Tagged: Software-defined radio

FOSDEM 2024 Call for Participation: Software Defined Radio & Amateur Radio Devroom

FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Developer’s Meeting) is a yearly conference that this year will take place in Brussels, Belgium on 3 - 4 February 2024. This conference will also feature a track on FOSS-powered radio, and there will be a combined Amateur Radio and SDR Devroom.

FOSDEM have issued a call for participation and have noted that slots are still open, so please submit any proposals for talks now if you are interested in presenting. The recommended topics include:

Topics discussed in the devroom include, but are not limited to:

  • SDR frameworks and the tools that make them useful
  • New SDR-based developments in ham radio modes
  • Cellular/telecom software
  • Amateur radio operator software tooling
  • Free / Open radio hardware
  • Wireless security research
  • Entertaining wireless hacks
  • SDR & ham radio in mass and higher education
  • Satellite, spacecraft and interplanetary communication

Software-Defined Radio is the technology of enabling radio signals to be processed and generated algorithmically, typically within general purpose processors, but also within FPGAs and GPUs; Free and Open Source (FOSS) Software Radio allows these algorithms to be inspectable and improvable. With the advent of ubiquitous IoT, sky-filling satellite megaconstellations and 5G/6G as standards designed with commercial Software Radios in mind, wireless is an exploding field of interest in the FOSS realm.

Ham Radio, also known as amateur radio, is more than just a hobby orbiting the usage of radio communication – it’s a passion that merges the realms of electronics, human interaction, and communication. At its core, ham radio is about establishing connections: with people, with technology, and with the world at large. It is a free and open community effort at heart!

RFNM Updates: Motherboard Prototypes Manufactured

Back in April we posted about the RFNM, an upcoming software defined radio project which will have eight 12-bit ADCs, up to 612 MHz real time bandwidth, and two DACs for transmitting with up to 153 MHz bandwidth. The standard board will support tuning from 600 - 7200 MHz, with tuning expanded down to 10 MHz via an RFFC2071A mixer.

Recently they've updated their blog and show that they have successfully manufactured the first prototype of the RFNM motherboard. The motherboard is the board containing the LA9310 RF and computing chips, and then they intend on having various daughterboards for tuners that will expand the tuning range and performance.

They also updated their pricing, noting that they have upgraded a few specifications. The motherboard is set to be priced at $299. It will be available for preorder in August, with an expected October delivery date.

The RFNM Motherboard

The RFNM: A Next Generation SDR with 10 MHz to 7200 MHz tuning range, 12-Bit ADCs and up to 612 MHz Bandwidth

The RFNM is an upcoming software defined radio that has some impressive high end specifications only seen in SDRs costing thousands, and at the same time the creator claims that it will be priced at a steal. While no pricing has been set, the creator noted in a Reddit post that pricing will be "closer to $500", bringing it's price similar to SDRs like the HackRF, bladeRF, LimeSDR, PlutoSDR.

The RFNM will have eight 12-bit ADCs on board, and provide up to 612 MHz of real time bandwidth for receiving. For transmitting it has two DACs, with up to 153 MHz of TX bandwidth. The tuning range will be from 10 MHz up to 7200 MHz. They note that their front end also has 13 preselection filters and six different LNAs and programmable attenuators.

Pushing 12-bit 612 MHz bandwidth of the device would be difficult, so to help with processing all that data, there will be an onboard VSPA DSP processor, as well as built in ARM CPU cores, and a 16 GFLOPS GPU. Connectivity will be either through USB 3.0, or Ethernet.

The main baseband chip on the SDR is the Layerscape® Access LA9310 chip sold by NXP which provides I/Q ADCs and DACs. Those signals are sent to the RFNM Daughterboard Interface, where they are upconverted to the frequency range of interest. This lets the end user choose a different daughterboard for different applications.

The Granita daughterboard has tuning capability from 600 MHz to 7200 MHz. To get frequencies down to 10 MHz the RFNM is making use of the RFFC2071A mixer. There will also be a cheaper 'lite' version that does not use a mixer, and hence only provides tuning from 600 MHz to 7200 MHz.

In addition, the website states that they are pursing a version of their board that will make use of the LimeSDR LMS7002 chip that will cover 10 MHz to 3500 MHz. They are also looking into boards that may break out more ADC lanes, an oscilloscope add-on, and breakout board.

You can join the RFNM email waiting list, and find more details about it at rfnm.io. At the time of this post they state that the waiting list is "53% full". As of right now the project appears to have nothing concrete to show off, but the lead creator Davide Cavion was behind the FPV Blue HD Video system, so he appears to have the experience to take this project forward.

A render of the RFNM software defined radio board.

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