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Using URDF with robot_state_publisher

Goal: Simulate a walking robot modeled in URDF and view it in Rviz.

Tutorial level: Intermediate

Time: 15 minutes


This tutorial will show you how to model a walking robot, publish the state as a tf2 message and view the simulation in Rviz. First, we create the URDF model describing the robot assembly. Next we write a node which simulates the motion and publishes the JointState and transforms. We then use robot_state_publisher to publish the entire robot state to /tf2.



As always, don’t forget to source ROS 2 in every new terminal you open.


1 Create a package

Create the directory:

mkdir -p second_ros2_ws/src

Then create the package:

cd second_ros2_ws/src
ros2 pkg create --build-type ament_python --license Apache-2.0 urdf_tutorial_r2d2 --dependencies rclpy
cd urdf_tutorial_r2d2

You should now see a urdf_tutorial_r2d2 folder. Next you will make several changes to it.

2 Create the URDF File

Create the directory where we will store some assets:

mkdir -p urdf

Download the URDF file and save it as second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/urdf/r2d2.urdf.xml. Download the Rviz configuration file and save it as second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/urdf/r2d2.rviz.

3 Publish the state

Now we need a method for specifying what state the robot is in. To do this, we must specify all three joints and the overall odometry.

Fire up your favorite editor and paste the following code into second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/

from math import sin, cos, pi
import rclpy
from rclpy.node import Node
from rclpy.qos import QoSProfile
from geometry_msgs.msg import Quaternion
from sensor_msgs.msg import JointState
from tf2_ros import TransformBroadcaster, TransformStamped

class StatePublisher(Node):

    def __init__(self):

        qos_profile = QoSProfile(depth=10)
        self.joint_pub = self.create_publisher(JointState, 'joint_states', qos_profile)
        self.broadcaster = TransformBroadcaster(self, qos=qos_profile)
        self.nodeName = self.get_name()
        self.get_logger().info("{0} started".format(self.nodeName))

        degree = pi / 180.0
        loop_rate = self.create_rate(30)

        # robot state
        tilt = 0.
        tinc = degree
        swivel = 0.
        angle = 0.
        height = 0.
        hinc = 0.005

        # message declarations
        odom_trans = TransformStamped()
        odom_trans.header.frame_id = 'odom'
        odom_trans.child_frame_id = 'axis'
        joint_state = JointState()

            while rclpy.ok():

                # update joint_state
                now = self.get_clock().now()
                joint_state.header.stamp = now.to_msg()
       = ['swivel', 'tilt', 'periscope']
                joint_state.position = [swivel, tilt, height]

                # update transform
                # (moving in a circle with radius=2)
                odom_trans.header.stamp = now.to_msg()
                odom_trans.transform.translation.x = cos(angle)*2
                odom_trans.transform.translation.y = sin(angle)*2
                odom_trans.transform.translation.z = 0.7
                odom_trans.transform.rotation = \
                    euler_to_quaternion(0, 0, angle + pi/2) # roll,pitch,yaw

                # send the joint state and transform

                # Create new robot state
                tilt += tinc
                if tilt < -0.5 or tilt > 0.0:
                    tinc *= -1
                height += hinc
                if height > 0.2 or height < 0.0:
                    hinc *= -1
                swivel += degree
                angle += degree/4

                # This will adjust as needed per iteration

        except KeyboardInterrupt:

def euler_to_quaternion(roll, pitch, yaw):
    qx = sin(roll/2) * cos(pitch/2) * cos(yaw/2) - cos(roll/2) * sin(pitch/2) * sin(yaw/2)
    qy = cos(roll/2) * sin(pitch/2) * cos(yaw/2) + sin(roll/2) * cos(pitch/2) * sin(yaw/2)
    qz = cos(roll/2) * cos(pitch/2) * sin(yaw/2) - sin(roll/2) * sin(pitch/2) * cos(yaw/2)
    qw = cos(roll/2) * cos(pitch/2) * cos(yaw/2) + sin(roll/2) * sin(pitch/2) * sin(yaw/2)
    return Quaternion(x=qx, y=qy, z=qz, w=qw)

def main():
    node = StatePublisher()

if __name__ == '__main__':

4 Create a launch file

Create a new second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/launch folder. Open your editor and paste the following code, saving it as second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/launch/

import os
from ament_index_python.packages import get_package_share_directory
from launch import LaunchDescription
from launch.actions import DeclareLaunchArgument
from launch.substitutions import LaunchConfiguration
from launch_ros.actions import Node

def generate_launch_description():

    use_sim_time = LaunchConfiguration('use_sim_time', default='false')

    urdf_file_name = 'r2d2.urdf.xml'
    urdf = os.path.join(
    with open(urdf, 'r') as infp:
        robot_desc =

    return LaunchDescription([
            description='Use simulation (Gazebo) clock if true'),
            parameters=[{'use_sim_time': use_sim_time, 'robot_description': robot_desc}],

5 Edit the file

You must tell the colcon build tool how to install your Python package. Edit the second_ros2_ws/src/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/ file as follows:

  • include these import statements

import os
from glob import glob
from setuptools import setup
from setuptools import find_packages
  • append these 2 lines inside data_files

  (os.path.join('share', package_name, 'launch'), glob(os.path.join('launch', '*launch.[pxy][yma]*'))),
  (os.path.join('share', package_name), glob('urdf/*')),
  • modify the entry_points table so you can later run ‘state_publisher’ from a console

'console_scripts': [
    'state_publisher = urdf_tutorial_r2d2.state_publisher:main'

Save the file with your changes.

6 Install the package

cd second_ros2_ws
colcon build --symlink-install --packages-select urdf_tutorial_r2d2

Source the setup files:

source install/setup.bash

7 View the results

Launch the package

ros2 launch urdf_tutorial_r2d2

Open a new terminal, the run Rviz using

rviz2 -d second_ros2_ws/install/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/share/urdf_tutorial_r2d2/r2d2.rviz

See the User Guide for details on how to use Rviz.


You created a JointState publisher node and coupled it with robot_state_publisher to simulate a walking robot. The code used in these examples is originally from here.

Credit is given to the authors of this ROS 1 tutorial from which some content was reused.