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|     Written By: Cody Carlson    |    Date Updated: 08-02-2016     |

NOTE: This article was created for the Raspberry Pi 3 using the Raspbian Jessie operating system (downloaded on 7/18/2016).

This article was not written for Raspberry Pi 2.

Key Takeaways

  • UART communication needs to be enabled on the Raspberry Pi.
  • The required steps will vary depending on the revisions of your operating system.
  • The Raspberry Pi is a convenient and affordable way to read sensor range data.
Raspberry Pi 2 drawing

MaxBotix sensors provide multiple output formats including TTL serial data. This tutorial teaches how to interface a Raspberry Pi with a MaxBotix sensor to read TTL serial data.

TIP For the safety of the electronics on the Raspberry Pi and MaxBotix sensors, please use an ESD strap when working around components. Static discharge could damage components of the Raspberry Pi as well as the ultrasonic sensors.

Required Equipment

  • Raspberry Pi with operating system
  • MaxSonar sensor with serial output
  • Mini-Grabbers
  • Male to female jumpers
  • Serial inverter (only for sensors that require an inverter)
  • DC power supply (only for sensors that need a separate power supply)
  • ESD strap

Directly Compatible Sensors

Sensors that Require an Inverter

The sensors listed below provide TTL serial data and directly interface with the Raspberry Pi. The sensors listed below require an inverter to operate with the Raspberry Pi.
  • MB10X3 sensors
  • MB7344
  • MB7374
  • MB738X sensors
  • MB7544
  • MB7574
  • MB758X sensors
  • MB10X0 sensors
  • MB10X4 sensors
  • MB12X0 sensors
  • MB13XX sensors
  • MB70XX sensors
  • MB7334
  • MB7354
  • MB736X sensors
  • MB7534
  • MB7554
  • MB756X sensors
Important: Connect the center square with the outer portion of the pad with a small amount of solder to enable the TTL output on the MB10X3 sensors from the HRLV-MaxSonar-EZ line.
Board before solder
Board after solder

Getting Started

The Raspberry Pi needs to install an operating system the first time it is used. This article was created for the Raspberry Pi 3 using the Raspbian Jessie operating system (downloaded on 7/18/2016). This article was also successfully tested on the Raspberry Pi 2 with the same operating system. This article will be periodically updated as the operating systems, files, and settings are updated and moved.

Disable Bootup Information on TX/RX Pins

We want to enable the RX pin to receive asynchronous serial data. To allow this we need to change the set the enable UART setting in the configurations files to true or activated value.

Open the file /boot/cmdline.txt by using the following command:

sudo nano /boot/cmdline.txt
Change the 0 to a 1 to active UART communication:
Save and close the file by simultaneously pressing Ctrl and X to exit the screen and then pressing Y to save it.

Optional: Download a Python Script

This is optional, but you may wish to write or download a Python Script to log and store the data you collect with your sensor.

Here is sample python code provided by one of our users to automate the reading of distance values.

Supplying Power to the Sensor

When using an XL-MaxSonar or WR sensor with a Raspberry Pi, it is highly recommended to use an external power supply. The Raspberry Pi is not intended to supply a high enough current draw to power these sensors.

Sensors from the LV-MaxSonar, LV-ProxSonar, HRLV-MaxSonar, and ParkSonar lines can be directly powered by the Raspberry Pi.

TIP You may want to place a capacitor between the power and ground lines immediately before the sensor's pinout. During the sensor transmit, the sensor draws a higher current for a fraction of a second. The higher current draw may cause the Raspberry Pi's microcontroller to begin to shut down. To prevent any issue with long term use, we recommend that you use a capacitor with at least a one microfarad rating to ease the current draw from the Raspberry Pi.

Wiring Instructions

Connect the female end of a jumper to pin 10 of the Raspberry Pi GPIO. This is the RX pin for serial data.

Connect a Mini-Grabber or solder a wire into pin 5 of the sensor, and connect this to the jumper.

Connect your sensor to an appropriate power supply.

Installing Terminal Software

The recommended software for accessing the range data output is Minicom. Please use the following steps to install Minicom.

Open LXTerminal
Download Minicom with the following command

sudo apt‑get install minicom
This will install the Minicom software that is used for reading the serial port.

Accessing Sensor Range Data Output

Minicom is the recommended terminal software for Raspbian Jessie operating system. Please use the steps below to access Minicom and read the range data.

Open LXTerminal
Open Minicom with the following command

(For Raspberry Pi 3)

minicom -b 9600 -o -D /dev/ttyS0

(For Raspberry Pi 2)
Click Here for Raspberry Pi 2 article
minicom -b 9600 -o -D /dev/ttyAMA0

This clears the LXTerminal window and you will see a window that looks similar to the image below.

Raspberry Pi 2 wiring diagram

The number following the ASCII character is the range reading that is output by the sensor. If the readout says R0764, like the image above, the range to the target is 764mm. As the target gets further away from the sensor, the reported range will increase. If no target is detectable, the target will report maximum range.

Final Notes & Outcome

Using a MaxBotix sensor with a Raspberry Pi allows for inexpensive monitoring of tank levels, height measurement, as well as countless other applications that require distance measurement. If you have any applications or code that can be added to this article, or if you would like to share pictures of your setup with us so we can share with others please email


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