What Is ROS2 and How To Install It on Raspberry Pi?

January 01, 2022

According to the ROS documentation: “The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a set of software libraries and tools for building robot applications. From drivers to state-of-the-art algorithms, and with powerful developer tools, ROS has what you need for your next robotics project.”

As the definition in the documentation states that the ROS contains a wide variety of tools and libraries. Some of these tools are for development purposes (3D simulation, data visualization, etc.) and some of them are for the core application (motor control libraries, device drivers, etc.).

ROS has a structure that consists of nodes and provides publish/subscribe mechanism between the nodes through topics. These nodes can have development or application purposes as mentioned above, and they can run on different computers while communicating through the network connection. This structure gives us the ability to deploy our control software on a Raspberry Pi and monitor or control it from our development computer.

In this blog post, we will be installing ROS on Raspberry Pi and preparing it for projects that we are going to build in the future.

1. Install Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Server on Raspberry Pi

We will be using Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Server OS to run ROS2 on Raspberry Pi. You can find Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Server installation guide in this post.

2. Install the required packages

These packages probably going to be already installed with Ubuntu Server, but it wouldn’t harm to be sure.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install curl gnupg lsb-release

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3. Add ROS repository to the sources list

We need to add the ROS key and the ROS repository source to our system to be able to reach ROS packages with the apt package manager.

sudo curl -sSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/ros/rosdistro/master/ros.key  -o /usr/share/keyrings/ros-archive-keyring.gpg
echo "deb [arch=$(dpkg --print-architecture) signed-by=/usr/share/keyrings/ros-archive-keyring.gpg] http://packages.ros.org/ros2/ubuntu $(source /etc/os-release && echo $UBUNTU_CODENAME) main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ros2.list > /dev/null
sudo apt update

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4. Install ROS2 Packages

We are going to install the “base” because we don’t want the GUI tools. This version includes only communication libraries, message packages, and command-line tools. This step is going to take a while depending on the internet speed and the Micro SD card performance.

sudo apt install ros-galactic-ros-base -y

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5. Set up the environment automatically at beginning of every session

In order to be able to use ROS command line tools, we need to source the setup script of that ROS installation before. So the easiest solution for this is to add the source command to the .bashrc, it will get ready at the beginning of every session.

echo "source /opt/ros/galactic/setup.bash" >>~/.bashrc
exec "$SHELL"

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6. Test your installation

In order to test our installation, we need to install demo nodes to make them talk to each other, so we can be sure that our installation is complete. These packages are installed in the “desktop” package of ROS 2 but not included in the ” base” package, so we need to install them with the following commands.

sudo apt install ros-galactic-demo-nodes-cpp
sudo apt install ros-galactic-demo-nodes-py

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After the installations, we need to open another terminal and SSH to our Raspberry Pi again -so we will have two terminal sessions connected to the Raspberry Pi with SSH. From one of them run the following

ros2 run demo_nodes_py listener

And from the other terminal run this command

ros2 run demo_nodes_cpp talker

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As soon as you start the talker node, the listener and talker nodes should be able to communicate with each other. One of these nodes are written with C++ and the other one is written with Python so we can confirm that the nodes written with both of the languages supported by our installation.

7. What is next?

To be able to run ROS nodes on different computers we need to install ROS on all of them. Also, to be able to use your development computer to run some nodes which can control or monitor your Raspberry Pi nodes, you need to install ROS on your development computer too. You can follow the guides that I have shared below:

I strongly recommend using Ubuntu on your development computer for compatibility and wide community support and please don’t forget to install the “desktop” version not the “base” version.

Have fun!


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Written by Can Berk Durmus, a computer engineer. He uses OpenCV, CUDA, and QT with Python and C++. He feels comfortable around resource-limited tiny computers and autonomously flying robots.

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