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Lab 2 – Getting Started on PlutoSDR

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Lab 2 – Getting Started on PlutoSDR
ECE531 – Software Defined Radio

1 Overview 2
2 Required Software 3
2.1 MATLAB . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.2 GNU Radio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.3 IIO-Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.4 Hardware Drivers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.5 Putty SSH Client . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.6 Other SDR Programming Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
3 Getting Started with PlutoSDR 7
3.1 Industrial Input / Output (IIO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
4 Radio Setup and Environmental Noise Observations 10
4.1 Signal Loopback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

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Lab 2 – Getting Started on PlutoSDR
ECE531 – Software Defined Radio

1 Overview 2
2 Required Software 3
2.1 MATLAB . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
2.2 GNU Radio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.3 IIO-Scope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
2.4 Hardware Drivers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.5 Putty SSH Client . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
2.6 Other SDR Programming Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
3 Getting Started with PlutoSDR 7
3.1 Industrial Input / Output (IIO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
4 Radio Setup and Environmental Noise Observations 10
4.1 Signal Loopback . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
4.2 Measurements and the Radio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
5 Lab Report Preparation & Submission Instructions 15
1
1 Overview
This lab is introduces the ADALM-PLUTO Active Learning Module (PlutoSDR); an easy to use
tool available from Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) that can be used to introduce fundamentals of
software-defined radio (SDR) [1]. Based on the AD9363, it offers one receive channel and one
transmit channel which can be operated in full duplex, capable of generating or measuring RF
analog signals from 325 to 3800 MHz, at up to 61.44 Mega Samples per Second (MSPS) with a 20
MHz bandwidth. A software update increases this capability beyond what ADI advertises [2]. The
PlutoSDR box includes two small 4cm long whip antennas a short 15 cm SMA cable and USB cable.
Figure 1: The PlutoSDR from Analog Devices
The radio inside the ADALM-PLUTO is the AD9363, is a high performance, highly integrated
RF agile transceiver, based on is a direct conversion receivers.
• The receive subsystem includes a low noise amplifier (LNA), the direct conversion mixer,
configurable analog filters, a high speed analog to digital converter (ADC), digital decimation
filters, and a 128-tap finite impulse response (FIR) filters to produce a 12-bit output signal
at the appropriate sample rate. The receive chain is augmented with configurable automatic
gain control (AGC) or manual gain modes, dc offset correction, quadrature correction. The
resulting received I and Q signals are passed onto the to the digital baseband processor, in this
case the Xilinx Zynq SoC.
• The transmit subsystem also use a direct conversion architecture. Accepting 12-bit I and Q
samples from the baseband processor (in this case, the same Xilinx Zynq SoC), running them
through the 128-tap finite impulse response (FIR) filters, digital interpolation filters, a high
speed digital to analog converter (DAC), an analog filter, the direct conversion mixers, and
small power amplifier (PA) out to the antenna.
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• Fully integrated phase-locked loops (PLLs) inside the AD9363 provide clocks and local
oscillators for receive and transmit channels, and clocks for the ADC, DAC and output sample
rate.
2 Required Software
The subsections below outline how to get the required software tools needed for this course.
2.1 MATLAB
MATLAB and all required toolboxes should have been installed previously as part of Lab 1. To add
PlutoSDR capability to this installation, a Mathworks Hardware Support Package (HSP) must be
installed.
2.1.1 SDR Hardware Support Packages
MathWorks Hardware Support Packages can be considered ’add-ons’ that provide specific MATLAB
and Simulink interfacing support for third-party hardware, including SDR hardware such as the
PlutoSDR, RTL-SDR, and Ettus USRP. The process for installing the HSP also installs necessary
system drivers for Linux or Windows. Note: Hardware Support Package software installation
requires a free MathWorks account.
The HSP installation can be found through the MATLAB add-on explorer located on the home
toolbar, as shown in Figure 2
Figure 2: Mathworks Add-ons – Get Hardware Support Packages
In the Add-on explorer, you can find numerous HSPs among other usefull add-ons. A search for
“SDR” results in five add on packages, including “Communications Toolbox Support Package for
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Analog Devices ADALM-Pluto Radio” [3]. Another useful SDR HSP to consider is support for the
affordable, RX only, RTL-SDR dongle [4].
You can initialize the PlutoSDR HSP from this menu by selecting the appropriate package then
selecting install. The menu will guide you through the setup of all required drivers and libraries
needed for your operating system, in addition to updating the PlutoSDR firmware. The AD9363
RF in the Pluto SDR is specified to operate from 325MHz to 3.8GHz. This support package
automatically reconfigures the radio to operate over a wider tuning range.
