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This is slightly off-topic for this site, as it's really not ROS specific.

Is it impossible to control any hardware on the PI without acting as sudo?

No, it's certainly possible.

How else can you write a ROS node to send something over the Pi's hardware UART?

See Anyone know how to access RasPi GPIO without sudo? on element14.com for a rather complete thread that describes your problem, as well as a number of work-arounds and solutions.

This is slightly off-topic for this site, as it's really not ROS specific.

Is it impossible to control any hardware on the PI without acting as sudo?

No, it's certainly possible.

How else can you write a ROS node to send something over the Pi's hardware UART?

See For your UARTs: it should really come down to giving your normal user permission to access the appropriate device file. Either by making your user member of the appropriate group (the group that owns the device file), or by making the device file read/writable for your current user (or for anyone not the owner or a member of the owning group). How that is best done on your Pi I don't know.

For GPIO: see Anyone know how to access RasPi GPIO without sudo? on element14.com for a rather complete thread that describes your problem, as well as a number of work-arounds and solutions.