Pluto and the Dwarf Planet

When I was in school learning about our solar system, we learned about the sun, planets and our moon. From the sun, the order of planets included Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and, the smallest and farthest away, Pluto. Pluto? Yes, Pluto was a planet back then. Since my education days the astronomy world took Pluto away as a planet and reclassified it as a dwarf planet – whatever that is. According to NASA, a dwarf planet:

  • Orbits the sun
  • Has enough mass to assume a nearly round shape
  • Has not cleared the neighborhood around its orbit
  • Is not a moon

So basically, a dwarf planet is a very small planet.

Analog Devices (ADI) has now come out with the ADALM-PLUTO which, like the dwarf planet Pluto, is very small but has some huge capabilities. The ADALM-PLUTO is a software defined radio (SDR) [Analog Devices] Active Learning Module that is perfect for students, teachers, and anyone who wants to learn about Radio Frequency (RF) concepts. According to ADI’s wiki site, the ADALM-PLUTO has an AD9363 transceiver chip that “offers one receive channel and one transmit channel that can be operated in full duplex, capable of generating or measuring RF analog signals from 325 to 3800 MHz.”


The ADALM-PLUTO comes with two antennas (824 MHz to 894 MHz / 1710 MHz to 2170 MHz), one SMA cable, one USB cable, and the module which is small enough to fit in your pocket. Features found within the module include a 12-bit analog to digital converter (ADC), digital to analog converter (DAC), half or full duplex options, and USB interface and power. The module has a graphical user interface (GUI) that uses open source firmware built from DAS U-Boot, the Linux kernel, and Buildroot. The module supports GNU Radio sink and source blocks, and libiio, which is a C, C++, C#, and Python API. This allows the module to support various operating software packages such as OS X®, Windows®, and Linux®, and learning programs such as MATLAB® and SimuLink®.

The ADALM-PLUTO has tutorials for SDR-based projects and labs and teaching material to support topics like ADS-B aircraft position, receiving NOAA and Meteor-M2 weather satellite imagery, GSM analysis, listening to TETRA signals, and pager decoding.

ADI’s ADALM-PLUTO, like the dwarf planet Pluto, is very small. The module is huge with RF capabilities with its included components/accessories, various OS/learning programs, and tutorials. The ADALM-PLUTO is ideal for students, teachers, and those who want to learn about RF.


About this author

Image of Stephen Wegscheid Stephen Wegscheid, Senior Product Manager-Semiconductors at Digi-Key Electronics, specializes in analog/linear electronics, connectivity products, and single-board computers. He has a Master of Science degree from Bemidji State University and over 25 years of experience in design, manufacturing, and distribution. Additionally, he is the holder of a US patent.
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