Tagged: rtl2832u

HackSpace Magazine Discusses SatNOGS, Cubesats and More

HackSpace is a monthly magazine dedicated to modern maker projects. This month issue 18 was released and it focuses on space based projects. The HackSpace Magazine is available for free online in PDF form, and physical copies can also be purchased.  There are several interesting articles but one in particular shows us how to set up a SatNOGS ground station with a Raspberry Pi 3, RTL-SDR and a satellite antenna such as a turnstile. 

A problem with low cost satellites like cubesats is that it is difficult to monitor them as data can only be collected when they are passing over a ground station. So in areas with no ground stations data is simply lost. SatNOGS is an open source project that aims to make it easy for volunteers to build and run RF ground stations that automatically monitor satellite data, and upload that data to the internet for public access. SatNOGS ground stations typically use RTL-SDR dongles as the radio.

A related article in the magazine also discusses cubesats, giving an overview of some previous cubesat launches and what sort of payloads are available. A third article under the space topic discusses the Libre Space Foundation which is the team behind the SatNOGS and various other space based projects that aim to democratize space. Readers may also be interested in the articles showing how to build an ISS countdown timer and how to build a Slim Jim antenna.

HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article
HackSpace Magazine SatNOGS Article (Excerpt)

Testing a $2 USB Powered LNA with RTL-SDR

Over on his blog '19max63' has posted about his tests with a $2 Aliexpress low noise amplifier (LNA) and his RTL-SDR. The LNA is advertised as for boosting HDTV signals, but 19max63 has found that it does a decent job on other frequencies too. It can be found on Aliexpress for less than $2 including free shipping, by searching for "TV Antenna signal amplifier". One example listing is this one.

An LNA is useful to help lower the noise figure of a radio system which results in higher SNR values (especially at the UHF and higher bands), and can be used to overcome losses in the signal chain from components like coax cables and connectors. However, an LNA will not always help and when combined with strong in or out of band signals will make reception worse by causing overload and intermodulation products. Better quality LNAs have a low noise figure, and are able to handle stronger signals and not overload so easily.

Ultra Cheap $2 LNA
Ultra Cheap $2 LNA

Upon opening the cover, 19max63 found that the cheap LNA consists of a BFG425W transistor which should cover 40 MHz to 3 GHz, but may be band limited by the passive components. The BFG425W also has a max gain of 20dB at 2GHz and a noise figure of 0.8 dB at 900 MHz. 

In 19max63's tests, the LNA was able to improve his DAB radio (174 to 240 MHz) reception significantly, allowing him to receive several extra stations. His further tests also seem to show that it does a decent job at other frequencies from 137 MHz NOAA satellites to 1090 MHz ADS-B. Many of the comparison images do seem to show signs of overloading and intermodulation, but ADS-B in particular looks to be boosted quite nicely. So this looks like it might be a very cheap way to try and improve ADS-B reception.

Check out the his post for multiple SNR comparison images.

Cheap $2 LNA PCB

Receiving and Decoding the NAVIC (Indian GPS) Satellites

NAVigation with Indian Constellation (NavIC) (previously known as IRNSS) is an Indian navigation system consisting of 7 satellites in geosynchronous and geostationary orbits above India. It is intended for both public and military use, with a public resolution of up to 20m, and military resolution of up to 1m. After a few set backs, the satellite constellation was completed in April 2018.

Over on his blog Radiojitter, Priyasloka has put up a post showing how he was able to receive and decode the IRNSS/NAVIC satellites. To do this he uses an RTL-SDR with a GNSS antenna connected, and a modified version of the MATLAB GPS code found in this previous post, and in SoftGNSS. His post first goes through how he was able to decode and receive GPS, then goes over the technical details of the NAVIC signal, and then shows some result screenshots where he was able to determine his location with both GPS and NAVIC.

Priyasloka writes that he hasn't uploaded the modified code yet, but he plans to do so soon.

NavIC positioning results received with an RTL-SDR
NavIC positioning results received with an RTL-SDR

Help Support RadioCapture – A Project that Records Entire Trunked Radio Systems and Provides Online Access to Audio

RadioCapture.com is a website run by Matt Mills that is capable of automatically capturing trunked radio communications from various agencies such as the emergency services and creating publicly accessible historical and live logs of the audio. This is a concept different to radio scanner streams, as all audio is logged and historical audio can be accessed easily at any time.

