Software Defined Radios

Software-defined radios (SDRs) have taken over the amateur radio service. The newest commercially available radios are all built in this manner. For example, the Flex series of radios remove all of the knobs and buttons and provide a glass panel for the operator to use. The Icom 7300 keeps those knobs and buttons, but they simply provide inputs to the software-defined radio guts of the machine. The HackRF One is a developer radio system that can receive and transmit from about 1 MHz to 6 GHz, but it only puts out a single watt. And, the tiny RTL-SDR dongles that plug into your USB port can receive signals between 20 MHz and 2 GHz.

The hacker part of the hobby has gravitated toward the HackRF One (about $180) and the RTL-SDR (about $20) devices. These both can be controlled by many software programs and most of them are free. In addition, the Gnu Radio Companion allows you to create your own interface to control these devices. Enjoy your journey.

RTL-SDR Receiver Dongles

SDR systems have been produced by the millions and are available as small USB dongles. These radios connect to an antenna and send data to the computer via the USB port. The best place to find these is on eBay, and here is a link to an eBay search for RTL-SDR.

RTL-SDR Quick Start Guide

These tiny little dongles work great, but require some setup to get them working. The site has a ton of resources, including a great guide to getting started located here

HackRF One

The HackRF One device is a radio that’s made for developers. It will receive and transmit from about 1 MHz through about 6 GHz. These are available from the original manufacturer here for about $330.

As with any good open source amateur project, there are knock-off devices available cheaper. Here’s one on eBay for about $170.

Windows Gnu Radio Install

Gnu Radio is the best set of software to use when hacking a software defined radio. This link will let you download the software, and start the install process.

Receiving GOES 16 Weather Information with Open Satellite

The Open Satellite project allows you to receive weather data directly from space using an RTL-SDR device. Look here at a great article, with links to the Open Software Project.

Hacking SDR with HackRF One

Michael Ossmann built the HackRF One devices and he’s got a great video series that will get you up-to-speed in a hurry. Note that this is a set of 13 classes, and involves complex math, however you can do it! You’ll learn how to program your own SDR using the Gnu Radio Companion, a very powerful tool Visit to take his online class from novice to expert.

Free SDR For Engineers PDF Book

Analog Devices is offering a 375 PDF book that appears to be a text on the hardware and software of software-defined radios. We haven’t reviewed the book yet, but it appears quite comprehensive. It is available online here, for free.