Figure 3: MATLAB PlutoSDR Hardware Setup
If you ever need to re-run the hardware setup wizard, run the following from the MATLAB
console:
>> targetupdater
Once finished installing the PlutoSDR HSP, run the demo software to ensure it functions properly.
>> plutoradiodoc
Test your new PlutoSDR hardware using the Mathworks demos found by typing:
>> plutoradioexamples % Display PlutoSDR Examples
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2.2 GNU Radio
The PlutoSDR hardware is fully supported in GNU Radio with gr-iio [5]. If you are using the
provided virtual machine image or have installed the Windows installer as part of Lab 1, your
install already supports the hardware. If you are using Linux, you should be able to install from
binary packages or the instructions below. Note: there may have been updates to gr-iio since the
Windows installer was compiled. For example, the gr-iio master has the ability to use exponential
notation in the block parameters. The GNU Radio 3.7 Windows installer does not. Other version
discrepancies may arise as the GNU Radio 3.10 release matures.
• The ADI wiki has GNU Radio instructions at:
https://wiki.analog.com/resources/tools-software/linux-software/gnuradio.
• PyBOMBS has been used to install gr-iio for the virtual machine Linux configuration. More
info can be found at https://github.com/gnuradio/pybombs. The instructor or TA can
also answer questions on installing GNU Radio with IIO support using PyBOMBS.
For those using PyBOMBS to build GNU Radio and OOT modules from source, you will need
to update the gr-iio recipe to use the master branch. This can be achieved using the command below.
$ sed -i ’s/gitrev.*/gitbranch: master/’ ~/.pybombs/recipes/gr-recipes/gr-iio.lwr
$ pybombs install gr-iio
PlutoSDR support can also be achieved using the SoapySDR hardware abstraction library and
generalized API at https://github.com/pothosware/SoapySDR/wiki.
2.3 IIO-Scope
The ADI IIO Oscilloscope allows the user to interface with a variety of ADI SDR devices including
the PlutoSDR. It is highly recommended that users install this software to understand and troubleshoot
the many registers on the PlutoSDR transceiver chip.
Documentation: IIO Oscilloscope
• Windows installers are available here:
https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/iio-oscilloscope/releases
• Linux users will need to build from source:
https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/iio-oscilloscope
The method used to install IIO-Scope, libad9361, libiio, and more on Ubuntu Linux for virtual
machine image configuration was achieved using the “adi_update_tools.sh” shell script; located
at: https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/linux_image_ADI-scripts/blob/master/
adi_update_tools.sh. This script automatically builds basic IIO resources on Linux; including
the drivers listed below.
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2.4 Hardware Drivers
Most of the drivers needed to use the PlutoSDR are installed automatically for your operating system
with the MATLAB Add-on wizard. If you need to install the drivers and libraries manually, the
links in this section will be helpful.
2.4.1 OS Interface Drivers
Windows: https://wiki.analog.com/university/tools/pluto/drivers/windows
Linux: https://wiki.analog.com/university/tools/pluto/drivers/linux
Mac: https://wiki.analog.com/university/tools/pluto/drivers/osx
2.4.2 libIIO library
Documentation: What is libiio?
• Packages for Linux and Windows are available here:
https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/libiio/releases/latest
• Source available here: https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/libiio
After installing libIIO, you should now be able to interact with the PlutoSDR from the commandline. Example commands are listed in Section 3.1.
2.4.3 libad9361-iio library
• For linux users only, you will need the libas9361 library at:
https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/libad9361-iio
• Instructions for building it are here.
2.4.4 PlutoSDR Firmware
• Pluto/M2k Firmware Update instructions can be found at:
https://wiki.analog.com/university/tools/pluto/users/firmware.
2.5 Putty SSH Client
The PlutoSDR hosts an SSH server. Linux includes the SSH client software necessary. However,
Windows requires the installation of an additional tool. Putty is a popular solution for this on
Windows. Putty is available at: https://www.putty.org/.
2.6 Other SDR Programming Methods
Example scripts for interacting with the PlutoSDR using shell scripts, C/C++, and Python are located
at: https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/plutosdr_scripts.
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3 Getting Started with PlutoSDR
Once the USB drivers are installed, a drive is mounted upon connecting the PlutoSDR to a USB
port; similar to when you connect a thumb drive. The PlutoSDR is capable of auto-executing a
properly named script that is placed in this directory. This can be handy for projects requiring
standalone applications.
