In Frugal Radio's latest video he explores how you can use an Airspy or RTL-SDR dongle to scan the entire military UHF airband spectrum in a few seconds via SDR#. Frugal Radio notes that there are often many signals in the UHF milair band, but they can be difficult to find without a scanner.
In the first video he compares his Uniden BCT15X hardware radio scanner against an Airpsy, noting that his Uniden takes 1:10 minutes to scan the entire band, whereas the Airspy running SDR# with the frequency scanner community plugin can scan the same bandwidth in less than 2.5 seconds. Faster scanning means that you are less likely to miss an active signal. In the second video he tries scanning with an RTL-SDR and notes that it can scan the band in 9 seconds.
How to use Frequency Scanner to Search UHF MilAir in 2.3 seconds in SDR# using AirSpy R2
$25 RTL-SDR v3 Military Air band search in under 10 seconds! Frequency Scanner SDR Sharp plugin test
Back in April 2019 we posted about Matt Mills' Radiocapture.com website which is a web service that you can feed that automatically captures analogue and digital trunked radio conversations with an RTL-SDR, and allows public users to play back conversations via the web interface. The Radiocapture page which shows what the software is capable of is also active at radiocapture.com/radio.
Back in April Matt was fundraising via Patreon and hoping to make development of Radiocapture his day job, but unfortunately he's had to call it quits for now. Since he no longer has time to work on it, Matt has open sourced the RF side of the software. The software description reads:
[Radiocapture-rf] is capable of using multiple networked computers and multiple SDR radios to demodulate the control channel of P25, EDACS, and Motorola trunking systems, as well as some limited support (alpha quality) for scanning for systems, LTR trunking, and "police scanner" style audio capture.
It is designed to effectively scale to an infinite capacity of trunked systems, captured transmission volume, and dongle bandwidth (more dongles = more available bandwidth, more cpus = more channels and more systems). (There is one remaining feature to be implemented to really make this work well, dongle redis autodiscovery (frontend_connect should autodiscover and use available dongles) and splitting the rc_frontend/receiver.py into one process per dongle.
The frontend initializes the SDRs in whatever configured frequency range, and presents a server interface where clients can connect and request a specific channel be created and forward to them. The frontend will then attach a channel, and output to a UDP sink (might be something better now, I forget). On the backend side, a control_demodulator is listening to that sink and doing the actual RF demodulation, which is passed into redis for distribution to other services. The backend is effectively a bunch of microservices that work together to track & record all ongoing transmissions and do some amount of deduplication. This entire setup is designed such that it can be scaled across as many servers/computers as necessary (although there are a few caveats/things I never got around to implementing in how it actually works). Recorded transmissions are decorated with a metadata scheme in their mp3 tags that is designed to be able to be loaded into the Radiocapture.com database. Finally completed mp3s are dropped into an activemq queue for publishing.
Matt notes that the software in it's current state isn't considered as "ready to distribute" as you may need some decent experience with Linux and Python to get it up and running.
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.
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.
During the Cyberspectrum Wireless Village talks a few days ago Gavin Rozzi gave a talk about his online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website at ocradio.live. Recently he wrote in and wanted to share a little more about his system. He writes:
[The talk focuses] on my experience implementing several open source software packages to create an online RTLSDR-based trunking scanner website, https://ocradio.live/ that serves the part of New Jersey that I live in. Using multiple RTLSDR receiving locations, the site is demodulating, recording, and timeshifting multiple talkgroups of local and state trunked radio systems to create a live streaming service and archive of past scanner calls. Data from the site is also accessible over a REST API and we allow the creation of custom scan lists. My presentation is going to center on the advantages the site has over traditional hardware scanners and some of the technical challenges that we had to overcome to get the project off the ground.
Radio manufacturer Uniden have just released news about their latest product called the SDS100 which is a handheld software defined radio scanner specifically for digital voice and trunking modes. The scanner will retail for USD699, and aims to be released in the 2nd quarter of 2018 pending FCC approval. Note that certain software decoders will require paid upgrades, but it will be capable of all the major digital voice modes such as P25 Phase I and II, DMR, NXDN and trunking modes. It doesn't seem to support TETRA since it's marketed at the American consumer, however, it seems plausible that simple software update could enable this feature in the future.
As far as we know this is the first handheld scanner to incorporate SDR and is probably one of the bigger leaps in scanner technology to date. Compared to hardware based scanners, the SDS100 should provide significantly better decoding capabilities, even in weak signal and simulcast conditions. Simulcast is when multiple overlapping base stations transmit a signal at the same frequency. This can cause multi-path distortion problems, but an IQ based radio like an SDR is able to overcome these issues.
Uniden creates another first with the SDS100 True I/Q Scanner, the first scanner to incorporate Software Defined Radio technology to provide incredible digital performance in even the most challenging RF environments. The SDS100’s digital performance is better than any other scanner in both simulcast and weak-signal environments.
The SDS100 is also the first scanner that allows you to decide what to display, where, and in what color. Custom fields put the information important to you right where you need it.
And, one more first, the SDS100 meets JIS4 (IPX4) standards for water resistance.
Over on YouTube claudio giuliani has posted a video of his RTL-SDR Wide Spectrum Analyzer software. The software is written in the basic for gambas language and uses an RTL-SDR software defined radio to plot a wide chunk of the frequency spectrum by sweeping over it. It looks to be similar to the RTL-SDR Scanner software. Currently it is only available for Linux.
The commonly used frequency manager and scanner plugin for SDRSharp has been updated to version 1.4. The new features include:
Frequency Presets – there are now 10 frequency presets you may use to store and recall favorite frequencies.
A new Signal Strength Indicator displays a real-time measure of a frequency’s signal strength compared to the Minimum Signal Strength that you set. The indicator shows the signal strength as it bounces below and above your minimum, and also shows when the “Seconds wait for transmission” and “Watchdog” timers have been triggered.
The Scanner Configuration window now has two tabs which organize scanner behavior into Rules settings and Performance settings.
Snap to next Step Size: a new checkbox lets you force the scanner to tune a scanned frequency to the SDR# step size, or instead allow it to tune to the actual detected peak signal strength of a frequency.
Update a frequency’s Date when monitored: a new checkbox that causes the scanner to record the current date for a frequency that is already in your database, when the scanner lands on that frequency.
Adjacent Frequency Rejection: a new setting that lets you define the width of the area around a tuned frequency that is used to monitor signal strength after tuning to a frequency. This reduces the influence of adjacent strong frequencies that “splatter” into the tuned frequency’s step size or bandwidth size.
Faster scanning speed: Scanning speed has been improved yet again, and is now faster than the improvements in version 1.31. On my equipment I now average 1.6 GHz scanning speed as measured with the built-in benchmark tool on a range scan.
Improvements to the busy-frequency detection process.