Watching Lightning Strikes on the Spectrum with an RTL-SDR

Over on YouTube user Tech Addict Attic has uploaded a video demonstrating what lightning strikes look like on the radio spectrum. To receive the pulses he uses an RTL-SDR and a simple wire antenna located on his roof. He notes that the pulses show up at HF frequencies, and continue all the way up to the broadcast FM band and above.

When lightning strikes it emits a wideband RF pulse that can be detected several miles away by radios. On a software defined radio spectrum display the pulse shows up as a quick horizontal blip. Detecting this blip is how lightning detection websites like work, although they use their own radio hardware.

In the past we posted about another user who also demonstrated lightning pulses using his RTL-SDR V3.

Watching Lightning with an RTL-SDR

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Not sure how innovative this is. There is hope yet for my article on how to detect water while out in a rain storm.


Unfrotunately, the internet tells me that rain fade starts at around 11 GHz, which is not measureable with the V3 dongle. But what you could do for a rain detector is mount a long pole on your hat that separates a very low power 11 GHz transmitter and receiver. Then you could program an arduino to monitor the signal strength and turn on an LED when the strength dips due to rain attenuation. When the light turns on, simply pack your golf clubs and head for the 19th hole. Bam! Problem solved. I’ll send you an invoice for my services.


Made my day.