# Sending a Custom Message from MAVROS to PX4


This article has been tested against:

  • Ubuntu: 20.04
  • ROS: Noetic
  • PX4 Firmware: v1.13

However these steps are fairly general and so it should work with other distros/versions with little to no modifications.

# MAVROS Installation

Follow Source Installation instructions from mavlink/mavros (opens new window) to install "ROS Kinetic".


  1. We start by creating a new MAVROS plugin, in this example named keyboard_command.cpp (in workspace/src/mavros/mavros_extras/src/plugins) by using the code below:

    The code subscribes a 'char' message from ROS topic /mavros/keyboard_command/keyboard_sub and sends it as a MAVLink message.

     #include <mavros/mavros_plugin.h>
     #include <pluginlib/class_list_macros.h>
     #include <iostream>
     #include <std_msgs/Char.h>
     namespace mavros {
     namespace extra_plugins{
     class KeyboardCommandPlugin : public plugin::PluginBase {
         KeyboardCommandPlugin() : PluginBase(),
        { };
         void initialize(UAS &uas_)
             keyboard_sub = nh.subscribe("keyboard_sub", 10, &KeyboardCommandPlugin::keyboard_cb, this);
         Subscriptions get_subscriptions()
             return {/* RX disabled */ };
         ros::NodeHandle nh;
         ros::Subscriber keyboard_sub;
        void keyboard_cb(const std_msgs::Char::ConstPtr &req)
             std::cout << "Got Char : " << req->data <<  std::endl;
             mavlink::common::msg::KEY_COMMAND kc {};
             kc.command = req->data;
     }   // namespace extra_plugins
     }   // namespace mavros
    PLUGINLIB_EXPORT_CLASS(mavros::extra_plugins::KeyboardCommandPlugin, mavros::plugin::PluginBase)
  2. Edit mavros_plugins.xml (in workspace/src/mavros/mavros_extras) and add the following lines:

    <class name="keyboard_command" type="mavros::extra_plugins::KeyboardCommandPlugin" base_class_type="mavros::plugin::PluginBase">
         <description>Accepts keyboard command.</description>
  3. Edit CMakeLists.txt (in workspace/src/mavros/mavros_extras) and add the following line in add_library.

  4. Inside common.xml in (workspace/src/mavlink/message_definitions/v1.0), copy the following lines to add your MAVLink message:

      <message id="229" name="KEY_COMMAND">
         <description>Keyboard char command.</description>
         <field type="char" name="command"> </field>

# PX4 Changes

  1. Inside common.xml (in PX4-Autopilot/src/modules/mavlink/mavlink/message_definitions/v1.0), add your MAVLink message as following (same procedure as for MAVROS section above):

      <message id="229" name="KEY_COMMAND">
         <description>Keyboard char command.</description>
         <field type="char" name="command"> </field>


    Make sure that the common.xml files in the following directories are exactly the same:

    • PX4-Autopilot/src/modules/mavlink/mavlink/message_definitions/v1.0
    • workspace/src/mavlink/message_definitions/v1.0 are exactly the same.
  2. Make your own uORB message file key_command.msg in (PX4-Autopilot/msg). For this example the "key_command.msg" has only the code:

    uint64 timestamp # time since system start (microseconds)
    char cmd

    Then, in CMakeLists.txt (in PX4-Autopilot/msg), include:

  3. Edit mavlink_receiver.h (in PX4-Autopilot/src/modules/mavlink)

    #include <uORB/topics/key_command.h>
    class MavlinkReceiver
        void handle_message_key_command(mavlink_message_t *msg);
        orb_advert_t _key_command_pub{nullptr};
  4. Edit mavlink_receiver.cpp (in PX4-Autopilot/src/modules/mavlink). This is where PX4 receives the MAVLink message sent from ROS, and publishes it as a uORB topic.

    void MavlinkReceiver::handle_message(mavlink_message_t *msg)
    MavlinkReceiver::handle_message_key_command(mavlink_message_t *msg)
        mavlink_key_command_t man;
        mavlink_msg_key_command_decode(msg, &man);
    struct key_command_s key = {};
        key.timestamp = hrt_absolute_time();
        key.cmd = man.command;
        if (_key_command_pub == nullptr) {
            _key_command_pub = orb_advertise(ORB_ID(key_command), &key);
        } else {
            orb_publish(ORB_ID(key_command), _key_command_pub, &key);
  5. Make your own uORB topic subscriber just like any example subscriber module. For this example lets create the model in (/PX4-Autopilot/src/modules/key_receiver). In this directory, create three files CMakeLists.txt, key_receiver.cpp, Kconfig Each one looks like the following.


