CircuitPython BLE UART Example

It's easy to use Adafruit AirLift ESP32 co-processor boards for Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) with CircuitPython. When you reset the ESP32, you can put it in WiFi mode (the default), or in BLE mode; you cannot use both modes simultaenously.

Here's a simple example of using BLE to connect CircuitPython with the Bluefruit Connect app. Use CircuitPython 6.0.0 or later.

Note: Don't confuse the ESP32 with the ESP32-S2, which is a different module with a similar name. The ESP32-S2 does not support BLE.

Currently the AirLift support for CircuitPython only provides BLE peripheral support. BLE central is under development. So you cannot connect to BLE devices like Heart Rate monitors, etc., but you can act as a BLE peripheral yourself.

Adafruit Airlift Bitsy ESP32 Add-On Wiring

If you have an Adafruit Airlift Bitsy ESP32 Add-On, you will need to solder three jumpers closed on the bottom side of the board to enable BLE. The rest of the ESP32 pins you need are already jumpered to certain ItsyBitsy pins.

Update the AirLift Firmware

You will need to update the AirLift's firmware to at least version 1.7.1. Previous versions of the AirLift firmware do not support BLE. 

Follow the instructions in the guide below, and come back to this page when you've upgraded the AirLift's firmware:

Ensure the AirLift firmware is version 1.7.1 or higher for BLE to work.

Install CircuitPython Libraries

Make sure you are running the latest version of Adafruit CircuitPython for your board; you'll need 6.0.0 or later.

Next you'll need to install the necessary libraries to use the hardware and BLE. Carefully follow the steps to find and install these libraries from Adafruit's CircuitPython library bundle.  Our CircuitPython starter guide has a great page on how to use the library bundle.

Install these libraries from the bundle:

  • adafruit_airlift
  • adafruit_ble

Before continuing make sure your board's lib folder or root filesystem has the adafruit_airlift and adafruit_ble folders copied over.

Install the Adafruit Bluefruit LE Connect App

The Adafruit Bluefruit LE Connect iOS and Android apps allow you to connect to BLE peripherals that provide a over-the-air "UART" service. Follow the instructions in the Bluefruit LE Connect Guide to download and install the app on your phone or tablet.

Copy and Adjust the Example Program

Copy the program below to the file on CIRCUITPY on your board.

TAKE NOTE: Adjust the program as needed to suit the AirLift board you have. Comment and uncomment lines 12-39 below as necessary.

import board

from adafruit_ble import BLERadio
from adafruit_ble.advertising.standard import ProvideServicesAdvertisement
from import UARTService

from adafruit_airlift.esp32 import ESP32

# If you are using a Metro M4 Airlift Lite, PyPortal,
# or MatrixPortal, you can use the default pin settings.
# Leave this DEFAULT line uncommented.
esp32 = ESP32() # DEFAULT

# If you are using CircuitPython 6.0.0 or earlier,
# on PyPortal and PyPortal Titano only, use the pin settings
# below. Comment out the DEFAULT line above and uncomment
# the line below. For CircuitPython 6.1.0, the pin names
# have changed for these boards, and the DEFAULT line
# above is correct.
# esp32 = ESP32(tx=board.TX, rx=board.RX)

# If you are using an AirLift FeatherWing or AirLift Bitsy Add-On,
# use the pin settings below. Comment out the DEFAULT line above
# and uncomment the lines below.
# If you are using an AirLift Breakout, check that these
# choices match the wiring to your microcontroller board,
# or change them as appropriate.
# esp32 = ESP32(
#     reset=board.D12,
#     gpio0=board.D10,
#     busy=board.D11,
#     chip_select=board.D13,
#     tx=board.TX,
#     rx=board.RX,
# )

# If you are using an AirLift Shield,
# use the pin settings below. Comment out the DEFAULT line above
# and uncomment the lines below.
# esp32 = ESP32(
#     reset=board.D5,
#     gpio0=board.D6,
#     busy=board.D7,
#     chip_select=board.D10,
#     tx=board.TX,
#     rx=board.RX,
# )

adapter = esp32.start_bluetooth()

ble = BLERadio(adapter)
uart = UARTService()
advertisement = ProvideServicesAdvertisement(uart)

while True:
    print("waiting to connect")
    while not ble.connected:
    print("connected: trying to read input")
    while ble.connected:
        # Returns b'' if nothing was read.
        one_byte =
        if one_byte:

Talk to the AirLift via the Bluefruit LE Connect App

Start the Bluefruit LE Connect App on your phone or tablet. You should see a CIRCUITPY device available to connect to. Tap the Connect button (1):

You'll then see a list of Bluefruit Connect functions ("modules"). Choose the UART module (2):

On the UART module page, you can type a string and press Send (3). You'll see that string entered, and then see it echoed back (echoing is in gray).

This guide was first published on Sep 04, 2019. It was last updated on 2021-03-17 13:46:00 -0400.

This page (CircuitPython BLE) was last updated on Apr 14, 2021.

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