You're reading the documentation for a development version. For the latest released version, please have a look at Iron.
For background information on cross-compilation, see the conceptual article.
This document provides you with details on how to cross-compile the ROS 2 software stack as well as provide examples for cross-compiling to systems based on the Arm cores.
Instructions to use the tool are in the cross_compile package.
- Although ROS 2 is a rich software stack with a number of dependencies, it primarily uses two different types of packages:
Python based software, which requires no cross-compilation.
CMake based software, which provides a mechanism to do cross-compilation.
Furthermore, the ROS 2 software stack is built with Colcon which provides a mechanism to forward parameters to the CMake instance used for the individual build of each package/library that is part of the ROS 2 distribution.
When building ROS 2 natively, the developer is required to download all the dependencies (e.g. Python and other libraries) before compiling the packages that are part of the ROS 2 distribution. When cross-compiling, the same approach is required. The developer must first have the target system’s filesystem with all dependencies already installed.
A CMake toolchain-file is a file which defines variables to configure CMake for cross-compilation. The basic entries are:
CMAKE_SYSTEM_NAME: the target platform, e.g.
CMAKE_SYSTEM_PROCESSOR: the target architecture, e.g.
CMAKE_SYSROOT: the path to the target file-system
CMAKE_C_COMPILER: the C cross-compiler, e.g.
CMAKE_CXX_COMPILER: the C++ cross-compiler, e.g.
CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH: an alternative path used by the
find_*command to find the file-system
When cross-compiling ROS 2, the following options are required to be set:
CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH: the alternative path used by the
find_*command, use it to specify the path to ROS 2
CMAKE_FIND_ROOT_PATH_MODE_*: the search strategy for program,package,library, and include, usually:
NEVER(look on the host-fs),
ONLY(look on sysroot), and
BOTH(look on both sysroot and host-fs)
PYTHON_SOABI: the index name of the python libraries generated by ROS 2, e.g.
THREADS_PTHREAD_ARG "0" CACHE STRING "Result from TRY_RUN" FORCE: Force the result of the
TRY_RUNcmd to 0 (success) because binaries can not run on the host system.
The toolchain-file is provided to CMake with the
-DCMAKE_TOOLCHAIN_FILE=path/to/file parameter. This will also set the
CMAKE_CROSSCOMPILING variable to
true which can be used by the software being built.
CMAKE_SYSROOT is particularly important for ROS 2 as the packages need many dependencies (e.g. python, openssl, opencv, poco, eigen3, …).
CMAKE_SYSROOT to a target file-system with all the dependencies installed on it will allow CMake to find them during the cross-compilation.
You can find more information on the CMake documentation page.
When downloading the ROS 2 source code, a generic toolchain-file is available in the repository ros-tooling/cross_compile/cmake-toolchains which can be downloaded separately. Further examples on using it can be found on the Cross-compiling examples for Arm section.
As mentioned previously, ROS 2 requires different libraries which needs to be provided to cross-compile.
- There are a number of ways to obtain the file-system:
downloading a pre-built image
installing the dependencies on the target and exporting the file-system (e.g. with sshfs)
using qemu + docker (or chroot) to generate the file-system on the host machine.
You can find information on how to use Docker + qemu on the next Cross-compiling examples for Arm section.
The build process is similar to native compilation. The only difference is an extra argument to
Colcon to specify the
colcon build --merge-install \
toolchain-file provide to CMake the information of the
cross-compiler and the
Colcon will call CMake with the given toolchain-file on every package of ROS 2.
After downloading the ROS 2 source code, you can add cross-compilation assets to the workspace via
git clone https://github.com/ros-tooling/cross_compile.git -b 0.0.1 src/ros2/cross_compile. These are working examples on how to cross-compile for Arm cores.
- The following targets are supported:
Ubuntu-arm64: To be used with any ARMv8-A based system.
Ubuntu-armhf: To be used with any modern ARMv7-A based system.
- These are the main steps:
Installing development tools
Downloading ROS 2 source code
Downloading the ROS 2 cross-compilation assets
Preparing the sysroot
Cross-compiling the ROS 2 software stack
The next sections explains in detail each of these steps. For a quick-setup, have a look at the Automated Cross-compilation.
