RTLSDR usage

Setup rtlsdr

By rtlsdr usually call RTL2832U chip based tv-tunners which can be used for not just recievin DVB-T frequencies but much more and yes price is ~$10 it mean that anyone can just buy and try without "loosing" money.

Get sources

Main development repository is on http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr on github you can find more repos with experminental features (https://github.com/keenerd/rtl-sdr).

Getting sources from git:

  git clone git://git.osmocom.org/rtl-sdr.git

I prefer using plain binaries without any kind of installation. Just compile and use binary without any troubles. Build:

  cmake .

All binaries is in src dir.

Util Desc
rtl_adsb recieve plain ADSB plain packets
rtl_eeprom read
rtl_power log power over frequency range
rtl_fm demodulate signals
rtl_sdr output raw rtlsdr data
rtl_tcp remote rtlsdr server
rtl_test test rtlsdr


Linux kernel have some drivers for rtlsdr stick and DVB-T. When you will plug rtlsdr then kernel probably will load DVB-T drivers and you will not able to use you rtlsdr for sdr. Way yo fix is it add some drivers to black list and next time when you will plug rtlsdr this drivers will not be loaded.

Check if rtlsdr related drivers is loaded:

  lsmod | grep rtl28

If there is some drivers then balcklist driver by creating file in /etc/modprobe.d/ with content:

  blacklist dvb_usb_rtl28xxu

Next thing that could appear is permissions on rtlsdr usage when its pluged in. To allow everyone to use create file in /etc/udev/rules.d/ with content:

  SUBSYSTEM=="usb", ATTRS{idVendor}=="0bda", ATTRS{idProduct}=="2838", \
  GROUP="adm", MODE="0666", SYMLINK+="rtl_sdr"

Check if works

How to test if rtlsdr works? Run one of commands: rtl_test

I like to run rtl_adsb as you can see there that something is recieved and you see that everything "works": rtl_adsb

There should be line by line showing up some "hex" lines. If some data is showen then adsb data from plains is recieved.

Collection of tools


Get some sound trancmited from FM radio stations.

  rtl_fm -f 96.3e6 -M wbfm -s 200000 -r 48000 - | aplay -r 48k -f S16_LE

Spectrum diagram

Scan spectrum to find some activities on different frequencies. Good link with all description is http://kmkeen.com/rtl-power/ . Main usage of rtl_power is :

  rtl_power -f 76M:108M:125k -i 1 fm_stations.csv

and then draw image :

  heatmap.py fm_stations.csv fm_stations.png


ADS-B ( Automatic dependent surveillance broadcast ) in simple words airplain geoposition, speed, height and flight number broadcasting. You can recieve this data and see how many plains is around and sometimes flight number.

rtlsdr have default one rtl_adsb programm but it shows only recieved data, without any decoding. Here is dump1090 specifically for rtlsdr and nothing more:


description howto install could be found also here


Using in interactive mode with height in metrs:

  dump1090 --interactive --metric


  Hex    Flight   Altitude  Speed   Lat       Lon       Track  Messages Seen .  
  71be01          10052     1009    36.434    33.544    45    9         1 sec
  424913 SDM6329  10966     711     36.440    33.405    221   65        0 sec


Gqrx is graphical SDR software where you can travel across frequencies and in real time search for some transmission.


It have builtin AFSK1200 demodulator or in simple words ham radio packets. And you could try to see what people sending in tex around the world.


Support many digital transmission modes.



Here is few waterfalls for rtlsdr


It have demo waterfall and aslo thats is python bindings to libsdr that could used for fast prototyping



Project that make rtlsdr as entropy source, uses FIPS 140-2 standart to verify that data is random enought to pass test.

Projects where rtlsdr used


WebSDR probably best site where you can go and click on some radio reciever and liste what happends in some particular country. WebSDR site contains about 80 radio recievers around the world that can be accessed trought web interface. http://websdr.org/

If you whant setup your own radio reciever read FAQ, prepare mail and send mail after that you could recieve precompiled websdr software with is easy to setup with rtlsdr stick.


Sync errors

Once there was sync error when was trying to use rtl_test or rtl_adsb. To fix that changes for better quality usb cable.

More then 1 dongle

When you run you run usually more then 5 dongles you could get error saying something about libusb error (-5) you need to decrese buffer as default one is (16 * 16384) and it should work

rtl_test -b [NEW_SIZE]

thx goes to freenode/##rtlsdr chan


  1. http://kmkeen.com/rtl-demod-guide/
  2. http://kmkeen.com/rtl-power/
  3. http://sdr.osmocom.org/trac/wiki/rtl-sdr
  4. http://www.rtl-sdr.com/
  5. https://github.com/antirez/dump1090
  6. http://gqrx.dk
  7. https://github.com/roger-/pyrtlsdr
  8. https://github.com/EliasOenal/multimon-ng