Setting up SITL on Linux

This page describes how to setup the SITL (Software In The Loop) on Linux. The specific commands were tested on Ubuntu 12.10, 13.04 and 14.10.


The SITL simulator allows you to run Plane, Copter or Rover without any hardware. It is a build of the autopilot code using an ordinary C++ compiler, giving you a native executable that allows you to test the behaviour of the code without hardware.

SITL runs natively on Linux and Windows. See the separate windows installation page for a windows install.


Install steps

Please follow each of the steps below.

Download ardupilot

If you don’t have a copy of the ardupilot git repository then open a terminal and run:

git clone git://
cd ardupilot
git submodule update --init --recursive

JSBSim (Plane only)

If you want to fly the fixed wing (Plane) simulator then you will need to use the JSBSim flight simulator. JSBSim is a sophisticated flight simulator that is used as the core flight dynamics system for several well known flight simulation systems.

In the same directory (your home directory) run these commands:

git clone git://
sudo apt-get install libtool automake autoconf libexpat1-dev

If you are getting an error message saying you need a newer version of JSBSim then you can update it like this:

cd jsbsim
git pull
./ --enable-libraries

Install some required packages

If you are on a debian based system (such as Ubuntu or Mint) then run this:

sudo apt-get install python-matplotlib python-serial python-wxgtk2.8 python-wxtools python-lxml
sudo apt-get install python-scipy python-opencv ccache gawk git python-pip python-pexpect
sudo pip install future pymavlink MAVProxy

Or if you are on a RPM based system (such as Fedora) run this:

yum install opencv-python wxPython python-pip pyserial scipy python-lxml python-matplotlib python-pexpect python-matplotlib-wx

Add some directories to your search path

Add the following lines to the end of your ”.bashrc” in your home directory (notice the . on the start of that filename. Also, this is a hidden file, so if you’re using a file manager, make sure to turn on “show hidden files”). Note the order, it is important to have jsbsim/src before autotest in case you’re running a virtual machine.

export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/jsbsim/src
export PATH=$PATH:$HOME/ardupilot/Tools/autotest
export PATH=/usr/lib/ccache:$PATH

Then reload your PATH by using the “dot” command in a terminal

. ~/.bashrc

Start SITL simulator

To start the simulator first change directory to the vehicle directory. For example, for the fixed-wing code change to ardupilot/ArduPlane:

cd ardupilot/ArduPlane

Then start the simulator using The first time you run it you should use the -w option to wipe the virtual EEPROM and load the right default parameters for your vehicle. -w

After the default parameters are loaded you can start the simulator normally. First kill the you are running using Ctrl-C. Then: --console --map --aircraft test

Tip has many useful options, ranging from setting the simulation speed through to choosing the initial vehicle location. These can be listed by calling it with the -h flag (and some are demonstrated in Using SITL for ArduPilot Testing).

Load a mission

Let’s also load a test mission. From within MAVProxy type:

wp load ../Tools/autotest/ArduPlane-Missions/CMAC-toff-loop.txt

CMAC-toff-loop.txt contains a mission which flies in a loop around my local flying field. Now let’s takeoff!

Run the command “arm throttle” followed by “mode auto”

arm throttle
mode auto

Your virtual aircraft should now takeoff.

Learn MAVProxy

To get the most out of SITL you really need to learn to use MAVProxy. Have a read of the MAVProxy documentation. Enjoy flying!

Using a different JSBSim model

If using the JSBSim plane simulator you can specify a different JSBSim model than the default Rascal110 by specifying the model name using the -f parameter to, like this: -f jsbsim:MyModel --console --map

the model should be in the Tools/autotest/aircraft/ directory.

FlightGear 3D View (Optional)

Developers can optionally install the FlightGear Flight Simulator and use it (in view-only mode) to display a 3D simulation of the vehicle and its surroundings. This provides a much better visualization than the 2D maps and HUD flight displays provided by MAVProxy and Mission Planner.


FlightGear support is currently only in master (January 2016). It should appear in the next versions of the vehicle codelines (not present on current versions: Copter 3.3, Plane 3.4, Rover 2.5).


FlightGear:Simulated Copter at KSFO (click for larger view).

SITL outputs FlightGear compatible state information on UDP port 5503. We highly recommend you start FlightGear before starting SITL (although this is not a requirement, it has been found to improve stability in some systems).

The main steps (tested on Ubuntu Linux 14.04 LTS) are:

  1. Install FlightGear from the terminal:

    sudo apt-get install flightgear
  2. Open a new command prompt and run the appropriate shell file for your vehicle in /ardupilot/Tools/autotest/: (Plane) and (Copter).

    This will start FlightGear.

  3. Start SITL in the terminal in the normal way. In this case we’re specifying the start location as San Francisco airport (KSFO) as this is an interesting airport with lots to see: -j4 -L KSFO


    FlightGear will always initially start by loading scenery at KSFO (this is hard-coded into the batch file) but will switch to the scenery for the simulated location once SITL is started.


If the vehicle appear to be hovering in space (no
scenery) then FlightGear does not have any scenery files for the selected location. Choose a new location!

You can now takeoff and fly the vehicle as normal for Copter or Plane, observing the vehicle movement including pitch, yaw and roll.

Next steps

After installation, see Using SITL for ArduPilot Testing for guidance on flying and testing with SITL.