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The Ultimate Guide To Software Defined Radio


Detecting drones and other aircraft, predicting weather, monitoring police, fire, EMS, air traffic, ham, business radio, radio astronomy, finding ships at sea are some of the things that you can do if you have a key to the radio spectrum.  Until now, if you wanted access to any one of the aforementioned types of communications you would need a dedicated piece of hardware for nearly every one.  That has all recently changed.  There is now a inexpensive and simple USB device that unlocks a huge portion of the radio spectrum, the NooElec NESDR-Mini2.  This dongle IS the key to the radio spectrum.  With this device and your computer, you can do all of the aforementioned and more.  This device is simply the hardware that picks up or receives the information that is all around you, your computer runs the software that allows you to see or hear that information.  This combination allows for what is called Software Defined Radio. We put this video together to show you some of the things you can do, videos further down the page show you how to do these things:

(In the above video we mention a few pieces of software, the links to that software is down below each of the tutorials)

Interesting, huh? To get started you will need a few things, a Windows PC running Windows 7 or newer, a NooElec USB dongle and an antenna (one comes with the dongle to get you started).  If you have one of these dongles and want to get started, this video will show you the basics of getting it up and running.  Please keep in mind, all of the software we discuss if freeware, so it takes a little bit of effort to get it going. It’s not hard, but in today’s app driven world it might take a few steps.  In this video we show you how to get things going:

In this video we talked about a number of pieces of software, here are the links to the software:

Windows .NET Framework 4.6 (if needed)
Airspy SDR#


Detecting Drones and Aircraft with ADS-B

Now that you’ve got your system up and running, you are going to want to do something with it, right?  My first choice was detecting aircraft.  All commercial aircraft (and military) transmit a signal that identifies them and gives certain information about the aircraft’s position to aid in air traffic control.  The air traffic control system is a mix of antiquated equipment/procedures and newer technology, like ADS-B.  As the air traffic control system modernizes, all commercial and military traffic that flies in US civilian airspace will be required to transmit this information by the end of the decade.  This is what will allow us as citizens to detect drones.  In this video, we show you how to setup your computer to detect aircraft using ADS-B:

In the above video we utilized some more software.  Here are the links to the software:

RTL 1090 (scroll down a bit on the page)

We also mentioned a few interesting articles, here they are:

US Airborne Communications Plane Track For 9 Hours During Airstrike

Predator Drones To Be Equipped with ADS-B

US Airforce Planes Can Be Tracked Online

Downloading Weather Images Directly From Satellites

This is primarily a “prepper” page, meaning we focus on emergency preparedness.  Being able to download images directly from weather satellites is of great use.  It is fun to do just for the heck of it, but if other forms of communication are down due to some sort of disaster, it becomes very useful.  For some folks it can be life saving if you live near a coast and can give yourself days warning of an approaching Hurricane.  In this tutorial, we show you how to configure your system to download weather directly from NOAA weather satellites:

As you can see, the software side of downloading weather data is pretty easy, but you have to have a special antenna to receive the data.  Here is a tutorial we put together on how to build your own QFH antenna.  In the video, we talked about the software needed to download weather directly from weather satellites, here are the links:

WXtoImage download
Virtual Audio Cable
QHF Antenna Tutorial

Stay tuned to the Tin Hat Ranch and bookmark this page (or subscribe to the YouTube channel) as we will be adding more tutorials on utilizing the world of Software Defined Radio.  If you haven’t already, check out the NooElec SDR dongle that makes all of this possible.

Permanent link to this article: http://tinhatranch.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-software-defined-radio/

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