Software Defined Radio


Recently Ars Technica did a piece on software defined radio, using the Phi product as a centre piece, it got me thinking about its applications for drones.

Software defined radio basically allows people to write programs which interact with radio waves on a host of different frequencies (100 kHz to 4 Ghz), what this means is instead of having a chip dedicated to GPS you could have this card in your computer and instead run a GPS program. While this may not sound like much, something that has always bothered me about my drones is my use of a third party datalink that I have limited control over, and I believe this kind of thinking is the answer. I would certainly love the ability to apply my own compression methods to my data packets and video and choose my own method to send them (i.e. on which frequencies).

I also like the ability to have different protocols opened up by simply developing the software to them rather than developing or reverse engineering the hardware. Good examples of this might be giving people the option of receiving aviation communications through UHF/VHF and interfacing to GLONASS.

Currently I see the major disadvantage to this technology is its PCIe requirement (Raspberry Pi does not support this, so a traditional motherboard with a traditionally large surface area would have to be used), and no doubt the processing power required might not be trivial.

Do you think this has potential for drones?

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  • @Monroe: Do you have a website for team prometheus? Amateur LEO satellites is something I would be very interested in

  • Most people are limited to ISM bands anyway if you want to transmit anything, so antenna selection isn't such a big issue.

  • I second what MarcS said. You can't cheat the laws of physics too much. You antenna and the rest of your radio needs to be tuned for good performance.

  • Moderator

    I think that the SDR is the future but i don't understand exactly what is available. So for example i see a professional application based on SDR where on a wide band they have a 400 kbits TCP-IP radio connection.

    Normally in narrow band that speed is impossible to reach with only 12.5 or 25 khz of band . Insteand with SDR is possible ... 

    Some one are doing some test  ? Or another interesting application is develop a DVB trasmitter with ....Some idea ? Tutorial ? Video ? example :) I'm very curious .



  • I still prefer my sound card-based SDR... Though PCIe's bandwidth is an advantage.

    SDR has a future for drones, the ability to channel switch from failsafe or jamming modes is critical for making these flying robots safe. It will be hard to develop the electronics and antenna though.

  • I have a RPI and a SDR (EzTV DV3t $20 at dealtime). I think your idea is great. I'll mess around with it and see what I can do. Small and light so it would pe perfect foe a plane.


  • The hard part in that will be, well physics...

    As long as no "software defined antenna" is developed, you will have to attach an antenna for every spcific frequency, especially when transmitting, receiving is a little easier on that.. (depending on the signals, you will probably not receive gps well with a gsm antenna..)

    But definetely a nice developement tool!

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