The system is based on SDR hardware such as the RTL-SDR. Currently Matt runs a receiver in Denver and captures Denver PD which can be listened to on the site without needing to log in. Once logged in (registration is free), other talkgroups available include various agencies in Colorado, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

RadioCapture.com currently available Talkgroups being logged
RadioCapture.com: Currently available talkgroups being logged

Recently Matt has put a call out for people to help support the site via Patreon. He notes that RadioCapture is currently run as a hobby, but with monetary support he hopes to be able to expand the site into a business and have receivers listening and uploading worldwide. He writes:

Hey! Thanks for supporting the continued operation and development of Radiocapture.com. This is a hobby project I've been working on this since late 2011. I'd like to turn it into a real business with your help.

Radiocapture.com is a software defined radio system I built that captures entire trunked radio systems. It demodulates and captures every call on every channel of one, or many systems.

A single RadioCapture server can capture hundreds of simultaneous voice transmissions and a bunch of sites, additionally it's designed in such a way that it can run across multiple computers. My biggest RF site uses 3 machines to capture 19 P25 systems, and easily hits more than 100 active voice channels recordings simultaneously every day.

Matt has also noted that if the site is able to become self-sustaining via Patreon, he hopes to also be able to bring out a RadioCapture kit consisting of 10-16 RTL-SDR dongles, hubs and cables which would allow anyone to easily capture and upload almost all trunked communications from their area. He also notes that at the time of writing:

RadioCapture has 701790271 unique recordings of 503779875 unique transmissions (some calls get captured on multiple transmitters) from the 21 systems that have been captured

If you're interested in talking to Matt about the site, you can also join his Rocket.Chat room at radiocapture.chat.

RadioCapture logged audio
RadioCapture playing logged audio

SignalsEverywhere Podcast EP2: Common SDR Mistakes and How to Resolve Them

Corrosive from the SignalsEverywhere YouTube channel has recently released episode two of his new podcast. This episode is titled "Common SDR Mistakes and How to Resolve Them". In the podcast Corrosive discusses some tips like how to ensure that the gain on your SDR is set correctly, how to set the sample rate, how to optimize the waterfall display, and what antennas to use. Later he goes on to talk about our RTL-SDR Blog V3 dongles, and discusses some posts from our blog.

Creating an EMC Probe using an RTL-SDR and Semi-Rigid Coax

Thank you to Dimitris for submitting his article on creating an RTL-SDR based EMC probe. An EMC probe is a device that can be used to detect electromagnetic interference leaking from areas on electronic devices. For example an electronic PCB might have problems with RF leaking into other components. With the probe you could determine where the leak is coming from.

To create the probe he uses a 30cm semi-rigid coax cable and an RTL-SDR dongle. The semi-rigid coax is cut in half, the center conductor stripped back, then looped around on itself and soldered to the shield. Dave from EEVBlog did a video on this previously which is what inspired Dimitris. The next steps are simply to connect the probe to an RTL-SDR, put it into direct sampling mode and probe around for signals. Note that an RTL-SDR with direct sampling like our V3 model, or an RTL-SDR with upconverter is required to receive signals below 24 MHz.

His results show that he was able to successfully probe an OCXO oscillator, by seeing the 10 MHz signal in SDR#. The rest of his post goes on to discuss the limitations of this method, and compares it against professional EMC probes available on the market.

RTL-SDR Based EMC Probe
RTL-SDR Based EMC Probe

Tracking Dictators Around the World with ADS-B Data

Over on Reddit freelance investigative journalist Emmanuel Freudenhal has put up a very interesting post about how he is using ADS-B tracking to keep an eye on the travel habits of dictators around the world. If you were unaware, ADS-B is a signal transmitted by aircraft which contains aircraft ID info, and data such as speed, altitude and GPS location. Websites like ADS-B Exchange aggregate ADS-B data from volunteer ground stations that are running (mostly) RTL-SDR dongles. Emmanuel notes that by watching the movements of aircraft registered to dictators, it is possible to keep an eye on their travel habits.

