured the basis for the dark matter hypothesis.

In his most recent work Job has managed to detect the W3 star forming region at the Hydroxyl (OH) frequency of 1665.405 MHz.

W3 is an enormous stellar nursery about 6200 light-years away in the Perseus Arm, one of the Milky Way galaxy's main spiral arms, that hosts both low- and high-mass star formation. - Source

Hydroxyl (OH) can be observed both in emission and absorption. Emission frequently manifests itself as maser emission which is of specific interest. Energy Levels of OH Diatomic molecules like OH have numerous energy levels as they not only have electronically excited levels, but they can also vibrate and rotate. Both rotation and vibration are quantized and give rise to the large number of levels. Because of the wealth of energy levels, OH can be observed at various wavelength in the optical, infrared and radio regime. - Source

Over on the RTL-SDR Facebook group (not affiliated with this blog), Job has described his experiment in more detail (link requires a Facebook account and membership). He writes: 

As you may know or not...., I have been busy the last few weeks trying to detect maser W3(OH) with my 1.5-1.9 dish. The W3 complex lies in a darkened part of the Perseus galactic arm, at a distance of ∼2.2 kpc, and is one of the most intensively studied star-forming regions in the Milky Way Galaxy. Quite a challenge! It looks like I have a hit now after all.

Adjusting the Feed, calibrating the position of the dish and a lot of trial and error and a lot of patience seem to be leading to a result after all.... For now, I will keep this as my W3(OH) registration at 1665.405 MHz. Taking into account the Vlsr of currently 17 km/s (speed of earth and rotation around the sun), the final result comes close to the correct measurement. 1665.789 MHz = -32.22 km/s. Vlsr according to my calculations in terms of location and time is 17 km/s. -32-17=49 km/s. I think and hope that -49 km/s is the correct velocity of W3(OH) also considering the reasonably clear peak in the measured values in the graph.

These W3(OH) results were done with a special 1665 bandpass filter and 2 mini circuits lna/s. I will keep measuring for a while in the coming days, but soon I will switch back to another Feed over, namely the now under construction 611 MHz Feed with associated bandpass filter to once again 'capture' pulsar B0329+54. My ultimate goal with this dish!

I was very close last six months, but after extensive research with fellow radio amateurs we unfortunately could not confirm with 100% (!) certainty that the pulsar was detected at 1420 MHz with the 1.9 dish.

Also that research continues with longer exposure times and now research at 611 MHz, there is still some soldering and drilling and sawing to be done..... But first things first. Glad with this result anyway. Takes a lot of perseverance and patience.

Job's Radio Telescope detects Maser W3(OH).
Job's Radio Telescope detects Maser W3(OH).
Job's Radio Telescope detects Maser W3(OH).
Job's Radio Telescope detects Maser W3(OH).

Tech Minds: Testing an RTL-SDR Wideband Scanner with WebUI

Over on YouTube Matt from the Tech Minds YouTube channel has put up a video demonstrating an open source program released on GitHub called "RTL SDR Scanner", or "rtl-sdr-scanner-cpp". This program is compatible with RTL-SDR and HackRF software defined radios, and allows users to record multiple analogue FM audio channels within the active bandwidth simultaneously. 

To get a wider bandwidth, you can use a HackRF as your SDR, or you can also use multiple RTL-SDR dongles, or a device like the KrakenSDR which has multiple RTL-SDRs built into it. Alternatively, you can also have the software scan a much larger swath of bandwidth, however this could result in some transmissions being missed. 

The audio is recorded as a wav file, and can be accessed through a web UI. We note that currently only FM recordings are supported but AM may be supported in the future.

RTL SDR Scanner - FULL Bandwidth Recording With WEB UI

SARCTRAC Mk3b: A $290 Satellite Antenna Rotator

In January we posted about the AntRunner, which is a $325 (incl. shipping) satellite antenna rotator shipped from China. Recently we've come across another low cost satellite rotator from Australia called the "SARCTRAC Mk3b" which was developed as part of a school amateur radio educational program. This rotator fully assembled comes in at AU$400 + AU$50 worldwide shipping (US$290 + US$40 = US$330), making it's price comparable with the AntRunner. SARCTRAC can be purchased from the sarcnet products page. Currently only the fully built unit is available, but in the future they plan to offer a cheaper kit option.

We're yet to test the SARCTRAC Mk3b, but based on an overall review of it's advertising, it appears that the SARCTRAC has some superior specifications and a superior design when compared to the AntRunner.

Unlike the AntRunner, SARCTRAC comes with all its components enclosed in a waterproof IP65 rated enclosure. Its design also makes use of a 3D position sensor with magnetometer, allowing the unit to know its orientation at all times, meaning that it should be able to automatically position itself from startup. The design also makes use of DC motors with a built in worm gear drive, so the the motors back driving is not possible. 

The system is controlled via a built in Raspberry Pi 3B+ and can communicate with the controlling PC via WiFi. Raspberry Pi's have stable WiFi connections, so we shouldn't see the connection problems that we had with the ESP32 based AntRunner.

