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New Pololu distance sensors with digital and pulse width outputs

Posted by Kevin on 6 February 2021
Tags: new products

In many applications ranging from robotics to industrial automation, it is useful to quickly detect the presence of objects within a certain distance. Our carrier boards for the Sharp/Socle GP2Y0D8x digital distance sensors have been popular in this role, but those sensors are unfortunately no longer being produced and are becoming hard to find. So we are excited to announce the release of our next-generation lidar-based Pololu Digital Distance Sensors, which can replace the discontinued Sharp sensors and more!

Comparison of a Pololu Carrier with Sharp GP2Y0D8x Digital Distance Sensor and a Pololu Digital Distance Sensor (5cm, 10cm, or 15cm).

Comparison of a Pololu Carrier with Sharp GP2Y0D8x Digital Distance Sensor and a Pololu Digital Distance Sensor (5cm, 10cm, or 15cm).

These new sensors use an on-board rangefinder module to determine distance by measuring the time of flight (ToF) of invisible, eye-safe infrared laser light. They are available in three different digital output versions with the same range thresholds as the GP2Y0D8x series:

We also have one additional option for more advanced applications:

(More on that version below.)

A camera with no IR filter shows the infrared light emitted by a Pololu Digital Distance Sensor.

The Pololu Digital Distance Sensors work like the Sharp sensors: they operate with either a 3.3 V or 5 V supply and output a simple digital signal, which is low if an object is detected within the specified range, high otherwise. They have the same indicator LED, pinout, and form factor as our GP2Y0D8x carrier boards (but are much thinner than the Sharp sensors), allowing them to be drop-in replacements in most applications.

The pulse width output version looks almost identical to its digital output counterparts, but instead of simply indicating the presence or absence of an object, it outputs a pulsed signal (similar to a hobby servo control signal) that encodes the distance it is measuring in the length of each high pulse. By timing these pulses, you can get quantitative range readings for targets up to half a meter away (depending on reflectance and environmental conditions).

The four numbered surface-mount jumpers on these sensors’ printed circuit boards, near the mounting hole on the front side, determine the sensor’s operating mode. You can change the jumper connections yourself to customize its behavior and even effectively convert the sensor into a different version (more information on the jumper settings will be available soon). And since we assemble and program these boards here in our Las Vegas facility, we can produce a custom-configured batch of sensors for you. If you are interested in manufacturing customization, please contact us for more information.

We are back to offering an introductory special discount on new products, to help share in our celebration of releasing these Pololu distance sensors. The first hundred customers to use coupon code DISTSENSORS can get up to three units of each type for just $7.87 each!


Will this work in daylight?
Can multiples of these be used in the same area, such as around the periphery of a robot, without interference?
Hi, Mark and Ron.

Like most sensors that use infrared light, the Pololu Digital Distance sensors are affected by daylight (and any other background infrared light) since it basically reduces their signal-to-noise ratio. They will generally still work, but you might see a significant reduction in effective range depending on the intensity and direction of the sunlight.

Multiple sensors shining at each other (e.g. on two different robots) can interfere with each other, but we haven't observed any significant interference between two side-by-side sensors pointing in the same direction, so having multiple sensors on the edge of a robot like you described should work fine.

i am a beginner. can i have basic code to operate my distance sensor?
Hello, Joseph.

For the sensors with digital outputs all you need your code to do is read a digital input signal. In Arduino, you could do that with a digitalRead() command.

For the pulse width output version, we provided a simple Arduino example program showing how you could read the sensor on its product page.

- Patrick

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