DrVarnik on YouTube has posted a tutorial video on how to receive, decode and plot AIS information. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a system used for automatic tracking of large ships and passenger boats. It is a similar idea to tracking aircraft with ADS-B. His method uses a RTL-SDR for receiving the AIS signals with SDRSharp, decoding received signals with AISMon and plotting the decoded information with OpenCPN. He uses VB-Cable for looping the audio from SDRSharp to AISMon, but if you have a ‘Stereo Mix’ or equivalent feature with your soundcard, that will be unneeded. Best results will be achieved using a narrow-band vertically polarized antenna tuned for 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz (marine VHF). A directional antenna would also likely be a benefit. You can find some designs to try lower down the page. For safety, please only use this guide on land! Wouldn’t want you getting lost at sea.
For more than 50 years the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather satellites have been helping monitor the earth’s weather patterns. Now over on YouTube max30max31 (IZ5RZR) has posted a tutorial on how you can receive images from the NOAA weather satellites (NOAA-9, NOAA-15, NOAA-18, NOAA-19) at home using an RTL-SDR. He gives a full walk through of using Orbitron to track the satellites, WXtoImg to decode received images and using SDRSharp to tune your RTL-SDR. He also suggests building and using a QFH Antenna or Turnstile Antenna with your RTL-SDR to receive the satellites.
Here is a list of programs used and homepage links:
Over on the RTL-SDR Facebook Page, Boris Lukac has shared a link to an Instructable by tigers58 for a omnidirectional fractal HDTV antenna. The simple build covers 50-1100MHz making it perfect for general use with a RTL-SDR and for grabbing some extra HDTV channels when not hooked up to your dongle. The supplies needed to build the antenna may already be laying around your home or workbench:
A piece of poster board or suitble material
Printer with paper to print out the pattern PDF
Thumb-tack (or other sharp pointy tool)
10.5 ft of 22-24 AWG copper/aluminum wire
Crimp connector and tool to crimp with
A length of 300 Ohm Twin Lead, or, an in-line 300 Ohm to 75 Ohm matching transformer (tigers58 also states he has had success with just directly connecting RG-6 coax to the antenna leads)
Other tools such as a screwdriver for attaching the antenna leads to the matching transformer and craft knife or other small sharp blade for cutting slots into poster board.
“After reading an article about the use of fractal mathematics in the design of cell phone antennas that have incredible bandwidth in spite of their extremely small size, I began to experiment with using a very simple fractal pattern, the Koch Snowflake, as the basis for an easy to build indoor HDTV antenna. The result of that experimentation is presented here as what I believe to be not only the best DIY HDTV antenna, but the also the simplest to build, not only in terms of the materials needed, but also in the labor required. As the holder of an Extra Class amateur radio license, I know there is no such thing as a “magic” antenna, but I started referring to this antenna as the magic antenna when I discovered that it had such amazing bandwidth, covering digital channels 2 through 60. So, with that in mind, let’s get started.” — tigers58
With many people already having these items on hand, this could be a quick cheap project to help increase the signals you are able to pick up with your RTL-SDR Dongle. Be sure to check out the Instructable page for all the steps needed to build this antenna. Keep in mind, with a wideband antenna like this, it may introduce more noise. Depending where you live and what is around your antenna, your results may very. Keeping the antenna flat may also allow for more directionality while reducing noise from sources out of the direction you wish to receive.
Over on YouTube, user radiosification has posted a video showing how to go about setting up the SDR#Scanner plugin. This is a great way to get your RTL-SDR to function as a radio scanner so you don’t have to manually tune the bands. It assumes you already have your RTL-SDR installed and configured to work with SDR# but walks you through the rest of the process of installing and using the plugin. The download page for the plugin is in Russian but the video shows how to translate the page and find the download link. If you’ve used this plugin before, leave a comment and let us know any tips or troubles you may of had.
Radiosification has also posted another video showing the SDRSharp scanner plugin being used to scan the airband which is located between 108mhz to 137mhz.
NeedSec just posted on YouTube a video illustrating how to use a RTL-SDR to decode Flex 1600 pager traffic using PDW, VB-Cable and SDR#. It is always surprising there is still pager traffic as when is the last time you can remember seeing someone with a pager in public. We’ve shared videos showing this sort of thing before, but NeedSec gives a great overview of what you need to do to accomplish successful decoding of Flex-1600.
Download and install http://www.hdsdr.de/download/HDSDR_install.exe Follow the instructions and remember where you installed it to. (YOU CAN SKIP THIS STEP IF YOU SELECT TO INSTALL HDSDR VIA THE SETUP PACKAGE IN STEP 2)
Extract the first .ZIP you downloaded and run the installer contained within. Install to the same folder as HDSDR. During the install process, you will be asked to install the Zadig drivers. If your dongle doesn’t automatically show up, select Options then List all Devices. Select Bulk in Interface 0 (NOT 1 if that shows up) and click Install Drivers or Replace Drivers. Close the Zadig installer and complete the rest of the install.
When completed, extract http://spench.net/drupal/files/librtl2832++.zip to the same folder as where you installed HDSDR (or ExtIO if you chose a different location). You may have to delete/rename the existing file before replacing it.
Ignore errors you see on first launch. There should be two windows that open HDSDR and Device Control. Select the Device Control window and under “Device Hint” put “RTL readlen=8192 tuner=e4k” without the quotation marks. Click Create. Hopefully it should work and you can go back to the HDSDR window, click START (or hit F2) and begin tuning around.
THESE INSTRUCTIONS ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS BASED ON MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. CLARIFICATION MAY BE NEEDED.
Any questions, please ask and I will do my best to answer and clarify this post.
Here is a video about the same process:
I did notice when I was following the above video I had a few different results than shown. For me a driver was automatically installed via Windows Update and it did not show up by default in the Zadig list (had to select List all Devices). Zadig showed I already had some sort of default RTL2832U driver installed not just (NONE). Replacing the driver worked fine but it wasn’t until I used the “Device Hint” “RTL readlen=8192 tuner=e4k” that it worked properly.
Note: The above instructions require you have a basic knowledge of using computers and installing software. Be sure to read all instructions on your screen provided by the installers.