Awesome Open Source
Awesome Open Source


Open source simulator for maritime robotics researchers

uuv mapping

Plankton is an initiative aiming at simplifying robotics research in the maritime domain. It is a maritime environment simulator with an open source core, and a special focus on ease of use, stability, speed and sim to real. Its middleware of choice is ROS 2.

We intend to build a sustainable and open source core simulator for maritime robotics research. This core will support flexible specification of sensor suites and environmental conditions.

This project benefits from great open source advances in the simulation domain, mainly ROS, Gazebo and its plugin UUV Simulator. It is also built on data characterizing the needs of robotics researchers in terms of simulation. We gathered these data in our wiki, including the results of our own survey on simulation needs.


The first iteration of the projet is built from UUV Simulator and gazebo 9. We made UUV Simulator compatible with ROS2. In the following months, we intend to improve the performance (speed) of the simulator, and to test different alternatives to gazebo 9 or 11. We will choose the best simulation framework according to our users present and future needs.

We released a beta version of UUV Simulator for ROS 2 in September. The last release in December 2020 made our simulator Plankton compatible with ROS 2 Foxy Fitzroy.


You can contribute by reporting bugs, proposing new features, improving documentation, contributing to code.

Reporting bugs

Use our issue section on GitHub. Please check before that the issue is not already reported.

Proposing new features

Please check first the list of feature requests. If it is not there and you think is a feature that might be interesting for users, please submit your request as a new issue.

Improving documentation

If you feel something is missing in the documentation, please don't hesitate to open an issue to let us know. Even better, if you think you can improve it yourself, it would be a great contribution to the community!

Contributing to code

So you are considering making a code contribution, great! We love to have contributions from the community. Before starting hands-on on coding, please check out our issue board to see if we are already working on that, it would be a pity putting an effort into something just to discover that someone else was already working on that. In case of doubt or to discuss how to proceed, please contact one of us (or send an email to [email protected]).


Plankton currently supports:

  • ROS 2 Foxy with Gazebo 9 or Gazebo 11 and Ubuntu 20.04

  • ROS 2 Eloquent, Ubuntu 18.04 and Gazebo 9

1. Install ROS 2 Foxy

If you don’t have ROS 2 Foxy installed, follow the instructions below and prefer to install the ros-foxy-desktop package:

2. Install Gazebo 11

If you don't have Gazebo 11 installed, open a terminal and follow the steps below:

sudo sh -c 'echo "deb `lsb_release -cs` main" > /etc/apt/sources.list.d/gazebo-stable.list'
wget -O - | sudo apt-key add -
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install gazebo11
sudo apt-get install libgazebo11-dev

You can write gazebo in a terminal to make sure that gazebo runs correctly. Write gazebo --version to ensure that the version number is 11.X.

For more information about the installation of Gazebo, refer to the official installation documentation (beware that the default installation command will not install the version 11):

3. Install the ros packages for gazebo

Write in a terminal:
sudo apt install ros-foxy-gazebo-ros-pkgs

See for more detailed information about gazebo and ROS 2 connection.

4. Build the Plankton plugin

If you don’t have a ROS 2 workspace yet, create a workspace that will contain your projects. In this installation guide, we choose an original name for this directory, ros2_ws:
mkdir -p ~/ros2_ws/src

Move to the src directory:
cd ~/ros2_ws/src

Make sure git is installed:
sudo apt install git

Now, clone the Plankton repository:
git clone

At this point, you need to source 2 different files described below to configure ROS 2 and Gazebo environment variables:

  • For ROS 2 variables
    source /opt/ros/foxy/setup.bash
  • For Gazebo
    source /usr/share/gazebo/

In order to download missing packages, install ROS dependency manager. Write the commands below in a terminal:

sudo apt install python3-rosdep
sudo rosdep init
rosdep update

Browse to the root of your workspace and check for missing dependencies:

cd ~/ros2_ws/
rosdep install -i --from-path src --rosdistro foxy -y

Install Colcon, the build tool system:
sudo apt install python3-colcon-common-extensions

Build the Plankton repository:
colcon build --packages-up-to plankton

Source the file for your installation workspace (change the path accordingly)
source $HOME/ros2_ws/install/setup.bash

Next step is… No next step, you are already done! If everything went well, you should be able to run example cases.

5. Test the package

Note: Every time you open a new terminal, you need to source 3 different files described below to configure ROS 2 and Gazebo environment variables. Write the following each time you start a new terminal to deal with ROS 2 / Gazebo stuff, or prefer to add them at the end of your .bashrc file with gedit ~/.bashrc. For the latter, don’t forget to source your .bashrc to enforce the update after saving these changes, or open a fresh terminal.

  • For ROS 2 variables
    source /opt/ros/foxy/setup.bash
  • For your installation workspace (change the path accordingly)
    source $HOME/ros2_ws/install/setup.bash
  • For Gazebo
    source /usr/share/gazebo/

Let's start testing Plankton. Open a new terminal (don’t forget to source ROS 2 / Gazebo files if necessary) and write as below to open a gazebo world:
ros2 launch uuv_gazebo_worlds ocean_waves.launch

Open again a new terminal (don't forget to source ROS 2 / Gazebo files if necessary), and spawn the rexrov robot:
ros2 launch uuv_descriptions upload_rexrov.launch mode:=default x:=0 y:=0 z:=-20 namespace:=rexrov

Add a joystick node to control it remotely (new terminal needed) :
ros2 launch uuv_control_cascaded_pid joy_velocity.launch uuv_name:=rexrov model_name:=rexrov joy_id:=0

Here, joy_id represents your joystick id, defined in your OS. You can determine what is your id by installing sudo apt-get install jstest-gtk and running it.

A more complete documentation of the UUV Simulator features is available here:

Beware that the UUV Simulator documentation is written for ROS 1, so you will have to make adjustments on given commands to make it work in Plankton.


Logging and print information are not displayed in the terminal

It is a problem affecting eloquent and launch files. Prefix your ros2 launch command with stdbuf -o L. If you are using python launch file, you can launch your node with the emulate_tty argument:


The Gazebo worlds show a black screen when using virtual machine

Try to add the following line to your ~/.bashrc file

External contributions


Plankton is distributed under Apache License version 2.0

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