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  1. AIS Decoding with an RTL-SDR Blog v3 Dongle

    At the conclusion of my last AIS blog post, I noted that the AIS receiving station I had set up was not sustainable for the long term. It was using a full hardware radio, and the software was running in a Windows 7 virtual machine on my personal laptop. Since AIS decoding is not super useful only when my laptop is powered on, a new station setup was needed.

    One option would be buying a dedicated Raspberry Pi with a dAISy Hat receiver. It's a dual-channel receiver that spits out UART serial NMEA frames to the Raspberry Pi, and costs $70, plus a Pi for $35. But that's a lot of money for something that I don't really get any ...

  2. Listening to Fox-1Cliff (AO-95)

    I recently moved, and while packing up boxes I found my FunCube Pro+ receiver dongle. One of the many Pandemic Positives is that I have a lot of free time on my hands now, so I thought I would see if I could receive amateur satellites with this. Perusing the AMSAT live Oscar satellite status page, the only recently-launched CubeSat I could receive with the FunCube Pro+ dongle is AO-95, also known as Fox-1Cliff. And even then, the satellite appeared to be in Safe mode, with its transponder not working due to a failed receiver.

    Fox-1Cliff is named for Cliff Buttschardt K7RR, who was the amateur radio mentor for the PolySat project at Cal Poly. He was also heavily involved ...

  3. Two Months of Radiosonde Balloon Reception

    It's been two months since my first radiosonde recovery. In this post, I perform some analysis of the receiving stations at my apartment in San Francisco and my vacation home/parents place in Los Gatos. I also include the python code needed to generate your own plots.

    San Francisco Station

    Immediately after I got home from my first recovery, I converted my regular amateur radio station at my apartment to receive radiosondes. The external antenna is a Diamond X-50NA, which is a great amateur radio 5/8 wave 2m/70cm dual-band antenna. Coax up to the roof is about 80 ft of LMR-400, which is calculated at around 1.5 dB loss at 145 MHz and 2.5 dB at ...

  4. Two Radiosonde Payload Recoveries, and RS-41SGP Teardown

    I've been watching SondeHub for the past two months to, every day since my first recovery, but the winds have not been cooperating! Lots of radiosondes went into the hills east of San Jose, out into the ocean, into the Santa Cruz mountains, all the way down to Gilroy, or splashed down in the bay, but none have landed in populated areas within an hours drive of my home in San Francisco. I realized how lucky I was that the first radiosonde I successfully tracked actually landed in a populated place.

    In a typical city, approximately 35-50% of the land is dedicated to cars: residential roads, arterials, freeways, and parking lots. So when a balloon lands in populated areas of ...

  5. SatNOGs Station Construction and LNA Power Modifications

    In September 2018 I built a remote receiving station for the SatNOGs project. This post describes the build process, and modifications I made to allow for coax power of a Mini-circuits ZX60-33LN-S+ low-noise amplifier.

    SatNOGs is a distributed ground station network for amateur radio and university satellites. The idea is to spread a bunch of software-defined receivers around the world to help satellite operators downlink more data from their satellites. The open-source project, running on your local hardware, controls a software-defined receiver, moves directional antennas if you have them, and uploads the audio files and decoded data to a big database. Satellite operators, and other curious people, can see almost-real-time telemetry from the satellites.

    As a historical aside, the concept ...

  6. W6PW SOTA Activation of Mt. Davidson, W6/NC-423

    After my very successful SOTA activation of San Pedro Mountain the previous weekend, and the San Francisco Radio Club Angel Island expedition at the same time, the club decided to do another SOTA activation on Saturday November 14th. Antonis AA6PP, Jeff KK6JJZ, Rick K6TOR, David KN6HFV, and myself went up to the top of Mt. Davidson and activated the peak under the club's callsign W6PW.

    It was a beautiful day, very clear after the rains the previous evening. We had a total of five stations. Antonis AA6PP and Jeff KK6JJZ ran the HF voice stations, trading off on 40, 20, and 15 meters during our activation. Rick K6TOR ran HF CW, and Dave KN6HFV ran the UHF station on 445 ...

  7. SOTA Activation of San Pedro Mountain, W6/NC-410

    Summits on the Air (SOTA) combines two of my favorite pastimes, amateur radio and hiking. The objective is to climb to a nearby peak, then contact as many people as you can on the radio. While most SOTA peak activations are on HF, my only portable gear at the moment is a few HTs.

    On Saturday Nov 7th, I activated San Pedro Mountain, which is 1058 ft tall. It's located in Harry A. Barbier Memorial Park in the hills above San Rafael, next to China Camp State Park.

    I took the Knight Dr route, from Tom AI6CU, hiking along the Ridge Fire Road. The hike up took about 45 minutes, and some sections of the trail were very steep. I ...

  8. Oakland Radiosonde Investigation, Launch, and Recovery

    I've recently stumbled upon the radiosonde_auto_rx project. I've always been interested in tracking radiosondes, and even watched a radiosonde launch in Inuvik, NWT a few years back. Worldwide, there are over 800 launches every twelve hours of every day, and this data feeds into weather forecast models.

    The radiosonde_auto_rx project is built around decoding many different types of radiosondes with a software-defined receiver. The preferred receiver is a RTL-SDR Blog v3, and I already had an extra one of those (because they are so inexpensive!).

    Most radiosondes worldwide use 400-406 MHz as their downlink, but the United States also uses some frequencies around 1680 MHz. Reading the documentation on which frequencies are in use, it appeared that 1680 MHz was ...

  9. Decoding AIS Signals for Marine Monitoring

    Automatic Identification System is a system for boats to broadcast their location. This is very helpful in congested waters, such as in the San Francisco Bay, where many ferries, huge container ships, and small pleasure craft are trying to avoid each other. Onboard digital chart plotters can show nearby ships, their heading, speed, and expected position a few minutes from now. Early AIS transmitters were very expensive, but the new generation of Class B transmitters are actually pretty inexpensive.

    AIS operates on two frequencies, Marine VHF channels 87B and 88B. These are the high-side duplex frequencies of channel 87 and 88, and they are 161.975 and 162.025 MHz. The data link layer is 9600 baud GMSK, packet length ...

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