Powering ‘micro’ radio transmitters in Syria

1st March 2016
Joe Bush

The Raspberry Pi, the credit card sized single-board computer, is at the heart of a range of Pocket FMs that are providing Syrians with independent radio. Around two dozen of the small transmitters are being used to broadcast radio stations across parts of the country.

The Pocket FMs have been developed by a German organisation, have a range of 4-6km and, according to the designer, are easy to set-up and use – thus replacing larger transmitters in certain situations. The designer claims that the radios are easy to carry around, easy to transport, easy to hide and is based on 12V so you can connect it to a solar system or a car battery.

The Pocket FMs broadcast a channel created by a network of nine stations based in the region called Syrnet. The devices pick up a satellite feed of the channel, and rebroadcast it on a FM frequency, so people in Syria can listen on ordinary radios.

The radio stations broadcast music as well as language programmes in areas not controlled by either President Bashar al-Assad's regime or the so-called Islamic State militants, and over the last couple years, radio has become an important means of communication in the country.

One of the benefits of using Raspberry Pis is that it is relatively easy to add new components, and the designer hopes ultimately, to make the designs open source, meaning they can be shared without cost and enhanced by a wider community.

The project aims to support freedom of expression, but it is also about solidarity with people in crisis.

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