The Financial Times has recently run a video story on how hobbyist WebSDR setups are being use to record Russian radio communications during the war on Ukraine.
In these modern times, we would expect the Russian military to be making full use of encrypted radio communications on the battlefield. But early on in the invasion it came to be clear that much of the Russian forces are much less advanced than first thought, and are using cheap civilian unencrypted radios that anyone nearby can listen to with an RTL-SDR or via a web connected SDR.
The FT story focuses on how open source contributors from all over the world are helping to monitor internet connected WebSDRs that are close enough to receive Russian radio communications. And how volunteers are helping translate, confirm authenticity, and collect information about possible war crimes.
In the previous episode Rob from the Frugal Radio YouTube channel showed us how to decode HF ACARS using PC-HFDL and an HF capable SDR such as the Airspy HF+. In that episode he mentioned that it is possible to decode HF ACARS using a WebSDR as well.
In this weeks episode, Rob shows us how to do just that, making use of WebSDR receivers and the PC-HFDL software. Like the previous episode we see how to plot the aircraft HF ACARS position data on Google Earth and how to read and interpret some example messages received.
This weeks video on the TechMinds channel explores the various online web SDRs that are available to access for free. Accessing these online SDRs does not require any hardware apart from a PC and internet connection, although of course you are then receiving signals from a different location to yourself.
In the video he shows how to access the SDR# Spy Server Network which mostly consists of Airpsy and RTL-SDR units, the SDR-Console V3 Server network which consists of a wide array of different SDRs, the browser based WebSDR network which is mostly soundcard based SDRs but also RTL-SDR and other SDRs, and finally the KiwiSDR network which is made up of KiwiSDRs.
Using Software Defined Radio Without SDR Hardware - WebSDR
Over on his YouTube channel Frugal Radio has released the second episode in his 2020 SDR Guide series. In this video, Frugal Radio shows how to connect to remote SDRs such as KiwiSDR OpenWebRX, WebSDR, SDR-Console v3 Servers, and SDR# SpyServers. He shows how to use these remote SDRs to monitor long range aviation channels, amateur radio operators, and VHF Public Safety channels in the US. He also demonstrates how to decode HFDL signals from aircraft using WebSDR and free software, and verifies the aircraft locations via online tracking sites.
2020 SDR Guide Ep 2 : How to use over 500 remote SDRs free online (webSDR, KiwiSDR & HFDL decode)
Over on YouTube user [Radio Electronics] has uploaded a useful video showing how to install your own personal SDRplay or RTL-SDR based WebSDR for QO-100 (aka Es'Hail-2) reception. Es'Hail-2 is the first geostationary satellite with amateur radio transponders on board, and is positioned at 25.5°E which covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, eastern Brazil and the west half of Russia/Asia.
The idea behind a WebSDR is to run your RTL-SDR QO-100 receiver on a remote Raspberry Pi (perhaps mounted close to the antenna on your roof etc). The Pi runs custom WebSDR software that has been created from scratch by [Radio Electronics] specifically for monitoring Es'Hail-2. Then you can access your QO-100 receiver from any device on your network that has a web browser (computer/phone/tablet etc). The interface of his WebSDR appears to be quite slick, which multiple QO-100 specific options and labels.
Quite a lot of work must have gone into this software which looks to be of high quality, so it is definitely worth checking out if you are interested in QO-100/Es'Hail-2 monitoring.
In the first video he first talks about various methods for downconverting the 10489.550 MHz QO-100 CW signal into a range receivable by the RTL-SDR or SDRplay. He then goes on to show the exact steps to install and run his WebSDR software on a Raspberry Pi 3.
In the second video he goes on to demonstrate the web browser interface highlighting the QO-100 specific features that he has implemented such as being able to compensate for any LNB frequency drift via a feature that can lock to the QO-100 PSK beacon.
Over on YouTube the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has uploaded a talk by Noel Matthews (G8GTZ) titled "The Farnham WebSDR: DC to Microwaves on your smartphone". The Farnham WebSDR runs 8 (soon to be 10) RTL-SDR dongles in order to cover multiple bands from DC to 2 GHz.
If you're interested in their talks, the RSGB also recently uploaded several other amateur radio related talks from their 2018 convention to their YouTube channel.
This presentation gives an overview of the Farnham WebSDR (http://farnham-sdr.com/) which currently covers the LF bands through to 10GHz. The presentation describes the system architecture and antennas currently used on each band and how the team has used RTL dongle receivers, available for under £10, to give good RF performance on all bands from DC to 10GHz. There is a demonstration of the SDR in use on both PC and smartphone.
RSGB 2018 Convention lecture - The Farnham WebSDR: DC to Microwaves on your smartphone
The WebSDR from the University of Twente, Netherlands is a wideband HF SDR that is accessible from all over the world via the internet. It was first activated in 2008 making it the very first WebSDR ever. The creator of the service Pieter-Tjerk de Boer PA3FWM has recently made available spectrum image archives which show the HF band conditions over the last two years.
The X axis represents the frequency and the Y axis is the time of day, starting at the top. Conventional wisdom about band behaviour can be easily confirmed by watching this video: the 60m, 49m and 41m bands are mostly active after dark, with the 60m and the 49m bands being generally busier during the winter months. The 31m band is most active around sunset, but carries on all night until a few hours after sunrise. The 25m band is active during sunrise and for a few hours afterwards, and around sunset during the winter months, but carries on all night during the summer. Peak activity on the 22m and 19m bands is also clustered bi-modally around the morning and the evening hours, though somewhat closer to the middle of the day than on the 31m and the 25m bands. The 16m band is mostly active during the daylight hours and the 13m band is quiet throughout the year except for the occasional ham contest.
[Fast] Visualising shortwave band activity throughout the year
Visualising shortwave band activity throughout the year
On this episode of Hak5 (a popular hacking and security themed YouTube channel) Darren and Shannon discuss OpenWebRX, a SDR web broadcasting and remote control tool that is compatible with the RTL-SDR. OpenWebRX is similar to the WebSDR software in that it allows people to connect to remote SDR’s on the internet and tune them to any station within their currently set bandwidth frequency range. Many already functioning online OpenWebRX receivers can be found in the database at sdr.hu.
In the first part of the video the Hak5 team explore the worldwide SDR’s on the sdr.hu website. Then in the second part they show a demonstration on how to install the OpenWebRX software in order to create a SDR broadcast with an RTL-SDR.
FREE SDR receivers all around the world with OpenWebRX - Hak5 1916