Ultrasonic Sensors: Advantages and Limitations

3 minute read


Ultrasonic sensors are a great fit for many applications, but it’s always good to understand that every product has limitations on what it can do.

This article goes into the advantages and limitations of ultrasonic sensors so that you know if our sensors are right for you.

Advantages of Ultrasonic Sensors

These are a few ultrasonic sensor advantages that help clarify what applications our sensors are suited for.


Advantages and limitations of ultrasonic sensors

Not affected by color or transparency of objects

Ultrasonic sensors reflect sound off of objects, so the color or transparency have no effect on the sensor’s reading.

Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors

Can be used in dark environments

Unlike proximity sensors using light or cameras, dark environments have no effect on an ultrasonic sensor’s detection ability.

Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors

Low-cost option

Our sensors start at $29.95. They come fully calibrated and ready to use. We strive to give a low cost, high-quality product suited for specific needs.

Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors

Not highly affected by dust, dirt, or high-moisture environments

Although our sensors work well in these environments, they can still give incorrect readings with a heavy build-up of dirt or water, especially in extreme conditions. However, our SCXL-MaxSonar-WR line is self-cleaning and can help decrease the effects of things like condensation.


  • They have greater accuracy than many other methods at measuring thickness and distance to a parallel surface
  • Their high frequency, sensitivity, and penetrating power make it easy to detect external or deep objects
  • Our SCXL‑MaxSonar‑WR Product line is self-cleaning.  Which allows for continuous running and less downtime
  • Our ultrasonic sensors are easy to use and not dangerous during operation to nearby objects, people or equipment
  • Our sensors easily interface with microcontrollers or any type of controller

When needing a closer range detected in your application, you may want to try a sensor from the ShortRange line.  These sensors offer closer detection range, with an accuracy ideal for autonomous navigation and people detection. 

Ultrasonic sensor maximum range

Our sensors range from 20cm to our only 16.5m sensor (Our cargo detection sensor).

Sensors by maximum range:

Sensors with a Maximum Range of 254 inches

Sensors with a Maximum Range of 3.5m

Sensors with a Maximum Range of 5m

Sensors with a Maximum Range of 10m

Review the sensors as some are intended for protected (indoor) and others for exposed (outdoor) applications. 

You may also use the filters on the product catalog page to segment the sensors by resolution, output, the minimum range, our housing styles and a few other important characteristics. 


Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors

Although we fully believe in the capability of our sensors, we understand that ultrasonics are not suited for every application. Below we go into the limitations of our sensors, and how we have overcome some of these problems.


Cannot work in a vacuum

Because ultrasonic sensors operate using sound, they are completely nonfunctional in a vacuum as there is no air for the sound to travel through.

Not designed for underwater use

Our sensors have not been properly tested in this environment, so underwater use voids our warranty. This being said, we do supply documentation for customers who would still like to test our sensors underwater. If you are interested in underwater applications with ultrasonics, check out our articles on Water Depth Sensing with Ultrasonics and Underwater Ranging for more information.

Sensing accuracy affected by soft materials

Objects covered in a very soft fabric absorb more sound waves making it hard for the sensor to see the target.

Sensing accuracy affected by changes in temperature of 5-10 degrees or more

Although this is true, we have a variety of temperature compensated sensors available that either calibrate upon start-up or before every range reading depending on the sensor model. During this time is when the sensor will calibrate with any change in temperature, voltage, etc. This dramatically decreases this problem.

Have a limited detection range

At the moment, our longest range sensors have a maximum range of 10 meters, now our cargo sensor detects up to 16.5m. While this is a disadvantage in certain applications, our sensors have great mid-range capabilities and are still suited for many applications.


Want to Start Using Ultrasonics?

If you think ultrasonics are the right fit for you, hop over to our sensor product catalog to take a look at our sensor selection. If you need further help with selecting the right sensor for you, please contact our support team at [email protected] or give us a call. We are always happy to help!




Check out our
Sensor Selection Guide!

Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors
Article Name
Advantages and Limitations of Ultrasonic Sensors
Ultrasonic sensors are a great fit for many applications like distance measurement and level sensing . This article covers the advantages and limitations of ultrasonic sensors so that you know if our sensors are right for your application.
Publisher Name
MaxBotix Inc.
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