Tagged: Software-defined radio

Arinst Dreamkit V2D Reviewed by Fenu-Radio

Back in August of 2021 we posted about the release of a Russian made portable software defined radio receiver called the "Arinst Dreamkit V1D". The Arinst SDR consists of a portable LCD screen and enclosure, with 16-bit ADC, 5 MHz of bandwidth and 1 - 3100 MHz tuning range. It was released for sale in September 2021 and was priced at only $230 + shipping.

It did have some drawbacks involving a lack of preselector filtering, and there being no digital decoding capabilities implemented in the software.

Fenu-radio is a popular tester of various software defined radios and has recently posted a review of the Arinst Dreamkit V2D. Initially he notes how in 2021 he first received his V1D model from Kazakhstan, and noted some problems with the lack of preselection, but other than that it worked well. His unit also had a display defect, however the manufacturer replaced the entire unit with the newer V2D model.

Fenu-radio notes that a battery is no longer included due to restrictions involving the transport of batteries through airmail, so he had to order a separate battery from Aliexpress.  He importantly notes that the polarity of the battery is reversed from what the radio expects, so this has to be manually adjusted by changing the pins on the battery. If this is not done the battery or radio itself could be destroyed.

Other than that, Fenu-radio is impressed with the outer design of the V2D. He goes on to note how the V2D makes use of the R820T2 tuner, the same tuner used in standard RTL-SDR dongles. An up and downconverter is used to expand the range. 

Fenu-radio then goes on to show the features of the radio, shows how it is operated, and provides a few audio examples of some stations received. He concludes positively:

The Arinst V2D is almost a "dream kit". It offers amazingly good reception on long, medium and shortwave without immediately clipping. And that on domestic active antennas. If you work with the manual gain control, you largely avoid intermodulation products and noise. The variety of functions is enormous and of high quality. At that point, you realize how hard Arinst has put in. The V2D can also convince above shortwave. What it particularly lacks here is a search function (scanner).

The case is sturdy and of good quality. But unfortunately there is criticism here. The housing shells were painted in places that shouldn't be painted! The painted flanks of the housing significantly worsen the shielding effect, which becomes noticeable with strong interference in reception if the V2D is operated with a telescopic antenna. The interference is particularly strong in the VHF range. Not only that. During the development of the V2D, far too little attention was paid to decoupling the display to prevent interference radiation in the reception branch. The approx. 4 hours Battery life was unfortunately never reached. After almost 3 hours of operation it was over.

Otherwise, the V2D is great fun. Especially with a remote antenna.

Arinst showed itself to be a very committed manufacturer when it came to correcting errors in the software and implementing suggestions.

At the time of this post the Arinst website and their sales platforms on Aliexpress and eBay does not appear to feature the 'Dreamkit V2D' product and we have no further info on the release date or pricing.

Fenu-radio's image of the Arinst Dreamkit V2D
Fenu-radio's image of the Arinst Dreamkit V2D

CaribouLite Crowd Funding Launched: A $119 30-6000 MHz 13-bit 2.5 MHz Bandwidth TX/RX SDR Hat for the Raspberry Pi

Back in June of this year we first posted about the upcoming CaribouLite product which is a software defined radio HAT for the Raspberry Pi. The project has just launched on Crowd Supply with a price tag of $119 for the CaribouLite, and $69 for a CaribouLite ISM only band version. The product is expected to ship in May 2022. CaribouLabs write:

CaribouLite is an affordable, open-source, dual-channel software-defined radio (SDR) platform—and an SDR-focused FPGA development framework—implemented as a Raspberry Pi (RPi) HAT. CaribouLite turns your Raspberry Pi single-board computer (SBC) into a self-contained, dual-channel radio Tx/Rx that spans a wide tunable frequency spectrum up to 6 GHz.

The CaribouLite RPi HAT

The CaribouLite is entirely open source and designed for makers, hackers, educators, and researchers. It comes in two versions, the full and ISM band only versions. For most people the full version will be most desirable as it covers the full 30 MHz - 6 GHz range. However, certain projects may want to make use of the ISM band only version as they note that it may easier to obtain regulation compliance.

The full version comes with two TX/RX half-duplex channels, with channel one covering 30 MHz to 6 GHz, and channel two covering sub 1 GHz only. Both channels use a 13-bit ADC, capable of a bandwidth of up to 2.5 MHz maximum. The unit is capable of up to 14 dBm of transmit power.

The libcariboulite drivers support Soapy API, meaning that many SDR programs including SDR++, GQRX, CubicSDR and GNU Radio will be able to support the CaribouLite. 

One interesting design feature is that the CaribouLite does not interface with the Raspberry Pi via USB or Ethernet which is how most SDRs interface. Instead they make use of the SMI (Secondary Memory Interface) connector, which is a high bandwidth interface available on Raspberry Pi's. This is a very fast interface allowing the IQ samples to stream back and forth, however the disadvantage is that the CaribouLite will only work on Raspberry Pi devices. Although it should be possible to use the Raspberry Pi as a host device if you wanted to use the SDR on a PC.

One problem is that we note that most Raspberry Pi resellers are out of stock and the component supply crisis appears to have slowed Raspberry Pi production. So this may be an issue for purchasers who do not already have their own Raspberry Pi. However, given that the CaribouLite ships in May 2022, there may still be time to obtain a Pi.

Given the low cost, specs and features, this appears to be quite an interesting SDR that we are excited to get our hands on. Combined with a Raspberry Pi Zero we can imagine multiple portable use cases and projects that will come from this product.

Talks and Poster Presentations from the HamSCI 2021 Virtual Workshop

HamSCI is an organization dedicated citizen radio science and specifically the "publicity and promotion of projects that advance scientific research and understanding through amateur radio activities". Back in March they held their HamSCI 2021 workshop online, and the videos from presentations and posters are now all available on the Ham Radio 2.0 YouTube channel.

Most of he presentation videos were released back in June, but the poster talks were just released in the past few days. Many of the projects mentioned in the talks involve the use of software defined radios.

The talks include multiple presentations on the HamSCI personal space weather station project, updates on the TangerineSDR and lots of ionosphere research.

HamSCI 2021: iPoster Breakout Room 1

Reminder: GNU Radio Conference 2021 to be held Sept 20-24 with Virtual and In-Person Events

Just a reminder than GNU Radio Conference 2021 (GRCON21) will be going ahead on Sept 20 - 24 with virtual and in-person events. It is free to register for virtual attendance and you will be able to view all talks live via streaming. If you wish to attend workshops virtually, the registration fee is $50. All links for YouTube live streaming can be found on the virtual attendance page as well. Be sure to use the YouTube "set reminder" feature to be notified when the streams begin.

GNU Radio Conference (GRCon) is the annual conference for the GNU Radio project and community, and has established itself as one of the premier industry events for Software Radio. It is a week-long conference that includes high-quality technical content and valuable networking opportunities. GRCon is a venue that highlights design, implementation, and theory that has been practically applied in a useful way. GRCon attendees come from a large variety of backgrounds, including industry, academia, government, and hobbyists.

The yearly GNU Radio Conference (GRCon) is a conference all about the development of GNU Radio and projects based on GNU Radio. GNU Radio is an open source digital signal processing (DSP) toolkit which is often used in cutting edge radio applications and research to implement decoders, demodulators and various other SDR algorithms. 

Check out the list of upcoming talks here to see if there is anything that interests you, and perhaps check out last years GRCon20 video playlist too

Arinst Dreamkit SDR now on sale for $230 + Shipping

About a month ago we posted about the Arinst Dreamkit, which was an unreleased Russian made portable receive only SDR with 16-bit ADC, 1 - 3100 MHz tuning range, up to 5 MHz instantaneous bandwidth, and very fast scanning capabilities.

Reader 'sunny' has written in and informed us that the Arinst Dreamkit is now released and available for sale on both eBay and Aliexpress. The pricing is $230 + shipping costs. Sunny notes that the manual is only in Russian, and currently it does not have any digital decoding capabilities, and no preselector on the input.

The Arinst Dreamkit

Arinst SDR Dreamkit: A Portable RX SDR with 16-Bits, 1 – 3100 MHz Range and 5 MHz Bandwidth

Thank you to reader 'sunny' who has written in to share a new software defined radio that he has found being previewed on YouTube. The SDR is the Arinst SDR Dreamkit, a Russian made portable receive only SDR that will have a 16-bit ADC, 1 - 3100 MHz tuning range, up to 5 MHz instantaneous bandwidth, and have very fast processing which can scan the spectrum at 20 GHz per second. It also comes with a built in 3.9" touchscreen and loudspeaker.

Arinst are a Russian company that designs, produces and sells affordable portable spectrum analyzers, vector network analyzers, power amplifiers and antennas.

The Dreamkit is not yet available for sale but reader sunny has indicated that the pricing will be ~$250, although we cannot confirm that information. In a YouTube comment the developer only writes that it will be slightly more expensive than the Malachite SDR, for which an original non-clone unit sells for around $200. 

The Arinst SDR Dreamkit

We have not seen any announcement of the product on their website, but on their first YouTube video for the product they write some specs (translated from Russian):

  • There is no preselector.
    • Possibility to supply preselectors and source repeaters via SMA antenna connector. It also provides for the generation of a code message for each frequency range by pulse modulation of the supply voltage supplied to the antenna connector.
  • Operating frequency range - 1-3100MHz
  • Input impedance 50 Ohm.
  • ADC capacity - 16 bits, effective 13 bits.
  • Instant scan bandwidth - 5 MHz, sampling rate: 2 IQ channels at 6 MHz.
  • Scanning speed over 20 GHz per second.
  • Audio: built-in loudspeaker, headphones, bluetooth (optional).
  • Battery life up to 3 hours.

