Radio USB dongle version 1

A radio USB dongle is a really useful thing to have. When I first came up with this in 2015, I thought this dongle could be used for heaps of things including:

  • as a basestation for a wireless sensor network
  • as the controller for RC cars/planes/quadcopters
  • as a packet sniffer for anyone using the same radio (for debugging purposes)

This board is powered over USB and uses an AVR to communicate between the PC and the radio. The radio chip is the NRF24L01+ made by Nordic Semiconductors. On the PC side I would have a software interface which would allow people to switch between TX/RX mode, set the channel, TX/RX addresses and radio power.

This was the USB dongle version 1, so I decided to attempt to make the radio circuitry myself (even though the NRF24L01+ is available on breakout boards on Ebay). You can see the final board in the picture below.

By this point, I hadn’t done any microwave engineering courses and didn’t have anything that was able to debug an RF board, so this project was put on the back burner while I went to go work at the CSIRO out at the Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies. Recently, I have gotten back into it, and the USB Dongle Version 2 is on its way to being completed – when it is, I will add it to the project list! If you want to check out the Eagle files they are here: nrfEagleFiles.

Another view of the board.
Another view of the board.
The USB dongle showing an FTDI chip (left), an AVR (centre) and the NRF24L01+ with a PCB antenna.
The USB dongle showing an FTDI chip (left), an AVR (centre) and the NRF24L01+ with a PCB antenna.