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Flying Robot Commander

Alt Frankenstein Jr. and Buzz


This is beta version 0.3.5 of the Flying Robot Commander(FRC) and subject to major refactoring.


The Flying Robot Commander(FRC) is a web based, RESTful application for controlling multiple aircraft that use Paparazzi UAV and PPRZLink.

usage: [-h] [-i IP] [-p PORT] [-f FILE] [-g] [-c] [-s] [-v]

optional arguments:
  -h, --help            show this help message and exit
  -i IP, --ip IP        ip address
  -p PORT, --port PORT  port number
  -f FILE, --file FILE  use the specified client configuration file
  -g, --generate        generate a client configuration stub
  -c, --curl            dump actions as curl commands
  -s, --subscribe       subscribe to the ivy bus
  -v, --verbose         verbose mode

The default values for IP, PORT, and FILE, if not specified, are, 5000, and frc_conf.xml, respectively.

Getting Started

  • Make sure Python, Flask, and PPRZLink are installed.
  • Make sure the PAPARAZZI_SRC and PAPARAZZI_HOME enviroment variables are set.
    $ env | grep paparazzi
  • If they are not set add the following lines to your ~/.bashrc file:
    export PAPARAZZI_HOME="your paparazzi software directory"
    export PAPARAZZI_SRC="your paparazzi software directory"
  • Create a config file containing the aircrafts, flightblocks, waypoints, guided modes and status messages from paparazzi you would like to include. e.g. edit the example frc_conf.xml to match the names in the conf/conf.xml file found in your paparazzi installation.
  • Run $ python -f your_config_file.xml. The server should now be running.
  • Visit http://localhost:5000/show/flightblock/ in your browser and you should see the flightblock interface.

Running the Flying Robot Commander

Open a terminal window and type the following command:

$ python

FRC is a python based Flask application. Please reference the Flask documentation for the installation and usage of Flask. Here are some of the python packages(versions) needed by Flask:

  • Flask (0.10.1)
  • itsdangerous (0.24)
  • Jinja2 (2.8)
  • Werkzeug (0.11.3)

On startup, the FRC reads the main Paparazzi UAV configuration file $PPRZ_HOME/conf/conf.xml. Configuration data contained in the conf.xml and the associated airframe/flight plan files is used to initialize the FRC server. Note that the --subscribe option is also used to initialize runtime related aircraft data that includes ivy bus messages. It is recommended to start the FRC server prior to starting the Paparazzi server to acquire a complete message dictionary. The --file option is used to configure client related data( see frc_conf.xml for an example of the default client configuration file).

Configuration File: frc_conf.xml

The frc_conf.xml is an XML file used to configure the FRC views.


        ac_id   = "<aircraft id>"
        name    = "<aircraft name>"
        color   = "<color>"
        label   = "<label>"
        icon    = "<icon>"
        tooltip = "<tooltip>"
        fb_id   = "<flight block id>"
        name    = "<flight block name>"
        color   = "<color>"
        label   = "<label>"
        icon    = "<icon>"
        tooltip = "<tooltip>"
        wp_id   = "<waypoint id>"
        name    = "<waypoint name>"
        color   = "<color>"
        label   = "<label>"
        icon    = "<icon>"
        tooltip = "<tooltip>"
        gd_id   = "<guided id>"
        name    = "<guided name>"
        color   = "<color>"
        label   = "<label>"
        icon    = "<icon>"
        tooltip = "<tooltip>"
        name      = "<status name>"
        msg_name  = "<message name>"
        msg_key   = "<message key>"
        color     = "<color>"
        label     = "<label>"
        icon      = "<icon>"
        tooltip   = "<tooltip>"
        name      = "<template name>"
        rows      = "<number of rows>"
        cols      = "<number of columns>"

Flight block, waypoint, and guided blocks are ordered based on their order in the file(i.e. order is preserved). Either a valid block id or name attribute must be present in each block. If both are used, the name attribute overrideds the id attribute. The color attribute in a given block is used to specify the color to use when rendering the corrosponding button in the FRC. If the color attribute is not specified, the button defaults to white. The label attribute defines the text to display on a given button unless the icon attribute is specified. The icon attribute overrides the label attribute.

Example frc_conf.xml file:

    <aircraft     name="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_B" color="red"         label="1" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <aircraft     name="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_A" color="orange"      label="2" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <aircraft     name="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0"        color="green"       label="3" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <aircraft     name="Teensy_Fly_Quad"              color="deepskyblue" label="4" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <aircraft     name="Teensy_Fly_Hexa"              color="dodgerblue"  label="5" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <aircraft     name="Racer_PEX_Quad"               color="purple"      label="6" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="Start Motors"  color="lime"        label=""  icon="propeller.png" tooltip="Props On" />
    <flightblock  name="Takeoff"       color="green"       label=""  icon="aircraft-take-off.png" tooltip="Takeoff" />
    <flightblock  name="Standby"       color="deepskyblue" label="S" icon="" tooltip="Stdby" />
    <flightblock  name="stay_p1"       color="dodgerblue"  label="1" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="stay_p2"       color="yellow"      label="2" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="stay_p3"       color="gold"        label="3" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="stay_p4"       color="orange"      label="4" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="stay_HOV"      color="darkorange"  label="H" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <flightblock  name="land here"     color="orangered"   label=""  icon="aircraft-landing.png" tooltip="Land Here" />
    <flightblock  name="land"          color="red"         label=""  icon="aircraft-landing.png" tooltip="Land" />
    <flightblock  name="Holding point" color="darkred"     label=""  icon="propeller.png" tooltip="Props Off" />
    <waypoint  name="STDBY" color="deepskyblue" label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="p1"    color="dodgerblue"  label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="p2"    color="lime"        label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="p3"    color="green"       label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="p4"    color="gold"        label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="HOV"   color="orange"      label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="CAM"   color="orangered"   label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <waypoint  name="S1"    color="red"         label="" icon="" tooltip="" />
    <guided  name="Forward"          color="magenta"     label=""  icon="arrow-with-circle-up.png" tooltip="Forward" />
    <guided  name="Back"             color="purple"      label=""  icon="arrow-with-circle-down.png" tooltip="Back" />
    <guided  name="Left"             color="deepskyblue" label=""  icon="arrow-with-circle-left.png" tooltip="Left" />
    <guided  name="Right"            color="dodgerblue"  label=""  icon="arrow-with-circle-right.png" tooltip="Right" />
    <guided  name="Up"               color="lime"        label=""  icon="aircraft-take-off.png" tooltip="Up" />
    <guided  name="Down"             color="green"       label=""  icon="aircraft-landing.png" tooltip="Down" />
    <guided  name="Counterclockwise" color="gold"        label=""  icon="arrows-rotate-counterclockwise.png" tooltip="Counterclockwise" />
    <guided  name="Clockwise"        color="orange"      label=""  icon="arrows-rotate-clockwise.png" tooltip="Clockwise" />
    <guided  name="Guided"           color="orangered"   label="G" icon="" tooltip="Guided" />
    <guided  name="Nav"              color="red"         label="N" icon="" tooltip="Nav" />
    <status  name="GPS_PA"       msg_name="GPS_INT"               msg_key="pacc"         color="magenta"     label="GA" icon="" tooltip="GPS Position Accuracy" />
    <status  name="GPS_SC"       msg_name="GPS_INT"               msg_key="numsv"        color="purple"      label="SN" icon="" tooltip="GPS Satellite Count" />
    <status  name="GPS_STAT"     msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="gps_status"   color="deepskyblue" label="GS" icon="" tooltip="GPS Status" />
    <status  name="RC_STAT"      msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="rc_status"    color="dodgerblue"  label="RS" icon="" tooltip="RC Status" />
    <status  name="VOLT_STAT"    msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="vsupply"      color="lime"        label="VS" icon="" tooltip="Voltage Status" />
    <status  name="MOTOR_STAT"   msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="ap_motors_on" color="green"       label="M"  icon="" tooltip="Motors On/Off" />
    <status  name="FLIGHT_STAT"  msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="ap_in_flight" color="gold"        label="F"  icon="" tooltip="Aircraft On Ground/In Flight" />
    <status  name="AP_MODE"      msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_STATUS"     msg_key="ap_mode"      color="orange"      label="AP" icon="" tooltip="Autopilot Mode" />
    <status  name="NAV_STAT"     msg_name="ROTORCRAFT_NAV_STATUS" msg_key="cur_block"    color="orangered"   label="NS" icon="" tooltip="Navigation Block" />
    <layout name="flightblockredux"  rows="3" cols="7" />

