There’s some great things being done with software defined radio and considering the technology is still very young, I’m sure we can expect much more down the road. Apart from the individual use at home, S.D.R is being incorporated into bigger, far reaching projects with one application that’s taken the web side of S.D.R to the next level, called the BigWhoop project.

Sunspot Cycle propagation

By networking 100,s of S.D.R receivers across the world that can be interrogated from a single point, BigWhoop has made a start toward a complete global RF monitoring system.

Sounds cool doesn’t it? and once you have control over a large amount of well placed receivers they can be tasked to any number of uses by the right manipulation of the gathered data.

Future Uses of BigWhoop

BigWhoop themselves have giving examples on their website of global aircraft tracking, logging brand new commercial radio stations and finding places with almost no radio noise.

The more I read about what their doing the more it seems that BigWhoop would be fantastic used as a propagation tool. Imagine being able to track the distance a radio signal travels through the S.D.R network and not just checking to see what finally reaches your location.

By using the receiver locations overlaid on a world map we could have an almost real time view of current band conditions with the chance to see openings as they happen.

A Few Issues to Iron Out

Different Receivers Specifications

Because not all receiving stations will be the same in design and antenna specifications there will be some change in the strength (or presence) of a signal. This may cause a problem if the sample size is small but increase the resolution by adding more receivers and mean values will start to even out.

Identifying Transmissions

We all ready have a network of propagation beacons that do a great job of letting us know how a particular band is performing but there could be difficulty integrating them into an S.D.R propagation tool.

Even the presence of a signal on higher frequency beacons is enough to mark a band improvement as these frequencies are designated for the beacon alone. This tends to get a little messy as you move down the HF bands and you’d have to put steps in place to guarantee that any propagation tool is being triggered by the right transmission.

Other “always on” signals carry digital identification information along with the transmitted signal and these could easily be added to a propagation profile, upgrade the existing beacons or even build a whole new network of digital beacons that compliment the S.D.R network fully.

Add the full wideband/all mode nature of S.D.R into this forecasting mix and you’ve got a powerful propagation tool with the option to look at highly localized radio spectrum conditions instantly.

To check out what the BigWhoop team are doing, head over to aerospaceresearch.net/constellation/

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