Cartographer SLAM for Non-GPS Navigation

This page shows how to setup ROS and Google Cartographer SLAM using an RPLidarA2 lidar to provided a local position estimate for ArduPilot so that it can operate without a GPS.

These instructions were tested on an NVidia TX2 flashed with APSync and then ROS and MAVROS were installed as described here.


these pages are a work-in-progress

Mounting the RPLidar and Pixhawk


The RPLidar should be oriented so that its USB cable wire is pointing forward in the same direction as the arrow on the flight controller.

The USB cable should be plugged into a USB port on the companion computer running ROS.

Check the RPLidar’s serial port

  • plug the RPLidarA2 into the companion computer. If using a TX2 mounted on an AUVidea J120 board, ensure the lidar is plugged into the lower USB port.

ls -l /dev/tty*
  • the lidar should appear as /dev/ttyUSB0 or /dev/ttyACM0.

  • if you type “lsusb” the device should also be listed as “Cygnal Integrated Products, Inc. CP210x UART Bridge / myAVR mySmartUSB light”

  • allow anyone to read from the device by entering just one of the following two commands depending upon which serial port was found above

sudo usermod -a -G dialout

Install more packages

  • install the ROS desktop full:

sudo apt-get install ros-<distro>-desktop
  • OR install each of these individual packages (this list is not yet complete):

sudo apt-get install ros-<distro>-tf ros-<distro>-tf-conversions ros-<distro>-laser-geometry
sudo apt-get install ros-<distro>-cv-bridge ros-<distro>-image-transport
sudo apt-get install qt4-qmake qt4-dev-tools
sudo apt-get install protobuf-compiler

Create a Catkin WorkSpace

In your home directory:

cd $HOME
mkdir -p catkin_ws/src
cd catkin_ws

Install RPLidar node

Install the RPLidar node in the workspace

cd $HOME/catkin_ws/src
git clone

Install Google Cartographer

Install some more packages

sudo apt-get install python-wstool python-rosdep ninja-build

Re-initialise the workspace with wstool then merge the cartographer_ros.rosinstall file and fetch code for dependencies.

cd $HOME/catkin_ws
wstool init src
wstool merge -t src
wstool update -t src

Install proto3 and deb dependencies

sudo rosdep init   # if error message appears about file already existing, just ignore and continue
rosdep update
rosdep install --from-paths src --ignore-src --rosdistro=${ROS_DISTRO} -y

Clone the Robot Pose Publisher package into the workspace

cd $HOME/catkin_ws/src
git clone

Create the cartographer_ros launch file using your favourite editor (like “gedit”)

cd $HOME/catkin_ws/src/cartographer_ros/cartographer_ros/launch
gedit cartographer.launch

Copy-paste the contents below into the file

   <param name="/use_sim_time" value="false" />
   <node name="cartographer_node"
         args="-configuration_directory $(find cartographer_ros)/configuration_files -configuration_basename cartographer.lua"
         <remap from="odom" to="/mavros/local_position/odom" />
         <remap from="imu" to="/mavros/imu/data" />
   <node name="cartographer_occupancy_grid_node"
         type="cartographer_occupancy_grid_node" />
   <node name="robot_pose_publisher"
         output="screen" >
         <param name="is_stamped" type="bool" value="true"/>
         <remap from="robot_pose" to="/mavros/vision_pose/pose" />
   <node pkg="tf" type="static_transform_publisher" name="base_to_laser_broadcaster" args="0 0 0 0 0 0 base_link laser 100" />

Create the cartographer.lua script using our favourite editor (like “gedit”)

cd $HOME/catkin_ws/src/cartographer_ros/cartographer_ros/configuration_files
gedit cartographer.lua

