Back in January 2020 we posted a tutorial showing how it's possible to detect and measure the galactic Hydrogen line using a simple 2.4 GHz WiFi dish, RTL-SDR Blog V3 and a filtered LNA. Since then many people have used the same setup with great results.
Over on YouTube user stoppi who is one such person who is using the same steps from our tutorial, and he has uploaded a video showing his setup and results. If you're thinking of getting started with Hydrogen Line reception, his video slide show tutorial would be a good complimentary overview to go along with our text tutorial.
Detection of the galactic hydrogen - the 21 cm radiation - Wasserstoffstrahlung der Milchstrasse
The installation is based on Ubuntu, and uses docker for the install. He also shows how to set up the OpenWebRX configuration file so that it will use the Q-branch direct sampling mode in RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles for HF reception.
The "RFinder Android Radio 10 Inch Tablet - 136-174mhz, 400-490mhz DMR/FM - Embedded RTL-SDR" is able to be pre-ordered for $1,499.95 USD + shipping. It is a ruggedized 10 inch Android tablet with a built in two way 4W VHF/UHF DMR/RF radio as well as an additional built in RTL-SDR. In terms of computing hardware, it comes with an Octa-Core 2.3 GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, 64GB ROM, and it supports cellular connectivity.
In their manual they share the following slide showing the built in RTL-SDR running the RF Analyzer Android app.
Various reviews of the RFinder P10 have been showing up on YouTube. Here is one review by Ham Radio 2.0 where the RFinder P10 is demonstrated at the Huntsville Hamfest.
New RFinder P10 Tablet with Dual Band DMR and RTL-SDR Receiver - Huntsville Hamfest
Back in 2015 we posted about the dsame software, which is a decoder for the American Emergency Alert System (EAS) which is encoded with the SAME (Specific Area Message Encoding) protocol. EAS transmits on the NOAA weather frequency.
The sirens appear to be activated wirelessly through the same frequencies that weather and EAS use, and so the signal can be monitored with an RTL-SDR or other SDR. When an active signal is present, the forked dsame software will decode the alert. The alert could then be used to activate a local siren or display.
Recently we came across a new project called DeFli and DeSky, which appears to be plans for a decentralized network of RTL-SDRs. The goal of the project is to provide decentralized access to ADS-B and satellite data through the use of RTL-SDR ground stations. The RTL-SDR ground stations upload their data to the DeFli servers and in return ground station hosts receive compensation in DEFLI tokens via the DeFli blockchain.
From the website it appears they are focusing on selling the data to UAV and satellite operators, but there seems to be no reason why it couldn't be used for other purposes too.
The use of crowd sourced RTL-SDR data is nothing new, with successful ADS-B aggregators like FlightRadar24.com and adsbexchange.com already in operation. Projects like SatNOGs also exist which crowd source satellite data. Not to mention other RTL-SDR and radio data aggregators like marinetraffic.com for Marine AIS, amateur.sondehub.org for Amateur Radio Balloons, aprs.fi for APRS, and airframes.io for ACARS, VDL, HDFL and SATCOM data. However, this is probably the first radio data aggregator to incorporate blockchain concepts for host rewards.
There is clearly an appetite from a large number of Helium Hotspot owners to utilize their hotspots for other projects with a view to getting a better ROI on their investment. That being said, I believe it is absolutely just and fair for Nova & the Foundation to take steps to prohibit the LoRa specific hardware from being used by competing projects both from a commercial perspective and also regulatory. Our personal belief is that Nova/Foundation should operate Helium Network as a NaaS and allow these newer "players" to piggyback on the equipment without compromising the regulatory side of things.
From an industry perspective there is of course a frustration at an awful lot of under-used/under-utilized hardware, specifically the CPU modules that remain in short supply, thus limiting the expansion capabilities of a hardware based network.
Likewise whilst Helium IoT paved the way for decentralized networks to become a "thing" there is also the counter-argument now that actually it is incredibly difficult to build a hardware based network because of the growing disdain. Now obviously part of that is linked to failed projects like MXC, Planetwatch and WeatherXM as well as dubious projects like RevoFi.