Browse the newly mounted PlutoSDR drive on you system and open the info.html file in your
web browser. This file provides links to documentation and details about your PlutoSDR.
Find the IP address for your PlutoSDR, use this address to SSH into the embedded Linux
operating system located on the PlutoSDR. The default SSH username is “root” and default password
is “analog”.An example session using Putty is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4: Connecting to the PlutoSDR SSH server using Putty.
3.1 Industrial Input / Output (IIO)
The Linux kernel Industrial Input / Output (IIO) framework is used by Analog Devices as a low-level,
low-latencey interface that allows access to hardware. IIO provides hardware abstraction layer that
allows users to develop with the SDR without needing to develop kernel drivers as well.
Device attributes may be set through IIO. GNU Radio interfaces directly with these attributes
and recently supports attribute blocks as part of gr-iio. The structure for the IIO device attributes
provided by sysfs is outline in Figure 5
7
Figure 5: IIO Device Attributes. All hardware parameters represented as directories in sysfs.
The “iio_info -s” command is very helpful for finding your current PlutoSDR device
Universal Resource Identifier (URI). In the example below, the URI is usb:3.6.5. This value can
be used to point to GNU Radio or MATLAB to your current hardware address if it can not auto-find
it, or if you want to connect multiple PlutoSDR devices to the same PC.
$ iio_info -s
Library version: 0.15 (git tag: 2b4503d)
Compiled with backends: local xml ip usb serial
Available contexts:
0: 0456:b673 (Analog Devices Inc. PlutoSDR (ADALM-PLUTO)),
serial=c1d3a773be696cff61bc37f517ce03aa [usb:3.6.5]
Execute the command above on both the PlutoSDR using SSH and the local PC. What differences
did you notice regarding the URI?
8
Another useful command line tool is “iio_attr”:
$ iio_attr -h
Usage:
iio_attr [OPTION]…
-d [device] [attr] [value]
-c [device] [channel] [attr] [value]
-B [device] [attr] [value]
-D [device] [attr] [value]
-C [attr]
Options:
-h, –help : Show this help and quit.
-I, –ignore-case : Ignore case distinctions.
-q, –quiet : Return result only.
-a, –auto : Use the first context found.
Optional qualifiers:
-u, –uri : Use the context at the provided URI.
-i, –input-channel : Filter Input Channels only.
-o, –output-channel : Filter Output Channels only.
Attribute types:
-s, –scan-channel : Filter Scan Channels only.
-d, –device-attr : Read/Write device attributes
-c, –channel-attr : Read/Write channel attributes.
-C, –context-attr : Read IIO context attributes.
-B, –buffer-attr : Read/Write buffer attributes.
-D, –debug-attr : Read/Write debug attributes.
Using the iio_attr command, find the ad9361-phy device. Which device was it? On the SSH
session, browse to /sys/bus/iio/devices/ to find the same device. Change to this sub directory and cat
name. Is this the ad9361-phy device?
$ cat /sys/bus/iio/devices/iio:device0/name
This is an example of reading an attribute. You may also set an attribute from the command line
using echo and redirecting the output.
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4 Radio Setup and Environmental Noise Observations
In these laboratory experiments an Analog Devices ADALM-PLUTO SDR with AD9363 transceiver
will be used. This SDR in the most basic sense is a System-on-Chip (SoC) with an attached RF
module providing complex baseband data. The MATLAB interface utilizes the libiio kernel driver
to talk with the SDR through a MATLAB class called iio_sys_obj_matlab. The two system
objects provided in the hardware support package for PlutoSDR are:
• comm.SDRRxPluto: PlutoSDR Receiver System object
• comm.SDRTxPluto: PlutoSDR Transmitter System object
These objects are typically constructed through the sdrrx or sdrtx function calls as in:
1 rx = sdrrx(‘Pluto’)
2 tx = sdrtx(‘Pluto’)
However, these objects can also be directly instantiated directly. The resulting object of sdrrx
either way will have the following basic properties, which will be directly printed to the terminal
when not using the semicolon as:
1 rx = sdrrx(‘Pluto’)
2 rx =
3 comm.SDRRxPluto with properties:
4 DeviceName: ‘Pluto’
5 RadioID: ‘usb:0’
6 CenterFrequency: 2.4000e+09
7 GainSource: ‘AGC Slow Attack’
8 ChannelMapping: 1
9 BasebandSampleRate: 1000000
10 OutputDataType: ‘int16’
11 SamplesPerFrame: 3660
12 ShowAdvancedProperties: false
The transmitter System object comm.SDRTxPluto has near identical properties except for
GainSource, SamplesPerFrame, and OutputDataType which do not make sense in the transmitter
context. If you want to examine the available parameters simply type doc comm.SDRRxPluto or
doc comm.SDRTxPluto into the MATLAB command prompt.
