The RTL-SDR can be used as a wide band radio scanner. Applications include:
- Use as a police radio scanner.
- Listening to EMS/Ambulance/Fire communications.
- Listening to aircraft traffic control conversations.
- Tracking aircraft positions like a radar with ADSB decoding.
- Decoding aircraft ACARS short messages.
- Scanning trunking radio conversations.
- Decoding unencrypted digital voice transmissions such as P25/DMR/D-STAR.
- Tracking maritime boat positions like a radar with AIS decoding.
- Decoding POCSAG/FLEX pager traffic.
- Scanning for cordless phones and baby monitors.
- Tracking and receiving meteorological agency launched weather balloon data.
- Tracking your own self launched high altitude balloon for payload recovery.
- Receiving wireless temperature sensors and wireless power meter sensors.
- Listening to VHF amateur radio.
- Decoding ham radio APRS packets.
- Watching analogue broadcast TV.
- Sniffing GSM signals.
- Using rtl-sdr on your Android device as a portable radio scanner.
- Receiving GPS signals and decoding them.
- Using rtl-sdr as a spectrum analyzer.
- Receiving NOAA weather satellite images.
- Listening to satellites and the ISS.
- Radio astronomy.
- Monitoring meteor scatter.
- Listening to FM radio, and decoding RDS information.
- Listening to DAB broadcast radio.
- Listening to and decoding HD-Radio (NRSC5).
- Use rtl-sdr as a panadapter for your traditional hardware radio.
- Decoding taxi mobile data terminal signals.
- Use rtl-sdr as a high quality entropy source for random number generation.
- Use rtl-sdr as a noise figure indicator.
- Reverse engineering unknown protocols.
- Triangulating the source of a signal.
- Searching for RF noise sources.
- Characterizing RF filters and measuring antenna SWR.
- Decoding Inmarsat STD-C EGC geosynchronous satellites.
- Listening to the ISS (International Space Station).
Furthermore, with an upconverter or V3 RTL-SDR dongle to receive HF signals the applications are expanded to:
- Listening to amateur radio hams on SSB with LSB/USB modulation.
- Decoding digital amateur radio ham communications such as CW/PSK/RTTY/SSTV.
- Receiving HF weatherfax.
- Receiving digital radio mondiale shortwave radio (DRM).
- Listening to international shortwave radio.
- Looking for RADAR signals like over the horizon (OTH) radar, and HAARP signals.
Note that not all the applications listed may be legal in your country. Please be responsible.
What is the RTL-SDR frequency range?
This is dependent on the particular tuner variant used in the dongle, and the particular implementation. Some dongles, like our RTL-SDR Blog V3 also utilize the direct sampling mode which can enable reception below 28 MHz.
|Elonics E4000||52 – 2200 MHz with a gap from 1100 MHz to 1250 MHz (varies)|
|Rafael Micro R820T/2||24 – 1766 MHz (Can be improved to ~13 – 1864 MHz with experimental drivers)|
|Fitipower FC0013||22 – 1100 MHz|
|Fitipower FC0012||22 – 948.6 MHz|
|FCI FC2580||146 – 308 MHz and 438 – 924 MHz (gap in between)|
Table Source: Osmocom
As you can see from the table, the Elonics E4000 and Rafael Micro R820T/2 dongles have the greatest frequency range.