Only released in EOL distros:  

actuator_array: actuator_array_driver | actuator_array_example | actuator_array_gazebo_plugin | actuator_array_gui

Package Summary

This package contains a base class for an Actuator Array Driver. This is intended for use with chains of R/C Servos or other similar devices where position (and velocity) commands are sent at irregular intervals, as opposed to the tight, real-time control loop of the PR2 Controller Manager system.

This base class performs some standard functionality, such as parsing joint limits out of the robot_description, subscribing to a 'command' topic, publishing on the 'joint_states' topic, and setting up a 'stop' and 'home' service call. This is designed to work as a stand-alone driver for controlling/tele-operating a chain of servos, or in conjunction with the Actuator Array Joint Trajectory Action. However, this is provided as a convenience only, and is not required for successful operation with the Actuator Array Joint Trajectory Action.


A base class that implements the common Actuator Array interface. This base class handles the communication with ROS and parses the robot description URDF for relevant information about the controlled joints. A custom driver that adheres to the Actuator Array protocol can be created by implementing just a few functions.

ROS Nodes


The actuator_array_driver is actually a base class and not a node itself. However, the base class implements the following ROS API, so all derived nodes will also implement this API. Further, all nodes in the actuator_array stack assume this API.

Subscribed Topics

command (sensor_msgs/JointState)

  • A message containing the desired position of one or more joints controlled by this driver. Any joints contained in the command message that are not part of this driver will be ignored.

Published Topics

joint_states (sensor_msgs/JointState)

  • The current state of each joint controlled by this driver. The sensor_msgs/JointState message specifies position, velocity, and effort/torque information. If the specific hardware controlled by this driver does not provide velocity or effort information, then these arrays will be left empty.


stop (std_srvs/Empty)

  • Instruct the driver to stop all actuators immediately.

home (std_srvs/Empty)

  • Instruct each actuator to return to its home position.


robot_description_parameter (string, default: robot_description)

  • This is the name of a parameter on the parameter server that holds the robot description urdf, not the robot description itself. If use of the robot description is not desired, this parameter can be set to an empty string and the driver will ignore it.

joints (string)

  • This is an array of joint names to be controlled by this driver. This is expected to be in yaml format, probably loaded from a file using rosparam. This array can be in two different formats. Either it is an array of strings, in which case each string is assumed to be a joint name. Or it can be an array of structures containing user-defined information. If the structure approach is used, one element of each structure must be name, the name of the joint. Example Format #1

      - joint1
      - joint2
      - joint3
      - joint4
    Example Format #2
      - name: joint1
        channel: 0      
        home: 0.0
      - name: joint2
        channel: 3      
        home: -1.57
      - name: joint3
        channel: 1      
        home: 1.57
      - name: joint4
        channel: 2      
        home: 0.785

C++ Interface

For a complete listing of all functions, see the C++ API reference. The actuator_array_driver driver is a base class for generating that custom drivers that interact with chains of r/c-type servos with minimal effort. By uses this base class, much of the ROS interface code is handled automatically and interoperability with the other nodes in the actuator_array stack is guaranteed.

The base class is templated on a JOINT structure. If no additional data is needed, the provided JointProperties can be used as the template argument. If additional information needs to be stored on a per-joint basis, then the JointProperties class can be used as a base for a custom JOINT structure.

Joint Properties

The standard JointProperties class contains the following entries. Additional entries can be created by deriving a custom JointProperties class using this as a base. This custom JOINT structure would then be provided as a template argument to the actuator_array_driver.

  • has_position_limits (bool)

  • min_position (double)

  • max_position (double)

  • has_velocity_limits (bool)

  • max_velocity (double)

  • has_acceleration_limits (bool)

  • max_acceleration (double)

  • has_effort_limits (bool)

  • max_effort (double)

  • friction (double)

  • damping (double)

Required Functions

Because the specifics of the hardware to be controlled will vary between applications, the base class provides hooks for the end-user to implement the actual code nessisary to control the actuators. A default, empty implementation of each of these functions exist in case certain functionality is not requird.

bool init_actuator_(const std::string& joint_name, JOINT& joint_properties,         XmlRpc::XmlRpcValue& joint_data)

  • A helper method that performs custom initialization on a per-actuator basis. If the 'joints' parameter contains an XMLRPC array of structs, then this function is also provided with the full XMLRPC structure. This is a convenience function that allows a single YAML configuration file to both initialize the list of actuators to control, and define custom properties about each actuator. Such entries as channel id, offset , and home are common attributes that are unique to each actuator.

bool read_(ros::Time ts = ros::Time::now())

  • Virtual function that is responsible for reading the current device state and updating the internal joint_state_msg_. The base class will publish these values if the read was successful.

bool command_()

  • Virtual function that handles sending a command to the device. This gets called once after every message received on the command topic. The internal command_msg_ will already be updated with the new command information.

bool stop_()

  • Virtual function that sends a stop command to the device. This gets called in response to a 'stop' service call

bool home_()

  • Virtual function that sends the device to the home position. This gets called in response to a 'home' service call

Provided Convenience Functions

void parse_urdf(const ros::NodeHandle& node)

  • A helper method that parses the URDF contained in the robot_description_parameter on the Parameter Server and stores it in the urdf_model_ property of the base class.

void update_joint_from_urdf(const std::string& joint_name, JOINT& joint_properties)

  • A helper method that extracts information from the URDF model about a specific joint name and stores it in the provided JOINT class. If the provided joint name does not exist in the URDF, a warning will be issued and the JOINT class will not be updated.

void parse_actuator_list(const ros::NodeHandle& node)

  • A helper method that reads in a list of actuator names from the parameter server and initializes the joints_ map. This list can be a simple list loaded via rosparam, or a complex struct defining additional properties about each actuator. If the struct approach is used, generally loaded via a YAML file, one entry must be called 'name'. Additionally, an initialization function named 'init_actuator_' can be implemented. This function is called once per actuator in the list, and is provided with the full XMLRPC struct for that actuator. This call occurs after the joint is updated using the URDF information, so any information inside the URDF can be accessed by the initialization function. The provided node object should be in the namespace of the 'joints' list on the parameter server (i.e. a private node)

void advertise_and_subscribe(ros::NodeHandle& node)

  • A helper method that sets up the communication elements with ROS. This involves subscribing to the 'command' topic, advertising the 'joint_states' topic, and creating the 'stop' and 'home' services. All topics will be advertised in the namespace of the provided 'node' object.

void init()

  • A convenience method that calls 'parse_actuator_list', 'parse_urdf' and 'advertise_and_subscribe' in order. This is broken out of the constructor to allow derived classes to choose how to initialize the system (e.g. Gazebo plugin). Most derived classes will probably want to call init() in the constructor.

Wiki: actuator_array_driver (last edited 2012-02-27 03:28:20 by StephenWilliams)