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Linux-on-Jetson SDR board gets major SW upgrade and an enclosure

Dec 13, 2019 — by Eric Brown 3,182 views

Deepwave Digital’s v0.2 release of the Ubuntu-based AirStack for its Nvidia TX2 and Artix-7 equipped AIR-T SDR board adds variable sample rate, phase locking for MIMO, easier updates, and support for Jetpack 4.2.2, Docker, and the TX2i. There’s also an optional AirPack version and a new enclosure.

Philadelphia-based Deepwave Digital has released version 0.2.0 of the Ubuntu-driven stack that drives its Jetson TX2-enabled AIR-T (Artificial Intelligence Radio — Transceiver) board for software defined radio (SDR). There’s also a new AirPack add-on package aimed at easing TensorFlow training for RF on the AIR-T, as well as a new AIR-T Enclosure. In addition, the AIR-T has been chosen for the 5G Citizens Broadband Radio Service (see farther below).

AIR-T with Jetson TX2 module
(click images to enlarge)

AirStack 0.2.0 offers improved hardware support, easier upgrades, and new features like variable sample rate support. The release takes a step toward the company’s eventual goal of turning AIR-T into a field-deployable system, says Deepwave Digital.

Despite a hefty $4,995 price, the AIR-T blew past its Crowd Supply funding goals last year to generate almost $200K in orders. Operating in the 300MHz to 6GHz range, the Mini-ITX board enables the development of new wireless technologies in which AI can help maximize resources with increasingly limited spectrum. Potential capabilities include autonomous signal identification, interference mitigation, and satellite and terrestrial communications.


The Air-T combines Nvidia’s Jetson TX2 module, Xilinx’s Artix-7 FPGA, and Analog Devices’ AD9371 RFIC 2×2 MIMO transceiver. In addition to typical hacker board interfaces such as GbE, USB, HDMI, SATA, etc., there’s an external LO input and a PPS and 10MHz reference input. Custom FPGA blocks on the Artix-7 interface with AirStack, which is based on the open source GNU Radio SDR development platform.

AirStack software flow
(click image to enlarge)

New features on AirStack 0.2.0 include:

  • In Place Firmware Upgrades — Firmware can now be updated directly from the Jetson module via a simple command line tool without requiring a JTAG-connected PC.
  • Variable Sample Rates — Sample rate decimation logic has been improved to allow for various sample rates.
  • Simpler Software Upgrading — Critical software libraries are now “properly Debian packaged,” thereby enabling fixes to specific components without needing a whole new OS image.
  • External LO — The tuning frequency of the AIR-T can now be set by an external oscillator, enabling phase alignment of multiple units for MIMO.
  • 10MHz Phase Locking — The AIR-T can now be phase locked to an external frequency reference, enabling coherent processing across multiple units.
  • Live Frequency Tuning — The tuning frequency of the AIR-T may now be changed in real-time.
  • Jetson TX2i Support — There is new support for the industrial-grade Jetson TX2i module.
  • Ubuntu, JetPack, Python, CUDA, and TensorRT updates — The OS image is updated to Ubuntu 18.04.2, and is now based on Nvidia’s JetPack 4.2.2, enabling DNN optimization solely through Python. Nvidia’s CUDA is upgraded to 10.0.326 and TensorRT to
  • Docker Support — Support has been added for building and running Docker containers on the AIR-T.
  • Open Source Upgrades — The open source GR-Wavelearner and GR-CUDA are updated for full support by AirStack 0.2.0.

Deepwave Digital has released an AirPack software extension to AirStack designed for newcomers to RF-based CNN training. The package “contains everything you need, including TensorFlow source code, to walk you through the crucial steps of training a simple convolutional neural network (CNN) to detect and classify radio frequency (RF) signals,” says the company.

AirPack training conceptual diagram
(click image to enlarge)

AirPack includes a custom Docker file to ease the setup process, as well as Python source code and a data reader Python class for the TensorFlow model. There are also Python scripts for training and inference and a toolkit for deployment to the AIR-T.
AIR-T Enclosure
The long-awaited AIR-T Enclosure is the only product still offered on the AIR-T Crowd Supply page. It sells for $5,899, including the AIR-T board with Jetson TX2. The package also includes 4x MCX-to-SMA cables, a getting started tutorial, and a power supply.

AIR-T Enclosure, front and back
(click images to enlarge)

The aluminum constructed, 192 x 182 x 79mm enclosure exposes all real-world I/O ports on the rear side while bringing all RF interfaces to the front. The power button illuminates blue when the system is on.
AIR-T tapped for 5G CBRS
Deepwave Digital announced that its AIR-T sensor has concluded certification testing to become a critical component in the 5G Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) network. The company believes this may be the first deep learning algorithm to be deployed for signal processing applications in a 5G network.

Citizens Broadband Radio Service control architecture
(click image to enlarge)
Source: Metaswitch

The CBRS is a “lightly” licensed, 150MHz-wide broadcast band between 3550MHz and 3700MHz set aside by the FCC for public use in the U.S. in commercial wireless services. Open to network operators with and without existing licensed spectrum, the CBRS has a dynamic spectrum access system (SAS) that manages the allocation of frequencies. Deepwave Digital calls the CBRS the first commercial spectrum sharing network.
Further information
AirStack 0.2.0 is available for free download to AIR-T customers. More information may be found in Deepwave Digital’s AirStack 0.2.0 announcement.
The AirPack CNN learning package is available at an undisclosed price. More information may be found here.
The AIR-T Enclosure is available for $5,899, including the AIR-T board and more on the AIR-T Crowd Supply page. It’s unclear if Deepwave Digital’s AIR-T board is still available at the $4,995 Crowd Supply price. More information may be found here.

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