Robot Operating System (ROS) on NVIDIA Jetson TK1

Robot Operating System (ROS) was originally developed at Stanford University as a platform to integrate methods drawn from all areas of artificial intelligence, including machine learning, vision, navigation, planning, reasoning, and speech/natural language processing. You can now install it on the Jetson! Looky here:


From 2008 until 2013, development on ROS was performed primarily at the robotics research company Willow Garage who open sourced the code. During that time, researchers at over 20 different institutions collaborated with Willow Garage and contributed to the code base. In 2013, ROS stewardship transitioned to the Open Source Robotics Foundation.

From the ROS website:

The Robot Operating System (ROS) is a flexible framework for writing robot software. It is a collection of tools, libraries, and conventions that aim to simplify the task of creating complex and robust robot behavior across a wide variety of robotic platforms.

Why? Because creating truly robust, general-purpose robot software is hard. From the robot’s perspective, problems that seem trivial to humans often vary wildly between instances of tasks and environments. Dealing with these variations is so hard that no single individual, laboratory, or institution can hope to do it on their own.

Core Components

At the lowest level, ROS offers a message passing interface that provides inter-process communication. Like most message passing systems, ROS has a publish/subscribe mechanism along with request/response procedure calls. An important thing to remember about ROS, and one of the reason that it is so powerful, is that you can run the system on a heterogeneous group of computers. This allows you to distribute tasks across different systems easily.

For example, you may want to have the Jetson running as the main node, and controlling other processors as control subsystems. A concrete example is to have the Jetson doing a high level task like path planning, and instructing micro controllers to perform lower level tasks like controlling motors to drive the robot to a goal.

At a higher level, ROS provides facilities and tools for a Robot Description Language, diagnostics, pose estimation, localization, navigation and visualization.

You can read more about the Core Components here.


The original port over to the NVIDIA Jetson TK1 was done by Austin Hendrix.

On the ROS Wiki NVIDIA Jetson TK1 page, there are instructions for installing ROS on the Jetson. It is suggested that you install the Grinch kernel to start the installation so that you can harvest the many drivers that the Grinch provides. You can see how to install the Grinch Kernel on this blog entry.

After that, the standard Ubuntu installation instructions should work. For ease of installation, those instructions have been gathered up and turned in to a script. The script is available on the Github JetsonHacks account, in the installROS repository.

To install ROS on the Jetson:

$ git clone
$ cd installROS
$ ./

This will install ROS Indigo ros-base, rosdep, and rosinstall.

When asking questions or looking for help running ROS on the TK1, use the jetson_tk1 tag on ROS answers.

ROS has a huge number of packages to chose from (over 1700), it will be up to you to select which ones you need for your particular application. ROS is very much hands on. You should look at the installation script to make sure you understand the intent. The script is provided for ease of use.


This should be one of several entries on ROS. Subscribe to the usual JetsonHacks social thingies such as YouTube, Twitter, and the RSS feed of this blog to be kept up to date. The next installment should discuss workspaces and next steps to get ROS working.

Note: The installation in the video was done on a fresh Linux for Tegra (L4T) JetPack installation with the standard JetsonHacks postFlash done afterwards. The Grinch Kernel was applied immediately thereafter.