Wavelet Lab has officially opened crowdfunding for its compact uSDR M.2-format software defined radio board and browser-based control platform, with a little under a month left to reach its funding goal for production.
Based on the Lime Micro LMS6002D field-programmable radio frequency chip and an AMD Xilinx Artix-7 field-programmable gate array, the uSDR is designed to slot into the M.2 port of modern devices, including laptops and single-board computers, or to connect via USB using a carrier board. It offers a single full-duplex channel with a 300-3,700MHz frequency range and 0.75-28MHz bandwidth with bypass mode, plus a sample rate up to 30.72 mega-samples per second (Msps) – rising above 40 Msps in bypass mode.
The hardware is only part of the story, though: the company is hoping to make SDR more accessible by providing a browser-based platform, meaning it’s possible to get started with the device without having to juggle driver and software installation. Just because it’s browser-based, though, doesn’t mean it’s not capable: the company’s latest project update shows its WSDR platform being used to drive a fully-functional Osomocom-based 2G cellular network. “The base station processing is done entirely in the browser,” the team behind the project explains, “while the core network operates in the cloud. That way, you can scale up your network around the world easily while managing everything under one account.”
The uSDR is funding on Crowd Supply now, starting at $299 card-only or $997 with a bundled PCI Express development board and all three available adapters. The more expensive “Early Adopter Kit” is expected to ship by the end of November this year, with cheaper card-only offer shipping by the end of February 2024.
Daniela de Paulis’ A Sign in Space project, which transmitted a human-generated approximation of what a message from an alien civilization living on Mars may look like, has generated considerable interest – and some progress in decoding the signal, too.
“Starting from the SigMF recording of the TGO radio frequency signal done by Green Bank Telescope, the signal on the telemetry sub-carrier has been demodulated and the Turbo code has been decoded,” Daniel Estévez explains of the community’s progress in decoding the “alien” signal. “Each frame is 1115 bytes long, and there are 6591 frames in the file. The frames are stored back-to-back. Full transfer frames. There are no jumps in the master channel frame count of the frames in this file (indicating no lost frames), and all the frame error control fields (CRC-16) are correct, indicating no data corruption.”
Packet extraction has also been completed, Daniel adds, releasing a near-4MB binary file with the space packets transmitted in virtual channel zero. “The length of each Space Packet is variable and there are 242725 Space Packets in the file. The Space Packets are stored back-to-back. Packet boundaries can be determined by reading the packet length data field in the Space Packet Primary Header.”
Radio amateur Scott Chapman is among those working to decode the signals, too, turning to GNU Radio for the work. “Odds are high that I have a setting wrong, but have made some progress on a GNU Radio approach to decoding the recordings from A Sign in Space,” he writes on Twitter. “Great learning experience to try to get better w/ GNU Radio regardless!”
More information on the project is available on the A Sign in Space website.
The Tech Minds YouTube channel has released a video showing how software-defined radios can be used to detect meteors as the enter the Earth’s atmosphere – by listening to echoes from their ionisation.
“As these meteors enter the Earth’s atmosphere they burn up, briefly creating ionisation which is reflective to radio waves,” Tech Minds’ pseudonymous host explains. “Now this occurs at an altitude of about 80 to 100 kilometres, so you may be asking yourself ‘if I can see the reflected Echoes from the meteors that are burning up in the atmosphere, what is generating the RF source that’s reflected?’
“Well, for me, that’s GB3 Mike Bravo Alpha, an 80-watt CW Beacon which has been designed to specifically illuminate a region in the atmosphere with a roughly 400 kilometre diameter which is centred in the middle of the UK. You can use any SDR which is capable of receiving the beacon frequency.”
The full video is available on the Tech Minds YouTube channel.
Neuromorphic computing specialist BrainChip has announced a partnership with Lorser Industries to create smarter software-defined radio systems, capable of delivering higher flexibility than today’s devices.
“We believe that neuromorphic computing is the future of AI/ML [Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning], and an SDR with neuromorphic AI/ML capability will offer users significantly more functionality, flexibility, and efficiency,” claims Diane Serban, Lorser Industries’ chief executive, of the partnership. “The Akida processor and IP is the ideal solution for SDR devices because of its low power consumption, high performance, and, importantly, its ability to learn on-chip, after deployment in the field.”
“BrainChip and Lorser share a common interest in creating intelligent devices that can manage communication in a variety of different and evolving environments,” adds BrainChip’s Rob Telson. “Lorser, with their leadership in advanced SDR technology is the ideal partner for us to work with on a breakthrough device with the ability to utilize AI/ML to identify patterns, detect anomalies and intelligently adapt to a range of scenarios.”
BrainChip’s Akida processor is designed to work in much the same way as the human brain – hence “neuromorphic” – and is claimed to deliver high-performance computation for machine learning at a significantly lower power draw than competing devices based on traditional binary computing. Neither company, however, has issued a time-to-market for the first Akida-enhanced SDR.
More information on the Akida platform is available on the BrainChip website.
