A low-cost desktop software defined radio design environment using MATLAB, simulink, and the RTL-SDR

Stewart, Robert W. and Crockett, Louise and Atkinson, Dale and Barlee, Kenneth and Crawford, David and Chalmers, Iain and McLernon, Mike and Sozer, Ethem (2015) A low-cost desktop software defined radio design environment using MATLAB, simulink, and the RTL-SDR. IEEE Communications Magazine, 53 (9). pp. 64-71. ISSN 0163-6804 (https://doi.org/10.1109/MCOM.2015.7263347)

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In the last 5 years, the availability of powerful DSP and Communications design software, and the emergence of relatively affordable devices that receive and digitize RF signals, has brought Software Defined Radio (SDR) to the desktops of many communications engineers. However, the more recent availability of very low cost SDR devices such as the RTL-SDR, costing less than $20, brings SDR to the home desktop of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as both professional engineers and the maker communities. Since the release of the various open source drivers for the RTL-SDR, many in the digital communications community have used this device to scan the RF spectrum and digitise I/Q signals that are being transmitted in the range 25MHz to 1.75GHz. This wide bandwidth enables the sampling of frequency bands containing signals such as FM radio, ISM signals, GSM, 3G and LTE mobile radio, GPS and so on. In this paper we will describe the opportunity and operation of the RTL-SDR, and the development of a hands-on, open-course for SDR. These educational materials can be integrated into core curriculum undergraduate and graduate courses, and will greatly enhance the teaching of DSP and communications theory, principles and applications. The lab and teaching materials have recently been used in Senior (4th year Undergraduate) courses and are available as open course materials for all to access, use and evolve.