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To help debug the problem, you could replace velocity_controllers/JointVelocityController with effort_controllers/JointVelocityController, then set each controller's PID parameters to appropriate values. This will cause DefaultRobotHWSim to use SetForce() instead of SetVelocity(). Links will still drop, however, because each PID controller will not apply any force to its joint until the joint has a non-zero velocity. The links will just drop slowly. The only way to prevent this with PID control is to use effort_controllers/JointPositionController, then set joint positions instead of velocities.