Copy-paste the contents below into the file

include "map_builder.lua"
include "trajectory_builder.lua"

options = {
  map_builder = MAP_BUILDER,
  trajectory_builder = TRAJECTORY_BUILDER,
  map_frame = "map",
  tracking_frame = "base_link",
  published_frame = "base_link",
  odom_frame = "odom",
  provide_odom_frame = true,
  publish_frame_projected_to_2d = false,
  use_odometry = false,
  use_nav_sat = false,
  use_landmarks = false,
  num_laser_scans = 1,
  num_multi_echo_laser_scans = 0,
  num_subdivisions_per_laser_scan = 1,
  num_point_clouds = 0,
  lookup_transform_timeout_sec = 0.2,
  submap_publish_period_sec = 0.3,
  pose_publish_period_sec = 5e-3,
  trajectory_publish_period_sec = 30e-3,
  rangefinder_sampling_ratio = 1.,
  odometry_sampling_ratio = 1.,
  fixed_frame_pose_sampling_ratio = 1.,
  imu_sampling_ratio = 1.,
  landmarks_sampling_ratio = 1.,

MAP_BUILDER.use_trajectory_builder_2d = true

TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.min_range = 0.05
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.max_range = 30
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.missing_data_ray_length = 8.5
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.use_imu_data = false
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.ceres_scan_matcher.translation_weight = 0.2
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.ceres_scan_matcher.rotation_weight = 5
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.use_online_correlative_scan_matching = true
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.real_time_correlative_scan_matcher.linear_search_window = 0.1
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.real_time_correlative_scan_matcher.translation_delta_cost_weight = 1.
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.real_time_correlative_scan_matcher.rotation_delta_cost_weight = 10
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.motion_filter.max_angle_radians = math.rad(0.2)
-- for current lidar only 1 is good value
TRAJECTORY_BUILDER_2D.num_accumulated_range_data = 1


POSE_GRAPH.constraint_builder.min_score = 0.65
POSE_GRAPH.constraint_builder.global_localization_min_score = 0.65
POSE_GRAPH.optimization_problem.huber_scale = 1e2
POSE_GRAPH.optimize_every_n_nodes = 30

return options


Instead of manually modifying the above packages, clone this repository and install the dependencies.

Build the Packages

cd $HOME/catkin_ws
catkin build
source devel/setup.bash

Start Cartographer

Plug the RPLidarA2 into the companion computer and then open up four terminals and in each terminal type:

cd catkin_ws
source devel/setup.bash

Then in Terminal1:


In Terminal2:

roslaunch rplidar_ros rplidar.launch

In Terminal3:

roslaunch cartographer_ros cartographer.launch

In Terminal4:

Start mavros as described on the Connecting with ROS page which involves running a command like below:

roslaunch mavros apm.launch fcu_url:=udp://:14855@

Configure ArduPilot

Connect to the flight controller with a ground station (i.e. Mission Planner) and check that the following parameters are set as shown below:

After changing any of the values above, reboot the flight controller.

If all is working, vision position estimates should begin flowing in from ROS to ArduPilot. This can be confirmed by connecting to the flight controller using the Mission Planner (or similar) and check the Flight Data screen’s Messages tab (bottom left) for messages from the EKF like below:

EKF2 IMU1 initial pos NED = 0.0,0.0,0.0 (m)
EKF2 IMU1 is using external nav data
EKF2 IMU0 initial pos NED = 0.0,0.0,0.0 (m)
EKF2 IMU0 is using external nav data

Using the Mission Planner (or similar) go to the Flight Data screen and right-mouse-button click on the map and select “Set Home Here” >> “Set EKF Origin”. The vehicle should appear immediately on the map where you clicked.


To confirm the ROS side is working correctly type the command below and live updates of position estimates from cartographer should be displayed

rostopic echo /robot_pose

Mission Planner’s MAVLink Inspector (press Ctrl-F and then press the “MAVLink Inspector” button) can be used to check if VISION_POSITION_ESTIMATE messages are being successfully sent to the flight controller




We are keen to improve ArduPilot’s support of ROS so if you find issues (such as commands that do not seem to be supported), please report them in the ArduPilot issues list with a title that includes “ROS” and we will attempt to resolve them as quickly as possible.