Tagged: Software-defined radio

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"

Scanner School Podcast + Webinar: This is Why You Need an SDR

Scanner School is an online site providing tutorials, podcasts and reviews all about the radio scanning hobby. They are currently planning a Webinar for February 23, 2021 titled "Why Every Scanner User Needs an SDR: The #1 Underrated Tool that should be in your setup". You can sign up to the webinar here. In addition to the upcoming webinar they have also already released episode 165 of their podcast titled "This is Why You Need an SDR". The topics covered in the podcast are listed below.

  • An SDR means that anything normally handled by the hardware of the radio is now handled by the computer, and the physical hardware serves as an interface.
  • The only limitation on the SDR hardware you buy is the frequency range and the amount of RF it can digest.
  • SDR receivers have come a long way since they were first hacked into existence.
  • SDRs used to be difficult to set up, but that’s no longer true.
  • You don’t need advanced computer skills to run SDR software.
  • SDR software can run on PC, Linux, Mac, Raspberry PI, and even Android.
  • An SDR is more flexible and less expensive than a traditional radio.
  • You can turn a $30 USB stick into something as powerful as an SDS200 in an afternoon.
  • All you need to get started is an SDR USB stick, a computer, and the free starter software SDR Sharp.
  • Once you get set up with FM broadcast stations, aviation, and other analog systems, Phil’s SDR course will go into how to set up digital reception.
  • If you download DSD+ Fast Lane or Unitrunker you can monitor trunking systems.