Just like the AntRunner, SARCTRAC is only a lightweight rotator with torque specs of 50kg.cm static and 25kg.cm dynamic. So it should be able to handle counterbalanced Yagi beams, and lightweight dish antennas.

The SARCTRAC Mk3b. An Australian designed and made light duty antenna rotator.
The SARCTRAC Mk3b. An Australian designed and made light duty antenna rotator.
SARCTRAC Mk3 Satellite Antenna Rotator Controller and TRACker

Tech Minds: Demonstrating RTL_433 Running on ESP32 Devices

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.


AirNav Systems Launch AIS Aggregator ShipXplorer.com

AirNav Systems are behind the RadarBox ADS-B tracking aggregator, one of several companies that use data obtained by volunteers running RTL-SDR dongles to collect ADS-B flight data from all over the world.

Recently they've launched a new project called ShipXplorer.com which is a marine AIS aggregation service. Like RadarBox, ShipXplorer relies on volunteers running receiver stations all around the world. AIS is an acronym for 'Automatic Identification System', and in a similar way to ADS-B on aircraft, AIS allows the real time tracking of marine vessel positions. 

To help enthusiasts with AIS reception, AirNav have also launched an AIS optimized RTL-SDR dongle. At the moment we're not exactly sure how this dongle works, as it advertises NMEA output with no add-on programs required. So this may imply it has some onboard processing. But reviews imply that it is just an RTL-SDR dongle with TCXO. We are currently inquiring with AirNav Systems. UPDATE: We have clarified with AirNav and confirmed that the dongle is an RTL-SDR dongle with AIS modifications (LNA & TCXO). There is no onboard processing and the advertising text was an error. 

AirNav Systems write:

Some great news on a new product we've been developing for the last year and that's just been released.
As you know our company has been in the industry for over 20 years, offering innovative and unique flight (RadarBox) tracking solutions. We supply multi-million USD companies with reliable/accurate worldwide real-time flight information and the RadarBox.com portal has now over 1.3 million accounts registered.

I'm reaching out to you to introduce you to AirNav System's ship tracker, ShipXplorer.com, which we launched a few months ago 
About ShipXplorer.com:
ShipXplorer is a vessel tracking website that tracks global vessel movements in real time. ShipXplorer was developed to cater to the increasing navigational and tracking challenges faced by the maritime industry. In addition to offering professional maritime tracking solutions, the platform is also available for public use, with features and services specially developed for the burgeoning maritime enthusiast and vessel spotting community.
ShipXplorer.com Screenshot
ShipXplorer Screenshot
ShipXplorer Screenshot
ShipXplorer.com Screenshot
ShipXplorer.com Screenshot
In addition to our recently launched ship tracking portal, we have a variety of AIS hardware, such as dongles and AIS antennas. 
ShipXplorer AIS Dongle:
This high-performance dual channel AIS USB Receiver decodes AIS transmissions and enables the reception of AIS messages and data directly onto devices such as a Raspberry Pi or Laptop.
ShipXplorer AIS Optimized RTL-SDR Dongle
ShipXplorer AIS Optimized RTL-SDR Dongle

ShipXplorer AIS Antenna:
ShipXplorer's omnidirectional AIS Antenna is optimized for long-range, dual channel (Channel A and B) 162 MHz VHF reception. It also ships with a 30 ft cable (SMA connector). Meant for outdoor use, this antenna is built with a fiberglass & aluminum alloy and can weather prolonged exposure to the elements.

ShipXplorer AIS Antenna
ShipXplorer AIS Antenna
ShipXplorer Sea Range AIS Receiver:
SeaRange is ShipXplorer's newest 162 MHz, dual channel, AIS receiver. This brand-new model includes an added filter and an inbuilt amplifier designed to optimize AIS reception on both 162.025 MHz & 161.975 MHz frequencies.
And we are currently working on expanding our AIS coverage globally. 
ShipXplorer Sea Range AIS Receiver
ShipXplorer Sea Range AIS Receiver
ShipXplorer website: https://www.shipxplorer.com

ShipXplorer hardware: https://www.shipxplorer.com/store

Sharing AIS Data with ShipXplorer: 
And recently, we've also introduced the possibility of sharing AIS data with us using the AIS Dispatcher:
Some of the benefits feeders receive for sharing data with ShipXplorer include: 
  1. Free Business Account Access (benefit from all possible website features for free, while sharing data with ShipXplorer) 
  2. Dedicated Whatsapp, Facebook & Telegram Groups
  3. Access to ShipXplorer' MyStation page where users can monitor all traffic received by their own units.

Transmitting radio waves without power

Researchers have discovered a way to transmit information wirelessly without power, simply by opening an closing a switch that connects a resistor to an antenna. This effect does not violate any physics - it works because the random thermal noise signature of the transmitter changes when the resistor is connected or disconnected.

The researchers used an RTL-SDR with high gain horn antenna and low noise amplifiers to measure changes in the thermal noise signature of the transmitter.

They also compare their idea to backscatter devices, which are another form of passive RF communications that make use of ambient radio signals such as from TV transmitters. They note that their thermal noise approach has a lower data rate and range compared to backscatter, but their next goal is to try and improve this.

Thermal Noise Transmitter Test
Thermal Noise Transmitter Test