        MODULE modules__key_receiver
        MAIN key_receiver
        STACK_MAIN 2500
        STACK_MAX 4000


    #include <px4_platform_common/px4_config.h>
    #include <px4_platform_common/tasks.h>
    #include <px4_platform_common/posix.h>
    #include <unistd.h>
    #include <stdio.h>
    #include <poll.h>
    #include <string.h>
    #include <math.h>
    #include <uORB/uORB.h>
    #include <uORB/topics/key_command.h>
    extern "C" __EXPORT int key_receiver_main(int argc, char **argv);
    int key_receiver_main(int argc, char **argv)
        int key_sub_fd = orb_subscribe(ORB_ID(key_command));
        orb_set_interval(key_sub_fd, 200); // limit the update rate to 200ms
        px4_pollfd_struct_t fds[] = {
            { .fd = key_sub_fd,   .events = POLLIN },
        int error_counter = 0;
        for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++)
            int poll_ret = px4_poll(fds, 1, 1000);
            if (poll_ret == 0)
                PX4_ERR("Got no data within a second");
            else if (poll_ret < 0)
                if (error_counter < 10 || error_counter % 50 == 0)
                    PX4_ERR("ERROR return value from poll(): %d", poll_ret);
                if (fds[0].revents & POLLIN)
                    struct key_command_s input;
                    orb_copy(ORB_ID(key_command), key_sub_fd, &input);
                    PX4_INFO("Received Char : %c", input.cmd);
        return 0;


     menuconfig MODULES_KEY_RECEIVER
     bool "key_receiver"
     default n
     	Enable support for key_receiver

    For a more detailed explanation see the topic Writing your first application.

  6. Lastly, add your module in the default.px4board file correspondent to your board in PX4-Autopilot/boards/. For example: -for the Pixhawk 4, add the following code in PX4-Autopilot/boards/px4/fmu-v5/default.px4board: -for the SITL, add the following code in PX4-Autopilot/boards/px4/sitl/default.px4board


Now you are ready to build all your work!

# Building

# Build for ROS

  1. In your workspace enter: catkin build.

  2. Beforehand, you have to set your "px4.launch" in (/workspace/src/mavros/mavros/launch). Edit "px4.launch" as below. If you are using USB to connect your computer with Pixhawk, you have to set "fcu_url" as shown below. But, if you are using CP2102 to connect your computer with Pixhawk, you have to replace "ttyACM0" with "ttyUSB0". And if you are using the SITL to connect to your terminal, you have to replace "/dev/ttyACM0:57600" with "udp://:14540@". Modifying "gcs_url" is to connect your Pixhawk with UDP, because serial communication cannot accept MAVROS, and your nutshell connection simultaneously.

  3. Write your IP address at "xxx.xx.xxx.xxx"

      <arg name="fcu_url" default="/dev/ttyACM0:57600" />
      <arg name="gcs_url" default="udp://:14550@xxx.xx.xxx.xxx:14557" />

# Build for PX4

  1. Clean the previously built PX4-Autopilot directory. In the root of PX4-Autopilot directory:

    make clean
  2. Build PX4-Autopilot and upload in the normal way.

    For example:

    • to build for Pixhawk 4/FMUv5 execute the following command in the root of the PX4-Autopilot directory:
    make px4_fmu-v5_default upload
    • to build for SITL execute the following command in the root of the PX4-Autopilot directory (using jmavsim simulation):
    make px4_sitl jmavsim

# Running the Code

Next test if the MAVROS message is sent to PX4.

# Running ROS

  1. In a terminal enter
    roslaunch mavros px4.launch
  2. In a second terminal run:
    rostopic pub -r 10 /mavros/keyboard_command/keyboard_sub std_msgs/Char 97
    This means, publish 97 ('a' in ASCII) to ROS topic "/mavros/keyboard_command/keyboard_sub" in message type "std_msgs/Char". "-r 10" means to publish continuously in "10Hz".

# Running PX4

  1. Enter the Pixhawk nutshell through UDP. Replace xxx.xx.xxx.xxx with your IP.

    cd PX4-Autopilot/Tools
    ./mavlink_shell.py xxx.xx.xxx.xxx:14557 --baudrate 57600
  2. After few seconds, press Enter a couple of times. You should see a prompt in the terminal as below:


    Type "key_receiver", to run your subscriber module.

    nsh> key_receiver

Check if it successfully receives a from your ROS topic.