Tuesday, December 27, 2022

End Of The KONG HQ KiwiSDR Project

 Yesterday, DEC-26, the last working KiwiSDR at the KONG HQ was turned off after a couple of weeks offline.

The KiwiSDR was the brainchild of NZ resident John Seamons. While the concept itself was not novel (the Twente SDR had been operative for several years), the mass production, excellent cost/quality ratio and networking certainly was.

I became aware of this project at quite an early stage and I received my first kit in August 2016 following a Kickstarter campaign in March. I later bought another one. The two, KongSDR and ArcticSDR, were online with different antennas for the better part of six years.

I made a couple of write-ups which you can find on the links section to the right, or here:

Kiwisdr - impressions.pdf | Leveres av Box

Kiwisdr - impressions - second thougths.pdf | Leveres av Box

The KiwiSDR concept and design changed the world of web-based SDRs. It was designed for remote access. It had a built-in server. It needed only an internet browser at the end user's side. It was a "proper" SDR with decent sensitivity and large-signal handling. And its software was in constant evolution. All of a sudden, DX-ers had several hundred SDRs to choose from, and usage varied. One fascinating function was to use several Kiwis to "triangulate" and find the approximate location of signals with reasonable accuracy.

I personally enjoyed exploring the WSPR mode and was able to log ultra-low powered HAM stations from Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Japan on the 630-metre band.

The weak spot was production batches of the Beaglebone computer board, to which the SDR board was connected. They tend, or tended, to fail. I bought a couple of Beaglebones for replacement, and I needed both. In 2021 the KongSDR Kiwi failed to go online, and had to be disconnected. The ArcticSDR Kiwi remained operative, but with several outages which took a week or more to restore because of travel distance and weather issues. The last outage was caused by a permanent failure of the Beaglebone, and I decided to call it quits.

I don't know how many KiwiSDRs were made - probably a four-digit number, and many were set up for the owner's use and not put online. My understanding is that it was never a commercial success and I doubt that there will be many made in the future, if any. 

What I do know, is that the KiwiSDR brought many old DX-ers back to the hobby. And that's a nice thing, isn't it?

Lots of KiwiSDRs and other web-SDRs available here: Wideband shortwave radio receiver map (linkfanel.net)

"Blue hours" - Noon on DEC-26, 2022


Unknown said...

Oh dear, that's extremely sad. I used it whenever DX from my home was uninteresting, which happens often as I am hundreds of miles away from any ocean and I'm in a big city. I wonder, are there any prospects for replacements? Meaning, any other projects commercial or otherwise that have the whole package all in one like the Kiwi? I will really miss them if they go away one by one… with no practical replacement insight. 73, Earl Higgins in St. Louis Missouri USA

Myles VE7FSR said...

Is the problem you experienced with the KiwiSDR board itself, or the "parent" Beagle Bone Black board(s)? Were you able to determine the cause of the BBB failures? We recently had one of our kiwiSDR units go offline this winter, and I'm hoping your experience might be able to shed some light on ours! We may have to order a bunch of spare BBB boards and keep them handy. Thanks and best 73.

Myles, VE7FSR
Kamloops Amateur Radio Club

Bjarne Mjelde said...

Hi Myles,
I'm quite confident that the Beaglebones failed and not the KiwiSDR board. At least in the two instances when I had to replace BBB. You may see the LEDs light up, but little or no activity on the ethernet LEDs. BBBs aren't very expensive but of course it's a hassle to reconfigure everything. I don't know why they failed, but John Seamons explained in a forum post a while back that they have a weakness.

Iduna Signal said...

Thanks and best;)