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I can't answer all of your questions, but I think I can answer how to add the model. We can take advantage of the fact that sdf supports nested models. Make a copy of the ardrone sdf and add the velodyne model to it. Then, all the plugins in the velodyne model should be active as a part of your model, and whatever topics they publish should be there. You can subscribe to them in ROS just like the other sensors on the ardrone.

I can't answer all of your questions, but I think I can answer how to add the model. We can take advantage of the fact that sdf supports nested models. Make a copy of the ardrone sdf and add the velodyne model to it. Then, all the plugins in the velodyne model should be active as a part of your model, and whatever topics they publish should be there. You can subscribe to them in ROS just like the other sensors on the ardrone.

[EDIT in response to comment] Ahh ok. As is shown in this tutorial, the lidar is simulated using a native gazebo rangefinder sensor. You're using urdf, so you'd have to use the special <gazbeo> tag in sdf. More on that tag can be found here You should be able to place the sdf from the velodyne model (the <sensor> tag the very at least) in <gazebo> tags in your URDF