Before moving further with the radio it is important to outline how the radio works from the
perspective of MATLAB using the sdrrx and sdrtx objects. After an object associated to the SDR
has been created, the necessary methods can be run.
When configured in receive mode and the received method is called, with help from the driver,
temporary buffers are created of size SamplesPerFrame, as set by the class parameter. Then the
device will proceed to fill these buffer with contiguous data from the ADCs.
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For each receive chain there are technically two ADCs, one for the in-phase portion of the signal
and one for the quadrature. This is the reasoning behind the multiple buffers. However, these ADCs
are time aligned and sampling of the dual chains happens at the same instances in time. Once the
buffers are filled that data is provided to MATLAB and the link between the device and MATLAB is
halted. As a result, when the receive method is called again from MATLAB the resulting buffer will
be disjoint in time from the preceding buffer. For the overall structure of this communication Analog
Devices provides a block diagram presented in Figure 6. The PlutoSDR class for convenience
provides the output in a single complex vector, and accepts complex vectors as well.
Figure 6: Structure of libiio and SDR hardware interconnection with MATLAB software [6].
Within the FMCOMMS/AD9361 direct downconversion is used to translate signals from
RF to baseband frequencies. This is different than traditional heterodyne designs which utilize
intermediate frequencies. Therefore, all observed signals passed to MATLAB are at baseband
which were originally centered around CenterFrequency with a bandwidth of BasebandSampleRate
parameterized by the sdrrx object.
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4.1 Signal Loopback
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the radio operates and have it setup we can perform
some simple experiments. For the loopback experiment, you should use the coaxial SMA cable
provided with the PlutoSDR; not the provided antennas.
4.1.1 MATLAB Loopback
First we will run a simple loopback test which transmits a sinusoidal tone out the transmitter and is
simultaneously received at the receiver. To perform this we will utilize the provided loopback.m
script. This script collects multiple buffers of data, which can be necessary since there is an unknown
startup lag for the transmitter and the desired signal can be missed. This script should generate a
plot similar to the one shown in Figure 7.
Sample ×10 -6
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Amplitude
-400
-300
-200
-100
0
100
200
300
400
Figure 7: Looped back sinusoid observed from the Pluto receiver.
1. Modify the amplitude of the sinusoid, along with the PLUTO’s GainSource and observe their
effects.
(a) The three GainSource (AGC) settings are: Manual, AGC Slow Attack, and AGC Fast
Attack.
(b) When Manual is selected another option called Gain becomes available and this parameter
can be modified.
(c) It maybe useful to use signals with varying amplitudes or zeros.
(d) If enough gain is applied the sinusoid should appear as a square wave at the receiver.
What gain value does this occur?
12
4.1.2 GNU Radio Loopback
Now that MATLAB has been used for a loopback test, lets attempt the same test with GNU Radio to
verify both tools are functioning properly.
To perform this test, we can utilize the provided PlutoTestSine.grc flowgraph in GNU Radio
Companion. This flowgraph is configured to simultaneously transmit and receive in the 2.4 GHz
band with a sample rate of 2.084 MHz. The “QT GUI Range” variable source frequency and RX
gain at run-time.
Figure 8: GRC flowgraph for Lab 2, Section 4.1.2
1. Double-click on each PlutoSDR block (source and sink) to look at the block properties.
(a) What is the RF Bandwidth? What does this property control in the PlutoSDR?
(b) What is the “Cyclic” boolean selection for in the PlutoSDR Sink block?
(c) What does the Manual Gain control in the PlutoSDR source? What other strategies are
available?
2. Run the flowgraph. Note: you may have to enter change the Device URI. On some operating
systems libIIO finds the first available device when this field is left blank.
3. Adjust the RX gain. At what value does the received signal begin to distort or clip?
4. Replace the “QT Time Sink” block with a “QT GUI Sink”. Explore the options provided by
the new sink block. What happens if you increase the number of averages? Why does the
frequency response change when you change the window function?
5. What is the transmitted RF frequency of the sinusoid? Why?
13
4.1.3 GNU Radio as a libIIO client
The PlutoSDR source and sink blocks contained in the Industrial IO module provide a convenient
way to interface with PlutoSDR hardware. Generic blocks are also available, and can be useful
when interfacing with generic SDR hardware compatible with IIO. The specific values necessary for
the IIO Device Source/Sink and IIO Atribute blocks were found previously using IIO command
line tools, such as iio_attr. The default values for these blocks are shown in Figure 9. A quick
reference on using these tools will be posted to D2L.