From the English demo video shown below, the interface looks very slick, customizable and with a very responsive refresh rate. The video shows off the features which include all the standard demodulation modes, an RDS decoder, 12V 100mA bias tee, and the ability to connect to a PC and run it on HDSDR.

It appears that they plan to sell additional preselectors and LNAs that will be powered via the 12V bias tee. An interesting point is that it appears that they will control the external devices via a some sort of modulated pulse on the coax.  

Arinst SDR Dreamkit V1D

uSDR: A Lightweight Multimode SDR Receiver Program for Windows

Thank you to Viol Tailor for submitting news about the release of his general purpose multimode software defined radio receiver program for Windows called "uSDR" or "microSDR". Viol writes that uSDR is designed as a lightweight binary with a simple and compact user interface and highly optimized DSP to minimize CPU, hence the "micro" part of the name.

The software is compatible with RTL-SDR, Airspy, BladeRF, HackRF and LimeSDR radios. It has features including demodulation, base band and pass band recording, playback, and spectrum and waterfall visualizations.

uSDR aka microSDR. A lightweight SDR receiver program from Windows.

Lessons Learned Using SDR in the Classroom

Recently SDR-Boston hosted an online panel titled "Lessons Learned – Using SDR in the Classroom", and the video is now up on YouTube. A presentation was given by three panelists and moderator on the topic of how software defined radio has been used in University curriculum. Many of the courses make use of RTL-SDR dongles, as well as more advanced transmit capable SDRs.

Software-defined radio (SDR) technology is extensively being used across a wide range of research activities to help demonstrate feasibility of new algorithms and approaches that are rapidly defining the new current state-of-the-art in emerging wireless technologies (e.g., 5G/6G, drone networks) as well as providing new opportunities to explore the electromagentic (EM) spectrum world around us (e.g., radio astronomy, satellite communications, radar). Although SDR has become mainstream in research activities, it has not been widely used in the classroom environment to help students leap from theoretical concepts to practical hands-on learning.

The following presentations were given (more information available on the panel website):

1,024 ways to teach with SDR: Dr. Fraida Fund, New York University

Educators who are considering using software defined radio in the classroom face a dizzying array of choices, including hardware, software, and curriculum decisions. In this presentation, I will describe my experiences using software defined radio in different ways for a range of audiences, from high school to graduate school. I will share the decisions I made in designing each course or curriculum module, and the tradeoffs associated with those decisions.

Teaching SDR and DSP to Undergrads within CS: Dr. Marc Lichtman, University of Maryland

Dr. Lichtman will briefly discuss the course he designed and taught at The University of Maryland within the CS dept, introducing students in their senior year to SDR and DSP, as an elective. The first half of the course acts as a DSP and wireless comms primer, essentially condensing several courses that are normally taught at the graduate level within ECE, providing students with the necessary background by teaching DSP theory using diagrams, animations, practical demos, and code examples rather than a mathematically rigorous theoretical approach. The remainder of the course focuses on using SDRs to implement the DSP techniques they had learned. He has recently created a free online textbook based on his course, teaching SDR and DSP with Python, https://pysdr.org.

Teaching Introductory Communication Systems using SDR: Challenges, Benefits, and Lessons Learned: Dr. Cory J. Prust, Milwaukee School of Engineering

Exposure to software-defined radio (SDR) technology is a valuable experience for undergraduate electrical and computer engineering students. Decreasing hardware costs and easy-to-use software tools have made SDR experimentation readily available to the undergraduate laboratory setting. However, especially for students who are still learning the fundamentals of communication systems, laboratory exercises must be carefully designed to reinforce foundational concepts, meaningfully engage and motivate students, and be presented at an appropriate technical level. This presentation will describe the development and deployment of hands-on SDR-based laboratories used in an introductory communication systems course. Lessons learned from multiple offerings of the course will be discussed.

Hands-On Wireless Communications Education: It’s More Than I/Q Representation: Dr. Alexander M. Wyglinski, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

In most undergraduate and graduate courses focusing on digital communication systems engineering, the concept of representing all information in terms of in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) comes up and becomes the foundation for many other concepts taught throughout the rest of the course. However, the treatment of I/Q tends to be over idealized and the real-world effects affecting this very important source of information is saved “for the next course”. With SDR technology, those real-world effects that are impacting the successful recovery of I/Q samples are experienced right away and the true challenges of digital communication systems engineering are experienced first hand. This introduction will provide some initial insight on the practical considerations when extracting I/Q samples from over-the-air and attempting to decode them for the purposes of recovering binary information.

SDR-Boston Panel Event: "Lessons Learned - Using SDR in the Classroom"