Entries tagged radio

Related tags: esp8266, linux, sdr, youtube.

Tracking aircraft in real-time, via software-defined-radio

Thursday, 5 October 2017

So my last blog-post was about creating a digital-radio, powered by an ESP8266 device, there's a joke there about wireless-control of a wireless. I'm not going to make it.

Sticking with a theme this post is also about radio, software-defined radio. I know almost nothing about SDR, except that it can be used to let your computer "do stuff" with radio. The only application I've ever read about that seemed interesting was tracking aircraft.

This post is about setting up a Debian GNU/Linux system to do exactly that, show aircraft in real-time above your head! This was almost painless to setup.

  • Buy the hardware.
  • Plug in the hardware.
  • Confirm it is detected.
  • Install the appropriate sdr development-package(s).
  • Install the magic software.
    • Written by @antirez, no less, you know it is gonna be good!

So I bought this USB device from AliExpress for the grand total of €8.46. I have no idea if that URL is stable, but I suspect it is probably not. Good luck finding something similar if you're living in the future!

Once I connected the Antenna to the USB stick, and inserted it into a spare slot it showed up in the output of lsusb:

  $ lsusb
  ..
  Bus 003 Device 043: ID 0bda:2838 Realtek Semiconductor Corp. RTL2838 DVB-T
  ..

In more detail I see the major/minor numbers:

  idVendor           0x0bda Realtek Semiconductor Corp.
  idProduct          0x2838 RTL2838 DVB-T

So far, so good. I installed the development headers/library I needed:

  # apt-get install librtlsdr-dev libusb-1.0-0-dev

Once that was done I could clone antirez's repository, and build it:

  $ git clone https://github.com/antirez/dump1090.git
  $ cd dump1090
  $ make

And run it:

  $ sudo ./dump1090 --interactive --net

This failed initially as a kernel-module had claimed the device, but removing that was trivial:

  $ sudo rmmod dvb_usb_rtl28xxu
  $ sudo ./dump1090 --interactive --net

Once it was running I'd see live updates on the console, every second:

  Hex    Flight   Altitude  Speed   Lat       Lon       Track  Messages Seen       .
  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  4601fc          14200     0       0.000     0.000     0     11        1 sec
  4601f2          9550      0       0.000     0.000     0     58        0 sec
  45ac52 SAS1716  2650      177     60.252    24.770    47    26        1 sec

And opening a browser pointing at http://localhost:8080/ would show that graphically, like so:

NOTE: In this view I'm in Helsinki, and the airport is at Vantaa, just outside the city.

Of course there are tweaks to be made:

  • With the right udev-rules in place it is possible to run the tool as non-root, and blacklist the default kernel module.
  • There are other forks of the dump1090 software that are more up-to-date to explore.
  • SDR can do more than track planes.

| 2 comments.

 

Started work on an internet-of-things Radio

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

So recently I was in York at the Bytemark office, and I read a piece about building a radio in a Raspberry Pi magazine. It got me curious, so when I got home to sunny Helsinki I figured I'd have a stab at it.

I don't have fixed goal in mind, but what I do have is:

  • A WeMos Mini D1
    • Cost €3.00
    • ESP8266-powered board, which can be programmed easily in C++ and contains on-board WiFi as well as a bunch of I/O pins.
  • A RDA5807M FM Radio chip.
    • Cost 37 cents.
    • With a crystal for support.

The initial goal is simple wire the receiver/decoder to the board, and listen to the radio.

After that there are obvious extenstions, such as adding an LCD display to show the frequency (What's the frequency Kenneth), and later to show the station details, via RDS.

Finally I could add some buttons/switches/tweaks for selecting next/previous stations, and adjusting the volume. Initially that'll be handled by pointing a browser at the IP-address of the device.

The first attempt at using the RDA5807M chip was a failure, as the thing was too damn small and non-standardly sized. Adding header-pins to the chips was almost impossible, and when I did get them soldered on the thing just gave me static-hisses.

However I later read the details of the chip more carefully and realized that it isn't powerfull enough to drive (even) headphones. It requires an amp of some kind. With that extra knowledge I was able to send the output to the powered-speakers I have sat beside my PC.

My code is basic, it sets up the FM-receiver/decoder, and scans the spectrum. When it finds a station it outputs the name over the serial console, via RDS, and then just plays it.

I've got an PAM8403-based amplifier board on-order, when that arrives I'll get back to the project, and hookup WiFi and a simple web-page to store stations, tuning, etc.

My "token goal" at the moment is a radio that switches on at 7AM and switches off at 8AM. In addition to that it'll serve a web-page allowing interactive control, regardless of any buttons that are wired in.

I also have another project in the wings. I've ordered a software-defined radio (USB-toy) which I'm planning to use to plot aircraft in real-time, as they arrive/depart/fly over Helsinki. No doubt I'll write that up too.

| 2 comments.

 

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