One story that Emmanuel has written using this data is a piece on Paul Biya, Cameroon's president. His article discusses how Paul Biya is often seen in Geneva Switzerland, away on private visits. In a comment, Emmanuel notes that since his story ran, Paul Biya has almost stopped travelling to Switzerland.

Emmanuel has also been running a Twitter bot that uses ADS-B data to automatically tweet when a dictator aircraft is detected at Geneva airport. A list of known dictator aircraft is kept on a publicly accessible Excel file.

Now he is hoping to expand his tracking operation, and is asking for more people to feed the ADS-B Exchange aggregation website. ADS-B Exchange is the site recommend to feed because it is the only ADS-B aggregation website that does not censor any aircraft. Other aggregation sites such as Flightradar24 and FlightAware have come under scrutiny in the past for their willingness to upon request censor and block the tracking of military/political aircraft and private jets owned by several companies. In particular several aircraft owned by dictators are reportedly censored. However, the counter argument is that not censoring aircraft may result in ADS-B tracking eventually being made illegal, or that costly legal suites may be brought against ADS-B aggregation companies.

On the Reddit post Emmanuel writes:

I'm a freelance investigative journalist (www.emmanuel-freudenthal.com / @emmanuelfreuden). I'm getting into SDR/ADSB and very glad I found this group because I need your help to track aircrafts!

With a colleague, we started a project to look into the travels of dictators around the world. It's an evolution of a Twitter bot (https://twitter.com/GVA_Watcher) started a few years ago. This bot tweets every time an aircraft owned by a dictatorship lands or takes off at the Geneva airport, Switzerland. And dictators visit Geneva, a lot. There's secretive banks and good healthcare, enjoyed by Algeria's departing president or Cameroon's president Paul Biya.

We want to expand this project to all of the world's airports. See our place-holding website: https://dictatoralert.org(which will get expanded soonish). To do so, we've partnered with ADSB-Exchange, which as you probably know, is the only website that doesn't censor flights. Usually the planes owned/chartered by dictatorships don't show up on flightaware or flightradar24 (anyone can asked to be removed). Some planes also don't share their GPS coordinates (e.g. Mode S) and so they don't show up.

In addition to the Dictator Alerts, we'll also use the data to do investigations into dictatorships, human rights violation and corruption.

The idea is to allow everyone to keep tabs, so the data will be available publicly, via Twitter bots and on a dedicated website (with e.g. a page per dictatorship and per airport).

To succeed, we need a lot more antennas! So, it'd be great if you could feed ADSB-Exchange. You can do that in addition to feeding other services. See how to do it here: https://www.adsbexchange.com/how-to-feed/ If you want to feed, please contact me on [email protected], my twitter DM are open. It's quite important that you contact me before feeding, so that we also capture aircrafts that don't share their GPS coordinates.

That also means, you'll be able to see ALL of the data that you're collecting online.

What do you think? Would you be keen to participate? Any questions?

Your feedback is very welcome, i'm still learning!



Dictator Alert. A Twitter bot reporting on dictator movements via ADS-B data. dictatoralert.org
Dictator Alert. A Twitter bot reporting on dictator movements via ADS-B data. dictatoralert.org

Other stories of interest: A similar story we ran last year was about tracking police and military aircraft at the G7 summit with an RTL-SDR, and three years ago we ran a story about tracking World Economic Forum Attendees with an RTL-SDR.

SignalsEverywhere: KerberosSDR Direction Finding Video Tutorial

Over on his YouTube channel SignalsEverywhere, Corrosive has uploaded a new video about setting up a KerberosSDR for direction finding. KerberosSDR is our new 4-input Coherent RTL-SDR that was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, and has now shipped to all backers. With KerberosSDR applications like direction finding and passive radar are possible. If you're interested, there are still about 70 units available in this batch. After that a second batch will be available in a few months.

In the video he goes over the full set up procedure, from setting up his chosen computing platform (a Raspberry Pi 3) to connecting up the KerberosSDR, connecting to it's web interface, calibrating, setting up the antennas, and then demonstrating some direction finding with four whip antennas on his car and a HackRF used as a signal source.

Radio Direction Finding Equipment KerberosSDR Coherent 4 x RTL SDR RDF Setup