Generating a Configuration Stub

The generate switch (-g, --generate) parses the Paparazzi conf.xml file and generates a FRC compliant xml for use in a custom FRC configuration file.

$ python -g
$ python --generate

    <aircraft name="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_B" color="orange" label="6" icon="" tooltip="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_B" />
    <aircraft name="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_A" color="yellow" label="7" icon="" tooltip="Teensy_Fly_Quad_Elle0_v1_2_A" />
    <aircraft name="Racer_PEX_Octo" color="purple" label="13" icon="" tooltip="Racer_PEX_Octo" />
    <flightblock name="Wait GPS" color="lime" label="1" icon="" tooltip="Wait GPS" />
    <flightblock name="Geo init" color="green" label="2" icon="" tooltip="Geo init" />
    <flightblock name="land" color="darkred" label="22" icon="" tooltip="land" />
    <waypoint name="STDBY" color="green" label="4" icon="" tooltip="STDBY" />
    <waypoint name="p1" color="gold" label="5" icon="" tooltip="p1" />
    <waypoint name="CAM" color="dodgerblue" label="10" icon="" tooltip="CAM" />
    <layout name="flightblockredux"  rows="3" cols="7" />

More likely than not, you will probably need to prune the output of this switch to only those aircraft, flight blocks and waypoints that are applicable to your use case.

Creating Customized Themes

FRC supports the creation of customized themes(i.e. colors, labels and icons). Here's an example of a custom klingon theme that uses a new_theme_name_conf.xml file and a set of theme specific icon images. The new theme related icon images should reside in ./static/images/new_theme_name folder. So, for our klingon example, there's a klingon_conf.xml file along with a set of icon images located at ./static/images/kilingon

Links to our custom theme configuration file and the associated icons:

Invocation & Screenshot:

$ python -f klingon_conf.xml

Alt Klingon Flight Block View

URL Parameters

Aircraft Coloring Scheme

Each row of aircraft buttons default to the colors specified for each block function, a column major view. This behavior can be overriden through the use of the view_mode URL parameter. If you would like to preserve/use the colors assigned to each aircraft for each row's color, set the view_mode URL paramater to row.


Each row of aircraft buttons will use the respective color assigned to each aircraft in the frc_conf.xml file, a row major view.

Alt Flight Block view_mode=row View

Resizing Buttons

The default button size is 64x64 pixels. Sometimes it is desireable to reduce or increase button sizes based on display variants. The button_size URL parameter is used to specify a desired button size. For example, to specify a button size of 50x50 pixels use the following:


Adding Client Data via Routes

If the --file option is not used when starting the FRC server, the client related configuration must be completed using the object/client/add/id routes; where object is one of aircraft, flightblock, or waypoint and id is a valid object id. The aircraft, flight block, and waypoint related client data need to be configured(see syntax below) prior to using one of the client views( show/flightblock, show/guided, show/waypoint).


- Aircraft Route: aircraft/client/add/<ac_id>
- Flight Block Route: flightblock/client/add/<fb_id>
- Waypoint Route: waypoint/client/add/<wp_id>

Example bash script that uses curl to configure client data for five aircraft with 10 shared flight blocks and 8 shared waypoints:

curl http://$host:$port/aircraft/client/add/215
curl http://$host:$port/aircraft/client/add/216
curl http://$host:$port/aircraft/client/add/217
curl http://$host:$port/aircraft/client/add/218
curl http://$host:$port/aircraft/client/add/219
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/3
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/4
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/6
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/7
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/8
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/9
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/12
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/32
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/33
curl http://$host:$port/flightblock/client/add/2
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/3
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/5
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/6
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/7
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/8
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/9
curl http://$host:$port/waypoint/client/add/10

Showing Client Views

Once the client related data is configured, the various client views of the FRC are available for use.


