Git Submodules

This page describes how we use git submodules in the ArduPilot build. Submodules are used to manage external dependencies in the ArduPilot build, particularly for building for PX4 targets.


Git submodules allow us to automatically bring in dependent git trees in the ArduPilot build. It replaces our old mechanism of having to separately clone the ArduPilot/PX4Firmware and ArduPilot/PX4NuttX tree when developers want to build for PX4 targets.


For now git submodules are only used for the PX4 builds. It is likely we will start to use submodules for other builds in the future (for example, we will probably use them for the mavlink message XML files)

See for more information on git submodules.

Submodule approach

The approach we have implemented in ArduPilot is to use a single level of git submodules, with all modules stored in the modules/ directory. This approach was chosen as it makes for diagnosis of issues with submodules somewhat simpler.

This means that the submodules from the upstream PX4Firmware tree are not used. Instead each required submodule is added as a direct submodule of the ArduPilot tree.

You may also note that the URLs used for the submodules use the old git:// protocol. This was done to make it less likely we will get accidental commits on the master repositories while developers are getting used to git submodules (as the git:// protocol is read-only). Developers with commit access to the submodules should add a new ardupilot remote with a writeable protocol as needed.

Common errors

The following is a list of comment errors and how to deal with them.

Errors with

If you have an existing you may get an error like this:

../mk/ *** NUTTX_SRC found in - Please see Stop.

That happens because you have previously built with an external PX4Firmware and PX4NuttX tree, and you need to convert to using submodules. The simplest way to fix this is to remove your file as it is no longer needed. If you want to keep the file for some reason then you can either comment out or removed the lines in which specify the PX4_ROOT, NUTTX_SRC and UAVCAN_DIR variables.

Errors from old PX4Firmware and PX4NuttX trees

You may get warnings like these in your build:

../mk/ *** You have an old PX4Firmware tree - see
../mk/ *** You have an old PX4NuttX tree - see
../mk/ *** You have an old uavcan tree - see

This indicates that you have old PX4Firmware or PX4NuttX directories in ../PX4Firmware or ../PX4NuttX. The warning is harmless and won’t prevent you from building. The warning is there so you know that commits and changes made in those directories won’t be used.

Updating submodules

If you need to manually update submodules you should run the command

git submodule update

from the root of the ardupilot tree. That will check all submodules for updates in the ardupilot repository and will pull in changes as needed.

Disaster recovery

If things have gone very badly wrong with your git tree the simplest thing to do it to remove the modules/ directory completely. Then do a new px4 build with

make px4-v2

and the submodules will be automatically reinitialised and updated.