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Getting started with ROS and Docker

Description: This tutorial walks you through installing Docker and spinning up your first ROS container on your computer.

Keywords: ROS, Docker

Tutorial Level: BEGINNER

For reasons you'll come to understand in a bit, a host installation of ROS is not required for most of these tutorials unless otherwise specified. To quickly grasp how this is possible with Docker, it's recommended you try it out with the online tutorial.

Installing Docker

Before starting this tutorial please complete installation as described in Docker's installation instructions. Installation instructions are available for multiple operation systems including Ubuntu, Mac OS x, Debian, Fedora and even Microsoft Windows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Note that for recent Linux distros, the installation really just boils down to running a single wget command. You may also want add your user to the docker group to avoid having to use sudo permissions when you use the docker command, as also noted further into Docker's installation instructions.

Using ROS images

Pulling ROS images

Now that you have Docker installed, lets pull down a ROS container image:

docker pull ros

This will pull the latest tagged LTS image of ROS from Docker Hub onto your local host machine. Specifically, the image name "ros" is registered with Docker's Official ROS Repo images.

Take a look at the Official ROS Repo and you'll find additional tag names you can use to help specify what exact version and/or meta package level you'd like to use. The tags are built from each other in the same manner as the respective ROS metapackage dependencies interlink, i.e. if you were to pull:

docker pull ros:noetic-robot

You would then also then locally posses the "noetic-ros-core" and "noetic-ros-base" tagged images as well.

Running ROS containers

Now that you have the ROS image downloaded, you can spin up a container from it by calling:

docker run -it ros

This will move you into an interactive session with the running container. From here, it's basically as if you're in a new bash terminal separate from your host machine. Now run the roscore command and you will see ros master startup.

In a new terminal on the host machine, find the name of your new container, last container started using:

$ docker ps -l

Using the name of the container as the ID, in writing this tutorial docker happened to assign the string "nostalgic_morse", we can start additional bash session in the same container by running:

docker exec -it nostalgic_morse bash

Once inside, we'll need to setup our environment. The best way to do this is to using the entrypoint script included in the docker image:

source ros_entrypoint.sh

If you ran the docker pull ros command, you will have a ROS 2 installation (dashing, foxy, etc.) try:

ros2 topic list

If you pulled a ROS1 Docker container tag (noetic, kinetic, etc.) try:


Stopping ROS containers

To stop containers, we merely need to stop the original processes run by docker run command. We can switch back to the terminal where roscore is running and hit ctrl-c to stop the ROS process, and then exit to terminate the bash shell. You can also use the docker CLI to tell the docker daemon to stop or remove the running container directly. Check the stop and rm docs here for details.

Wiki: docker/Tutorials/Docker (last edited 2020-08-10 20:42:20 by AdamAllevato)