That brings me on to our project- DeFli (defli.org). I am not going to extol the virtues of the project, all I am going to give is a very brief "blurb". We are building a decentralized network of ground stations for unmanned aircraft to communicate with (to satisfy new legislation) and which will form the basis of an advanced traffic management system.
A "ground station" can be built from any Helium Hotspot without affecting the performance, nor do we utilize the LoRa Concentrator (ADS-B is broadcast over the 1090MHz frequency). To achieve dual "mining" it is simply a case of running DeFli in a Docker Container (can be viewed on our Github) and adding a USB RTL-SDR receiver.
WARNING: As with anything cryptocurrency related, do your own research first before putting any of your own money in. This project could very well be a scam, or it could just be a project in the early stages of getting started.
On his Medium.com blog, Mohsen Tahmasebi has posted an article about his journey into listening to satellites which started with his acquisition of an RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongle. The article begins by explaining his motivations for receiving satellites and how difficult hobbies like this are to get into in his home country of Iran. Despite the challenges he tasted success when he was able to receive NOAA APT signals on his second attempt using the included portable dipole antenna in a V-dipole configuration. Shortly after Mohsen was also able to receive Meteor-M2 LRPT.
Mohsen then built a more permanent V-dipole out of copper rods and optimized his antenna using NEC simulation software, finding that adding a reflector significantly improved reception. He then moved on to building a slightly more complex Turnstile antenna, which yielded even better results and allowed him to explore CubeSats at 435 MHz and contribute to SatNOGS. Finally, Mohsen ordered a Bullseye LNB and using a homemade bias tee, he received the QO-100 amateur radio transponder.
Overall, Mohsen's journey demonstrates that there is a lot of fun and learning available from internationally available satellites even in a country where equipment is hard to come by.
Aircraft transmit multiple types of radio signals, including ADS-B and VDL2. ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast) is an air traffic surveillance technology that enables aircraft to broadcast their GPS position and other data. VDL2 (VHF Data Link Mode 2) is a digital VHF signal, allowing pilots to exchange text information with ground controllers and/or airline ground support. VDL2 is not designed to provide real-time positional data like ADS-B; however, positional information is often broadcast, and the VHF signals can propagate over longer distances.
Pilots of RC planes and drones need to be aware of the area they are flying in, to make sure that they stay well out of the path of manned aircraft. However, this can sometimes be difficult with aircraft like police helicopters that could rapidly show up anywhere. Drones typically do not have ADS-B transmitters due to size/weight and price, but it is still possible for drone pilots to use ADS-B receivers to make their flying safer.
Over on YouTube user xjet has come up with a solution involving the use of a portable ADS-B alarm for drone pilots. The ADS-B receiver consists of a 3D printed enclosure containing a Raspberry Pi Zero 2W, LCD screen and an RTL-SDR dongle connected to an ADS-B whip antenna. xjet notes that when his code and 3D enclosure are finalized, he will release the design for free as open source over on http://www.rcmodelreviews.com.
The idea behind the ADS-B alarm appears to be that drone pilots will receive an alarm when they are within the vicinity of an aircraft. Assuming the drone is not too far away from the pilot (as rules specify drones must be flown within visible distance) the alarm being next to the drone pilot should be sufficient. xjet notes that we cannot rely on live ADS-B aggregation websites like FlightRadar24 due to their censorship of certain aircraft like police, military and some private jets, or due to possible lack of coverage, so a local receiver will be a better solution.
After more than two years of development and testing the ADSB alarm for RC plane and drone flyers is almost ready to go. I will be posting the full build details including an SD-Card image, source code, wiring diagrams and STL/DWG files for the case to the RCModelReviews website in the next week or so. This is a totally open-source project which I give freely to the hobby community so as to increase the levels of safety associated with our activities.
It is through the use of this technology that we can show how taking practical steps towards ensuring safety is every bit as important (if not more so) than blindly following regulations written by those who have probably never even flown an RC plane or drone themselves.