Weak Signal Propagation Reporter is a global radio propagation monitoring and reporting network comprised of thousands of low power beacons operating on the amateur radio bands. WSPR beacons can be detected from the lowest of Medium Wave frequencies (137kHz) all the way through the HF spectrum (all the bands from 160m to 10m are popular) to the VHF bands, 50 and 144MHz. WSPR receivers decode the tiny beacon packets and upload them to a central database, at WSPRNet.org, where anyone can literally ‘see’ the propagation paths that are currently open.
Equally, you can go back and revisit the radio frequency propagation conditions during any previous time window. Running a WSPR beacon from your home allows you to ‘watch’ the propagation paths open, peak, and close each day under the influences of solar radiation, sunspots, and other ionospheric conditions. Arduinos and a few common accessory boards that can be had for tens of dollars make a beacon accessible to just about any experimenter (with an amateur radio license).
I’m late to the WSPR party. I’ve wanted to try a beacon project for a few years. A while back, I took a copy of the ZachTeck script and experimented with it and a Ublox GPS, but after getting the NMEA strings decoded from the GPS unit at roughly one second intervals, the rest of my code was over-engineered and bloated, and did not fit into the small memory constraints of the Arduino Nano. I put is aside.
Recently, I did a much needed upgrade to my Arduino IDE and libraries. The thought occurred to me that improvements to both IDE and libraries may give me a fighting chance of getting that old WSPR script fitting. When I opened it up, and started to work through it, I saw some obvious ways of reducing memory usage. I had too many String objects (memory-hungry). And my code was writrten to parse each NMEA message string and tokenise it. This allowed me to get to discrete data fields a long way down the messages, like the number of detected satellites. In a simple WSPR beacon, all you really need is the UTC timestamp at the very start of a number of the NMEA messages. I ditched the superfluous stuff and got it uploading, and more to the point, not hanging!
WSPR dataset applications
WSPR is brilliant for teaching you about rare and exotic places that you feel compelled to Google when they turn up on your map in the morning, places like Orlygshafnarvegur (TF4AH, Iceland) or Fuerteventura (EA8BFK on the Canary Islands).
The database of historical propagation across the HF spectrum is widely used by amateur researchers to learn about propagation and has some more serious applications as well. Experimenters have used the data to support ideas or research questions about how symmetrical propagation is at opposite sides of the globe in the same period, and to test antennas. More seriously, a theory was proposed that impressions in the WSPR dataset may indicate the path of the lost flight, Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
The script is here: https://github.com/prt459/WSPR_GPS_Beacon
The schematic is so simple it really doesn’t need a kicad. The Ublox 6M GPS connects to Arduino D2 and D3 for serial data transfer. It also needs GND and +5V. The si5351 breakout board uses I2C and so goes to Arduino A4 (SDA) and A5 (SCK). Connect the si5351’s CLK0 to whatever low power HF amp you like. Mine is from Experimental Methods in RF Design (EMRFD), Fig 12.32, but I could have chosen any number of similar two-transistor stages.
WSPR works on truly tiny power levels. If you connect the bare si5351 clock output to an antenna, you will get decodes! (You should add a Low Pass Filter if this is anything more than a quick test). So use a single 2N3904, or anything with gain, up to a full 5 watt QRP PA with an IRF510 or Mitsubishi RF FET, which is a ‘big gun’ in the WSPR world. Mine uses a 2N3904 and 2N4427 in common emitter feedback configuration, delivering around 10 volts peak to peak into 50 ohms, followed by a W3NQN Low Pass Filter for the band of interest.
Thanks to Harry from ZachTek for making his code open source. And to Jason Milldrum NT7s for his si5351 and JTEncode libraries.