How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 813

If I want to create a radio controlled device, how do I make sure it does not create interference with other devices or receive interference. How does digital RF work and does it stop interference problems? — KG, New York, NY
Radio interference occurs whenever two nearby radio transmitters are simultaneously emitting radio waves that overlap in space and frequency. The receivers for these two waves can't tell them apart and end up receiving both at once. This interference is familiar with AM radio, where you can sometime hear two broadcasts at the same time. With FM radio, the receivers are clever enough to distinguish one radio wave from another, but they can't determine which broadcast they're supposed to follow. Instead, they lock onto whichever wave is strongest and will often flip back and forth from one station to the other as their signal strengths fluctuate.

The only way to avoid interference completely is to choose a radio frequency that no one else nearby is using. That way your transmission is certain to be stronger than any other at the same frequency and your receiver will follow only your broadcast. If you have no choice but to share a particular frequency, then you must use some encoding scheme such as digital transmission so that your receiver can tell when it's receiving a broadcast from your transmitter and not from some other transmitter. Your receiver looks for your personal encoding scheme and won't respond to that of some other transmitter. However, if that other transmitter is strong enough, it will probably prevent your receiver from detecting your transmission. That trick of overwhelming a receiver with a second transmission is the principle behind jamming of a radio transmission.


Copyright 1997-2017 © Louis A. Bloomfield, All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy