aerial robotics

In our ROS-aerial community working group, we had a meeting a few weeks ago to discuss education and tutorials within Aerial Robotics (see the ROS discourse thread here). The general conclusion was that there should be more courses and tutorials since the learning curve is too steep. But… is that actually the case? According to a LinkedIn post by Kimberly, asking for suggestions, we found out that might not be true! There are loads of tutorials out there! So in this blog post, we will provide an overview of the suggested tutorials and the ones that have materials available online.

Stable diffusion with prompt ‘A drone flying in front of a school blackboard’

Online books

One of the first suggestions was to explore the online free book titled ‘Small Unmanned Aircraft: Theory and Practice.’ This book has been written by Randy Beard and Tim McLain of Brigham Young University, and it covers everything from the absolute basics of coordinate frames and quadrotor dynamics to path planning and cameras. It is a must-read for anybody starting in UAVs and Aerial robotics.

The physical book can be found here:

The available PDFs can be accessed on GitHub:

Courses specified on Aerial Robotics

Here are some suggestions for courses specifically focused on Aerial Robotics. These received the most recommendations! Many universities have made their courses available online, accessible to anyone interested.

Coursera offers the ‘Robotics: Aerial Robotics’ course as part of the Robotics specialization. Taught by Prof. Vijay Kumar from Penn University, this 4-week course covers the mechanics and control of aerial vehicles using Matlab. It starts from 1 dimension and gradually progresses to the 3rd dimension in simulation. The course is part of a paid educational program, but you can audit the lessons for free.


Udacity has been offering a course on Aerial Vehicles for quite some time. The lessons are taught by top names in the industry and cover key aspects of Aerial Robotics, such as motion planning, controls, and estimation, with lab assignments involving a real drone. The course duration is 4 months, and access is available for a fee.


The University of Maryland offers a course on Autonomous Aerial Robotics, making all videos, slides, and assignments available. Taught by Nitin J. Sanket and Chahat Deep Singh, the course covers everything from basic control and dynamics to full autonomy. It’s a comprehensive resource for aerial robotics. The course utilizes the Parrot Bebop 2.0, and while a Mocap system is required, you may explore the possibility of adapting the course to a different platform.


Additionally, there’s the course ‘Applied Control System 3: UAV Drone (3D Dynamics & Control)’ which is part of a series by Mark Misin. This course delves deep into the dynamics, control, and modeling of quadrotors.


Courses specified on Robotics applied to UAVs

Here are some suggestions for courses that focus on robotics but utilize UAVs/drones to demonstrate the implementation of the studied materials.

‘Visual Navigation For Autonomous Vehicles’ is a course available on MIT Open Courseware, taught by Prof. Luca Carlone. As the name implies, the course primarily focuses on autonomous navigation for any autonomous vehicle. It includes exercises where students implement vision algorithms on both ground robots and drones. Additionally, the course covers working with ROS and applying the knowledge to a simulated drone in Unity.


The ‘Bio-inspired Robotics’ course at the University of Washington, led by Prof. Sawyer Fuller, explores the realm of drawing inspiration from nature rather than reinventing the wheel. It covers various robots inspired by creatures capable of swimming, walking, hopping, and of course, flying. Lab assignments in this course involve working with a Crazyflie drone.


Brown University offers a course called ‘Introduction to Robotics,’ taught by Prof. Stefanie Tellix. While the introduction covers generic robotics, the focus of the full course is on building and programming the Duckiedrone. The course dives straight into autonomy and also teaches students how to work with ROS.


Update (4th of July)

Princeton University (see this blogpost) have also decided to release their ‘Intro to Robotics’ lectures and materials for the public. Can’t believe I forgot this one!


Youtube tutorials

If you’d like to start hands-on right away, here are a couple of suggestions for YouTube tutorials or series about aerial robotics.

Drone Programming with Python: This popular tutorial/course teaches viewers how to program a real drone using Python with the DJI Tello. It offers a great opportunity for anyone looking for a short and enjoyable project to undertake, especially on a rainy day, while still working with a real platform.


Intelligent Quads YouTube Channel: This channel is entirely dedicated to creating autonomous UAVs, covering topics from Ardupilot to MAVlink to ROS and Gazebo. It appears to be a valuable resource for beginners in the field of autonomous UAVs.


But wait, there is more!

There are some extra recourses for you to also take a look at.

  • Self-Driving Car Specialization: If you are interested in learning more about SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) and sensors, this specialization is tailored for self-driving cars but the theory can be useful for drones as well. Link:
  • Drone Dojo: For those looking to build their own drones, Drone Dojo provides useful instructions and courses to get started on DIY drone projects. Link:

To conclude

Indeed, it appears that there are plenty of courses and tutorials available for people interested in getting started with aerial robotics. The range of resources is vast, and it’s possible that we might still be missing some, which could lead to a part 2 of this blog post in the future! And perhaps also we would need to delve into these to see why the learning curve is considered steep. However, aerial robotics is not an easy subject anyway so perhaps it is good to start from the basics. Nevertheless, this compilation should provide a solid starting point for anyone eager to delve into the world of aerial robotics. A major thank you to everyone who has contributed so far (linked to in the original LinkedIn post); your valuable input has made this possible!

