Before I took on my role at Digilent, I was an RF engineer at NI (the company that acquired Digilent some years ago). While at NI, I worked on some really complex, fascinating RF instruments. The hardware was awesome! But it was also expensive. Like, really expensive. Some instruments alone started at around $75,000 and a full test system might include several of them! (Not to mention the embedded controller to operate the system and the chassis to fit it all in, which is another $10,000+).
The price is justified for the quality and performance, but it would be overkill for software-defined radio (SDR). Also, what if you’re not a certain trillion-dollar fruit company and looking for something more friendly to your wallet? Well, check this out!
There’s a cool company called Ettus Research that brings together quality hardware and a robust open-source community. (Ettus is also an NI brand, so it’s basically Digilent’s SDR cousin.) Ettus introduced the world to the USRP platform (USRP = Universal Software Radio Peripheral). The USRP family of products is designed for RF applications from DC to 6 GHz, including multiple-antenna (MIMO) systems. Example application areas include white spaces, mobile phones, public safety, spectrum monitoring, radio networking, cognitive radio, satellite navigation, and amateur radio.
We’ve been hearing some interest in RF and SDR from quite a few of our customers, and so we wanted to bring you all something new!
I’m happy to announce that the Ettus USRP B205mini-i is now available in the Digilent store! This flexible and compact platform is ideal for both hobbyist and OEM applications. It provides a wide frequency range from 70 MHz to 6 GHz and a user-programmable, industrial-grade Xilinx Spartan-6 XC6SLX150 FPGA. The RF front end uses the Analog Devices AD9364 RFIC transceiver with 56 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth. The board is bus-powered by a high-speed USB 3.0 connection for streaming data to the host computer.
The USRP B205mini-i also includes connectors for GPIO, JTAG, and synchronization with a 10 MHz clock reference or PPS time reference input signal. The USRP Hardware Driver™ (UHD) provides a C and Python API that enables users to efficiently develop applications then seamlessly transition designs between platforms as requirements expand.