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Software defined radio module runs Linux on Zynq SoC

Sep 16, 2015 — by Eric Brown 6,586 views

Avnet released a 100 x 72mm “PicoZed SDR” COM and dev kit for fixed or mobile Software Defined Radio apps, that runs Linux on an ARM/FPGA Zynq-7035 SoC.

In Oct. 2013, Avnet launched two Linux-based Software Defined Radio (SDR) development kits that combined Xilinx ARM/FPGA Zynq-7000 SoCs with the Analog Devices AD9361 RF Agile Transceiver for SDR. The company provides essentially the same ingredients with the new PicoZed SDR Z7035/AD9361 computer-on-module, but instead of using a Zedboard SBC combined with a Xilinx reference board, the PicoZed SDR implements the required functions on Avnet’s much more compact, 100 x 72mm PicoZED COM form-factor.

PicoZed SDR Z7035/AD9361
(click image to enlarge)

While the earlier PicoZed modules were available with Zynq-7010, -7015, -7020, and -7030 SoC models, each providing increasingly more FPGA processing, the PicoZed SDR uses a Zynq-7035, a Kintex class FPGA with 275K logic cells. Like all the Zynq SoCs, it runs Linux on a pair of 800MHz Cortex-A9 cores, which are tightly linked with the FPGA subsystem.

PicoZed SDR detail view
(click image to enlarge)

The PicoZed SDR aims to speed the development of RF-to-baseband signal processing cores for wireless communications systems that use SDR to change modulation schemes, frequency bands, and system protocols on the fly. SDR developers “can now quickly move from algorithm development to final product, using the same radio and base band processor hardware,” says Avnet. The module is said to support portable agile wireless communications, P25 public safety radio, point-to-point communications, femtocell and picocell base stations, and portable instrumentation devices.

PicoZed SDR block diagram
(click image to enlarge)

The PicoZed SDR integrates the AD9361 RF Agile Transceiver, which more than doubles the price compared to the original PicoZed 7030 model, to $1,095. The transceiver provides “frequency-agile” wideband 2×2 receive and transmit paths in the 70MHz to 6GHz range, making it suitable for both fixed and mobile SDR applications, says Avnet. The 2×2 MIMO capable device features 4x TX, 4x RX, and 2x TX monitor RF connections, and offers tunable channel bandwidth of < 200kHz to 56MHz, says Avnet

PicoZed SDR
(click to enlarge)

Like the earlier PicoZeds, the SDR model ships with 1GB of DDR3L RAM, and it doubles the QSPI flash allotment to 256Mb. Instead of the earlier 4GB eMMC flash, you get a microSD slot. No detailed spec list was provided, but based on the block diagram and press release, the module is a slightly more advanced version of the earlier PicoZeds.

There’s now support for two gigabit Ethernet ports instead of one, and they’re linked to PCIe, thereby “allowing live data streaming into various SDR design environments, including MATLAB/Simulink,” says Avnet. The press release mentions USB 3.0 support, but the block diagram says USB 2.0.


The module is supported with a Linux BSP, presumably the same Ubuntu build that runs on the development kit (see below). Avnet also provides simulation and code generation tools that “integrate seamlessly” with Xilinx Vivado Design Suite, says the company. The device also supports MATLAB/Simulink for system design and test along with hardware/software codesign workflows for system deployment, says Avnet. A software ecosystem is available designed with a C API with C++, C#, and python bindings.

PicoZed SDR Development Kit

Avnet has also released a development kit for the PicoZed built around an elongated carrier board. The board provides HDMI, dual micro-USB, audio, JTAG, and dual GbE ports.

PicoZed SDR Development Kit carrier board
(click image to enlarge)

Other I/O includes a “Small Form Factor Pluggable/Common Public Radio Interface,” as well as RF power modules, says Avnet. A camera connector supports optional Avnet camera modules. The board provides a 12V power supply, and runs on about 5W, says Avnet. It also integrates a Pulse LTE/MIMO 2×2 antenna (WA700-2700) with cables. Other features include a memory card with Ubuntu and other firmware, plus an optional MathWorks package.

Carrier board block diagram with optional camera module
(click image to enlarge)

“Based upon our initial tests of an LTE system, the entire PicoZed SDR module used less than 5W of power,” stated John Shanton, MILCOM system architect, Xilinx. “This advanced SDR platform enables your wireless application to be up and running instantly on a complete single board radio.”

Further information

The PicoZed SDR Z7035/AD9361 module is available for order from Avnet Electronics Marketing for $1,095. The PicoZed SDR Development Kit is offered at $1,799, including the module, and the PicoZed SDR FMC Carrier Card, apparently alone, is $595. More information is available at the PicoZed SDR product page. Avnet will offer a series of software-defined radio SpeedWay Design Workshops in collaboration with Analog Devices, MathWorks, and Xilinx starting in November.

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