Figure 9: Default values for IIO Device blocks to be used for Section 4.1.3.
1. Repeat the loopback experiment from Section 4.1.2 without using the PlutoSDR source and
sink blocks; use only the “IIO Device Source / Sink” and “IIO Attribute Source / Sink /
Updater”
2. Change the TX and RX center frequency from 2.4 GHz to 915 MHz.
3. Increase the sample rate from 2.084 MSPS to a greater value of your choosing.
4. Verify each of the above have been set in the hardware using IIO Scope plugins or iio_attr.
4.2 Measurements and the Radio
What a SDR device like the PLUTO does is give you digital samples. What these are is nothing
more or less than what the ADC makes out of the voltages it observes. Then, those numbers are
subject to the receiver processing chain which includes frequency translation (Mixing), decimation
and filtering. Analog Devices provides a great overview here [7] for the ad936x. Altogether, the
complex signal’s envelope coming from the PLUTO should be proportional to the voltages observed
by the ADC. Therefore, the magnitude square of these samples should be proportional to the signal
power as seen by the ADC. However, it must be stress that these are in relation to the range of the
ADC. Therefore, these values are of an arbitrary measure relative to the full scale of the ADC and
the remaining receive chain, commonly denoted as dBFS [8]. Scopes provided by MATLAB may
denote the signal amplitude in dB but this is just an arbitrary engineering unit.
With this knowledge we cannot directly determine power of an input signal to the SDR, unless
we have performed some calibration and can relate individual samples to received energy. However,
SNR can still be determined since signal and noise we be subjected to the same ADC effects and
receive chain. This can be done with techniques already presented previously. For Figure 10 we
again used the transceiver setup, but transmitted signal vectors which contain half zeros and half
signal.
14
Time
0 0.005 0.01 0.015 0.02 0.025 0.03 0.035
Amplitude
-60
-40
-20
0
20
40
60
Signal+Noise
Noise
Figure 10: Receive loopback signal with signal half nulled.
After extracting the noise and signal plus noise sections the SNR can be manually calculated
simply by:
SN RdB = 10 log10 PSN − PN
PN

(1)
• Repeat the process for different GainSource settings and different source amplitudes by
modifying the supplied loopback.m script. Comment on the changes in SNR.
This is a rough method for estimating SNR, but does provides a reasonable metric without additional
equipment. To provide better results we would need to remove some of the adaption performed in
the receiver conditioning the samples.
5 Lab Report Preparation & Submission Instructions
Include all your answers, results, and source code in a laboratory report formatted as follows:
• Cover page: includes course number, laboratory title, name, submission date.
• Suggested: Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures.
• Commentary on designed implementations, responses to laboratory questions, captured
outputs, and explanation of observations.
• Meaningful conclusions to the lab.
• Source code (as an appendix). You may also upload source files with report submission.
15
Remember to write your laboratory report in a descriptive approach, explaining your experience
and observations in such a way that it provides the reader with some insight as to what you have
accomplished. Furthermore, please include images and outputs wherever possible in your laboratory
report document.
References
[1] Analog Devices. (2018) Adalm-pluto overview. [Online]. Available: https://wiki.analog.com/
university/tools/pluto
[2] ——. (2018) Customizing the Pluto configuration : Updating to the AD9364. [Online]. Available:
https://wiki.analog.com/university/tools/pluto/users/customizing#updating_to_the_ad9364
[3] The Mathworks. ADALM-PLUTO Radio Support from Communications Toolbox. [Online].
Available: https://www.mathworks.com/hardware-support/adalm-pluto-radio.html
[4] ——. RTL-SDR Support from Communications Toolbox. [Online]. Available: https:
//www.mathworks.com/hardware-support/rtl-sdr.html
[5] Analog Devices, “GitHub: IIO blocks for GNU Radio.” [Online]. Available:
https://github.com/analogdevicesinc/gr-iio
[6] ——, “IIO System Object,” [Online]: https://wiki.analog.com/_detail/resources/toolssoftware/linux-software/libiio/clients/sys_obj.png?id=resources
[7] ——, “AD9361, AD9364 and AD9363,” [Online]: https://wiki.analog.com/resources/eval/userguides/ad-fmcomms2-ebz/ad9361.
[8] Marcus Müller, “How to Calculate power spectral density using USRP data?” [Online]: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/40523362/how-to-calculate-power-spectral-densityusing-usrp-data.
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