Getting Started with ROS Kinetic and ROS on Ubuntu 16.04
Getting Started with ROS Kinetic and ROS on Ubuntu 16.04

I'm starting to experiment with px4 off-board control. These are my setup notes. First, a photo of the awesome hardware setup. The Pixracer is mounted on top of an OrangePi.

Software Setup

I'm using an Ubuntu 16.04 VM on my mac. I set the network interface to "shared" and ssh into the vm. In the ssh session, I run tmux.

Ubuntu and SSH

Install Ubuntu 16.04 in a vm and use apt-get to install vmware tools, vim, tmux, ssh server and other dependencies

sudo apt-get install -y open-vm-tools-desktop vim tmux ssh cmake zsh curl

On the vm, copy your key into mkdir ~/.ssh && vim ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

You'll need to set the permissions

chmod 700 ~/.ssh
chmod 644 ~/.ssh/authorized_keys

Open the VM settings, network tab, hit advanced and copy the MAC address.

Follow the directions to give your vm a static IP by editing: /Library/Preferences/VMware\ Fusion/vmnet8/dhcpd.conf

Be sure to put the snippet after the "DO NOT MODIFY SECTION", remove spaces in the host name

####### VMNET DHCP Configuration. End of "DO NOT MODIFY SECTION" #######
host Ubuntu16.0464-bit{
    hardware ethernet 00:0C:29:8F:2B:45;

Quit vmware fusion and restart

In the vm, get a new ip with:

sudo dhclient -r
sudo dhclient   

Add the ip to the ~/.ssh/config file on the host:

Host ubuntu16

Now you can ssh vm

Build PX4

PX4 Dev Setup

sudo usermod -a -G dialout $USER

logout and log back in, then run the installer, this will take a while

source <(curl -s

restart your vm: sudo shutdown -r now

cd into the firmware directory

cd ~/src/Firmware

checkout a stable release and submodules

git checkout tags/v1.6.5 -b tag-v1.6.5
git submodule sync --recursive && git submodule update --init --recursive

when running in the vm, limit to OpenGL2 with:

export SVGA_VGPU10=0

build px4 and run gazebo

make posix_sitl_default gazebo

Install Gazebo

Gazebo is a 3D simulation environment

Version information is here:, we'll be upgrading from version 2 (included with kinetic) to version 7 (required by px4)

Add the osrfoundation ppa

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb `lsb_release -cs` main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/gazebo-stable.list'
wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -

Install version 7

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get remove -y ros-kinetic-gazebo-ros-pkgs ros-kinetic-gazebo-ros-control
sudo apt-get install -y gazebo7 ros-kinetic-gazebo7-ros-pkgs ros-kinetic-gazebo7-ros-control

To test gazebo, run a roscore and start gazebo. You'll need to run gazebo_ros in vm, so it can connect to xwindows. Source your env first, if you haven't already:

source devel/source.zsh
rosrun gazebo_ros gazebo

If you get an error message like this VMware: vmw_ioctl_command error Invalid argument try using OpenGL2 with:

SVGA_VGPU10=0 rosrun gazebo_ros gazebo

PX4 Setup

Let's get the flight controller connected and configured

Docs and Software

Here's the Pixracer documentation

Download and install QGroundControl

Update Pixracer Firmware

Open the Firmware tab in QGroundControl.

Plug in your Pixracer and hit "OK" on the right hand side to flash the latest firmware. You must plugin the flight controller after opening the firmware tab in order to flash firmware.

You'll be prompted to setup the vehicle when flashing completes.

PX4 Configuration

Start with the airframe configuration. I'll pick a DJI F450.

Scroll to the top for the save button.

Connect your RX as shown in the pixracer setup guide.

I'm using an iA6B, here's the pinout.

And the pixracer pinouts.

Connect your GPS / magnetometer combo to the i2c port

Do all the radio then sensor calibrations

Then configure flight modes and safety settings

Offboard Connection

Connect TELEM2 (UART3) to a USB-UART converter (I like the CP2102) and plug it into your computer.

More reading

Mavros offboard with ROS kinetic:

Install ROS

Directions per:

Setup repos & keys: sudo sh -c 'echo "deb $(lsb_release -sc) main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ros-latest.list' sudo apt-key adv --keyserver hkp:// --recv-key 421C365BD9FF1F717815A3895523BAEEB01FA116

Install: sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install -y ros-kinetic-desktop-full

Init rosdep: sudo rosdep init rosdep update

Install python-rosinstall: sudo apt-get install python-rosinstall

Update your env .zshrc: ROS_SETUP=/opt/ros/kinetic/setup.zsh [ -f $ROS_SETUP ] && source $ROS_SETUP

And check to make sure it's working: printenv | grep ROS

Make a workspace

A ROS workspace is synonymous with an Eclipse workspace, if you've ever used Eclipse. This "working folder" will contain all of your projects.

mkdir -p ~/catkin_ws/src
cd ~/catkin_ws/

Install MavRos

sudo apt-get install ros-kinetic-mavros ros-kinetic-mavros-extras

Make a package

# format: catkin_create_pkg <package_name> [dependency1] [dependency2]
catkin_create_pkg px4_mavros_playground std_msgs rospy roscpp

Build it


Hardware Setup

The plan is to use an OrangePi Zero and Pixracer.

The mount to connect the two is on Thingiverse. Here's how to assemble it.

Hope this was helpful. If so, feel free to checkout my YouTube channel, get updates when a new article is posted by following on Feedly and read the the other guides at
comments powered by Disqus