If you have been following the ROS Discourse on a regular basis, you might have seen a bit more activity on the Aerial Vehicles category than usual. We very recently started an Aerial Robotics Working Group in collaboration with Dronecode Foundation! It will be a community-driven working group initially, but we will hold biweekly meetings on Wednesday at 2:00 PM UTC, and build up a community members and gather information on the ROS Aerial community’s Github organization. This blogpost aims to explain how this working group came to light, what our current plans are and how you can participate.

How did it all begin?

There are actually quite some aerial enthusiasts out there dwelling in the ROS crowd, which became evident when 20-30 people showed up at the impromptu ROScon 2022 aerial roboticists meetup. This was also our first experience with ROScon as Bitcraze, and I (Kimberly) absolutely loved it. The idea popped to be able to be more active in the amazing ROS community, which we started doing with helping out more with the Crazyswarm2 project (see this blogpost) and giving a presentation about it as well. However, we did notice that there wasn’t as much online chatter about Aerial Vehicles on the ROS communication channels. Yes, the Embedded ROS working group led by eProsima (responsible for MicroROS) has done some really cool demos with Crazyflies! And the same goes for any other aerial project, that has probably contributed to some of the other staple projects like NAV2. But there aren’t any working groups that are specific for aerial robotics.

Since PX4 led by Dronecode foundation had similar ambitions to be emerged into the ROS family, since we met in person at the very same ROScon last year, we started talking about possibly starting up a working group. This started with us reaching out to the ROS community for interest with this ROS discourse post and after 25 and more replies, the obvious thing was to set up an first explorative meeting. About 30 people showed up to this, so the message was clear: yes, there is a demand for guidance, structure, and information in the ROS community regarding aerial robotics. Thus, the aerial robotics working group was born!

Current state and plans

One of the observed issues is that we have noticed that is happening is that there there are numerous projects and information about aerial robotics, and perhaps too much. That is because aerial robotics consists of a huge variety of robotic systems in different forms like multicopters or even monocopters (like in the blogpost here) but also hybrid VTOL vehicles, mini blimps (for example this hack we done) and so many more. But as you probably know, aerial vehicles come with their own set of challenges that distinguish them from ground robots, like instability, aerodynamics, and limitations related to their lift capabilities. Therefore, it offers an interesting platform for control theory, autonomy, and swarming and as a result several ROS-related projects have emerged, such as Crazyswarm2, Aerostack2, Kumar Robotics Autonomy Stack and, Agilicious. Moreover, even though a standard ROS interface for aerial robotics has been created some years ago, it has not been enforced or updated since. And also, although courses and tutorials can be found here and there scattered around on multiple projects and autopilot websites to get started with aerial robotics in ROS, but many have found the learning curve to be quite steep and usually don’t know where to start.

Due to the vast amount of systems, software, projects and information out there, we decided to gather all this information in one centralized location as an Aerial Robotics landscape instead of scattering it across various aerial robotics resources, of which we have created a simple repository with markdown files. The idea is to fill this in little by little by info that we get from the working group discussions or other input of users, or research done by ourselves. For that, we will facilitate biweekly meetings, where users will present about their project (like our last meeting about Aerostack 2) or where we engage in discussions on various aerial robotics topics (like Aerial Autonomy stacks in the startup meeting).

Future ambitions

Currently, we don’t have a specific end goal or main project in mind, as we are right at the start of the first discussions and information gathering. That is also why it will be considered a ‘community driven’ working group after some emails back and forth with Open Robotics Foundation, until we reach a stage where the landscape is adequately developed to establish specific development goals. and set up various subprojects for communication, autonomy, platforms and/or education. Additionally, incorporating direct communication protocols within swarms could be of interest, as these are a common use case within aerial robotics. Once we have established more specific development goals, we can apply to be an official ROS working group, and collaborate with other workgroups on overlapping projects. From our perspective, it would be more beneficial for the ROS ecosystem not to create a standalone aerial stack, but enhance the integration of other stacks with aerial vehicles.

Join us!

Currently I (Kimberly) representing Bitcraze and Ramon Roche from Dronecode Foundation will be in the ‘lead’ of the Aerial working group, although we prefer to act as facilitators rather than imposing our own direction. We will try our best not to geek out too much on PX4 and/or Crazyflies alone, so therefore anybody’s input will be crucial! So if you’d like to levitate ROS to new heights, come and join our meetings! Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday the 24th of May (2 pm UTC), and you can find the information on this ROS Discourse thread. We hope to see you there!