These steps were tested on an Ubuntu 18.04 (Bionic)
1. Install development tools
This step is similar to when building natively. The difference is that some of the libraries and tools are not required because they will be in the sysroot instead. The following packages are required
sudo apt update && sudo apt install -y \
python3 -m pip install -U \
You can install vcstool and colcon-common-extensions via pip. This means you are not required to add extra apt repositories.
Docker is used to build the target environment. Follow the official documentation for the installation.
2. Download ROS 2 source code
Then create a workspace and download the ROS 2 source code:
mkdir -p ~/cc_ws/ros2_ws/src
vcs-import src < ros2.repos
git clone https://github.com/ros-tooling/cross_compile.git -b 0.0.1 src/ros2/cross_compile
3. Prepare the sysroot
Build an arm Ubuntu image with all the ROS 2 dependencies using Docker and qemu:
qemu-static binary to the workspace.
It will be used to install the ROS 2 dependencies on the target file-system with docker.
cp /usr/bin/qemu-*-static qemu-user-static
The standard setup process of ROS 2 is run inside an arm docker. This is possible thanks to
qemu-static, which will emulate an arm machine. The base image used is an Ubuntu Bionic from Docker Hub.
docker build -t arm_ros2:latest -f ros2_ws/src/ros2/cross_compile/sysroot/Dockerfile_ubuntu_arm .
docker run --name arm_sysroot arm_ros2:latest
Export the resulting container to a tarball and extract it:
docker container export -o sysroot_docker.tar arm_sysroot
tar -C sysroot_docker -xf sysroot_docker.tar lib usr opt etc
docker rm arm_sysroot
This container can be used later as virtual target to run the created file-system and run the demo code.
Set the variables used by the generic toolchain-file
The following packages still cause errors during the cross-compilation (under investigation) and must be disabled for now.
Poco pre-built has a known issue where it is searching for
libpcre on the host system instead of SYSROOT.
As a workaround for the moment, please link both libraries into the the host’s file-system.
mkdir -p /usr/lib/$TARGET_TRIPLE
ln -s `pwd`/sysroot_docker/lib/$TARGET_TRIPLE/libz.so.1 /usr/lib/$TARGET_TRIPLE/libz.so
ln -s `pwd`/sysroot_docker/lib/$TARGET_TRIPLE/libpcre.so.3 /usr/lib/$TARGET_TRIPLE/libpcre.so
Then, start a build with colcon specifying the toolchain-file:
colcon build --merge-install \
Done! The install and build directories will contain the cross-compiled assets.
All the steps above are also included into a Dockerfile and can be used for automation/CI.
First, download the dockerfile and build the image:
docker build -t ros2-crosscompiler:latest - < Dockerfile_cc_for_arm
Now run the image with: (it will take a while !)
docker run -it --name ros2_cc \
-v /var/run/docker.sock:/var/run/docker.sock \
..note:: The -v /var/run/docker.sock allow us to use Docker inside Docker.
The result of the build will be inside the
ros2_ws directory, which can be exported with:
docker cp ros2_cc:/root/cc_ws/ros2_ws .
It is possible to cross-compile your packages against a pre-built ROS 2. The steps are similar to the previous Cross-compiling examples for Arm section, with the following modifications:
Instead of downloading the ROS 2 stack, just populate your workspace with your package (ros2 examples on this case) and the cross-compilation assets:
mkdir -p ~/cc_ws/ros2_ws/src
git clone https://github.com/ros2/examples.git
git clone https://github.com/ros-tooling/cross_compile.git -b 0.0.1
Generate and export the file-system as described in 3. Prepare the sysroot, but with the provided
_prebuilt Dockerfile will use the binary packages to install ROS 2 instead of building from source.
Modify the environment variable
ROS2_INSTALL_PATH to point to the installation directory:
setup.bash script on the target file-system:
Then, start a build with
Colcon specifying the
colcon build \
Copy the file-system on your target or use the previously built docker image:
docker run -it --rm -v `pwd`/ros2_ws:/ros2_ws arm_ros2:latest
Source the environment:
Run some of the C++ or python examples:
ros2 run demo_nodes_cpp listener &
ros2 run demo_nodes_py talker