Control robot via serial port

Robots can be controlled by a microcontroller (MCU) or a computer installed on-board – autonomous robots, or connected to a computer via communication channel – remotely operated robots. Both approaches have pros and cons:

  • Autonomous robots have everything they need on-board, they do not depend on a quality and bandwidth of communication channels. But they may have limitations on computer performance and size, its not easy to modify controlling algorithms and monitor state.
  • Remotely operated robots can be controlled by more powerful computer, monitoring is available for operator or developer, modification of a controlling program is much easy. But quality and¬†bandwidth of communication channels are critical and limiting part of such system.

Intermediate solution is develop the controlling program on remotely operated robot and when it is completed – setup the program on on-board computer, leaving communication channel only for monitoring which is not such critical.

This article describes how remotely operate a robot where on-board MCU (represented by Arduino) takes care about hardware – controlling motor-drivers, monitoring sensors, providing communication, etc; a remotely connected computer displays monitored data and runs controlling algorithm. Program will be implemented on C++. Platform is Ubuntu.

Find device which an Arduino board is connected to computer

1. Do not connect Arduino or disconnect if connected already. Start the Terminal (hit Ctrl+Alt+T)3. Run following commands to find any serial ports connected ( where “*” means “any letters or numbers”). If results of both commands “No such file or directory” – there is no any communication devices connected.

ll /sys/class/tty/ttyACM*


ll /sys/class/tty/ttyUSB*


2. Connect an Arduino board with USB cable to a computer and run commands again to see which device is available now

In this example the Arduino board connected to the computer via “ttyACM0”


In this example a USB-to-UART adapter on a chip SILABS CP2102 connected to the computer via “ttyUSB0”


hint Why devices have different types: ttyACM0 or ttyUSB0

It depend on protocol and software or hardware implementation. This article contains some brief explanation.