Hackaday’s Dan Moloney has penned a piece discussing the declining commercial support for AM (Amplitude Modulation) radio – and warns of the need to harden the standard against and for disasters, in particular in support of the Emergency Alert System.
“One can debate the pros and cons, but the most interesting tidbit to fall out of this whole thing is one of the strongest arguments for keeping the ability to receive AM in cars: emergency communications,” Dan writes. “It turns out that about 75 stations, most of them in the AM band, cover about 90 per cent of the US population. This makes AM such a vital tool during times of emergency that the federal government has embarked on a serious program to ensure its survivability in the face of disaster.”
These stations part of a small group which makes up the Primary Entry Points (PEPs) for the Emergency Alert System (EAS), Dan explains. “The vast geographic reach of these PEP stations is one of the keys to the EAS network,” he writes, “since all participating stations are required to monitor signals from at least two different PEP stations, and to follow specific procedures if and when the PEP stations initiate an emergency alert.
“PEP stations have always been mandated to have redundant systems, including auxiliary and backup transmitters, backup power generation, and staffing requirements, but as a result of increasing awareness of the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to attacks by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) or the possibility of Carrington Event-level damage, FEMA undertook a program designed to substantially harden the majority of PEPs.”
Dan’s full write-up is available on Hackaday now.
Hack-A-Sat, the satellite communications security challenge, has entered a new era as it gets an actual in-orbit satellite to target, with full permission of the US Government: Moonlighter.
“Moonlighter is the world’s first purpose-built satellite just for cybersecurity training and research,” the Hack-A-Sat organisers explain. “It’s literally a hacking sandbox in space. Moonlighter launched on June 5th as part of an International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission from Kennedy Space Center on SpX-28. After a short visit with the ISS, Moonlighter is scheduled to deploy into Low Earth Orbit on July 6th.”
The satellite will be the focus of the Hack-A-Sat 4 finals at this year’s DEF CON hackers’ conference. Five teams have been selected to take part, the organisers explain: “Five is the ideal number of teams to ensure fair and interesting game dynamics with the finite number of orbital passes Moonlighter will make during the game hours at DEF CON 31.”
Moonlighter is a 3U CubeSat with two separate communications system: one which is to be left to handle the satellite’s actual operation, and another running alongside it which is the target of security research and penetration testing efforts. If the testing causes the target system to crash or hang, it can be restored by the primary system – it being a little difficult to send someone to turn it off and back on again in orbit.
More information on the competition and the Moonlighter satellite is available on the Hack-A-Sat website.
Great Scott Gadgets has issued its first progress report on the Universal Radio Test Instrument (URTI) project, with phase one – component selection and sub-circuit evaluation – completed.
“In phase one, we developed a preliminary architecture, a preliminary mainboard block diagram, and evaluated components and sub-circuits in preparation for the initial mainboard design,” Great Scott Gadgets’ Michael Ossmann says. “We plan to build URTI as a system comprised of two printed circuit board assemblies: a mainboard and a user interface board.
“The mainboard will include the radio section and a USB interface. It will be capable of serving as a software-defined radio peripheral with or without the user interface board attached. The user interface board will include tactile controls, display, application processor, and battery, allowing handheld use of the complete system.
“During phase one,” Michael continues, “we additionally made progress on phases four [mainboard firmware and gateware development] and eight [handheld user interface firmware development]. Although completion of the later phases is still a long way off, working toward those software development goals in parallel with hardware design tasks will speed completion of software after hardware is available. This approach has allowed us to involve more team members in the project.”
The full and detailed status report is available in Great Scott Gadgets’ Lab Notes GitHub repository.
Finally, engineer and radio ham Josh “KI6NAZ” Nass has decided to have a somewhat unusual barbecue – by attaching hot dogs to an antenna and trying to cook them through transmission power alone, as a tasty way of demonstrating the seemingly-overblown dangers of high-power radio projects.
“If you’ve been following the news in amateur radio you know that we are supposed to run exposure calculations,” Josh explains by way of background. “A couple of years ago I did a test of cooking hot dogs with an antenna, and I used a mag loop – I thought that would be the best way to go. After a lengthy after chat last night, collectively, we decided that I would set up a six metre vertical antenna and lash hot dogs to it at various points along its length [and] that might give us a good example of RF cooking.”
According to calculations, for the vertical antenna transmitting on six metres at 1,300 watts the safe zone should be at least five feet out in a controlled environment and up to 12 feet in an uncontrolled environment. “I’m going to call this uncontrolled,” Josh notes in the video, “although I’m going to be watching it and making sure nobody is walking by it.”
While the transmission was able to hit 800W before the power limits of the amp kicked in, the cooking process was underwhelming – which is good news for anyone who is perhaps not as careful as they could be about keeping themselves a safe distance from the transmitting antenna. “They’re not warm at all,” Josh reported, “nothing. That’s good. It’s not even warm, nothing. You might claim that there is actually some RF [cooking] action going on here,” he suggests about a section of the hot dog which changed colour – but it may be chalked down to a contact burn, commenters have suggested.
The full video is available on the Ham Radio Crash Course YouTube channel.