- Flight Block Route:       show/flightblock/
- Flight Block Redux Route: show/flightblockredux/
- Guided Route:             show/guided/
- Waypoint Route:           show/waypoint/
- Status Route:             show/status/

Assuming the server is running on the local host(ip=, type one of the following URL's into a browser(e.g. Chrome, Firefox, etc...) to execute the respective client view.

localhost:5000/show/status/   (NOTE: Inovke the FRC server with the -s/--subscribe option)

Remember to configure the aircraft, flight block, guided, waypoint and status client data prior to accessing the respective client view.

Flight Block View

Alt Flight Block View

Flight Block Redux View

Alt Flight Block Redux View

Alt Flight Block Redux View with WV_ICONS

Guided View

Alt Guided View

Waypoint View

Alt Waypoint View

Status View

The Status view relies on data supplied from the ivy message bus and the -s/--subscribe option must be used to populate this view. It is recommended to start the FRC server prior to starting the Paparazzi server to acquire a complete message dictionary.

python -i -s

Alt Status View

Video Demos:

Here are a couple of informal demo videos of the Flying Robot Commander; captured from Periscope broadcasts:


  • Add/improve software installation section in the README
  • Add more error handlers with appropriate feedback (this includes the None response for aircraft subset mismatches, etc....)
  • Add support for status view generation via -g switch, note -s switch dependency
  • Research ivy messaging inconsistencies when running live multi-MAV system tests
  • Add client routes by name (i.e. waypoint/client/add/stay_p1)
  • Revisit/refactor the button-to-command binding model
  • Add wiki topic/page in wiki
  • Document usage and testing strategies


  • Added distance/rotation controls/buttons to the guided view to facilitate refined aircraft guidance. Bump version to v0.3.5.
  • Added a flightblockredux view to facilitate an optimized UI with respect to large aircraft x flighblock datasets (i.e. >= 84 combinations/buttons). Bump version to v0.3.4.
  • Update styles.css and button sizes to improve support for iOS devices
  • Added support for resizing buttons(?button_size=x; where x is an even integer)
  • Added icons for the Status view and update documentation image
  • Added an Update button to the Status view that includes a timer interval refresh capability
  • Added initial support for a Status view
  • Added a feature that allows the aircraft colors specified in conf.xml to be used for each aircraft row(?view_mode=row)
  • Added Cam Circle flightblock to configuration files along with tooltip verbiage
  • Improved the output for the switch that generates a configuration file stub(-g)
  • Added view_mode URL parameters to enable/disable aircraft button color/tooltip attributes
  • Added documentation around adding a custom theme(i.e. klingon)
  • Updated PPRZLINK imports and bumped the version to 0.3.0
  • Started parsing XML with lxml library instead of ElementTree to hopefully improve parsing robustness
  • Added the option to generate a configuration file stub(-g)
  • Added support in frc_conf.xml for the following aircraft attributes: color, label, icon and tooltip
  • Added support for the following view attributes: color, label, icon and tooltip
  • Added refactoring of template views to handle dynamic button matrices
  • Completed refactoring of template views to handle dynamic button matrices
  • Added client configuration by name="string" in frc_conf.xml (i.e. name="stay_p1")
  • Added a client configuration file(-f switch to specify file name)
  • Fixed blocking/hanging http requests when using development server by setting threaded=True in method
  • Refactoring of template views to better deal with dynamic button matrices
  • Update route testing script
  • Remove static html files and associated img folder
  • Reduce http requests for group aircraft commands from N to 1
  • Consolidate/share CSS related UI controls across views
  • Integrate the use aircraft/flight plan configurations
  • Consolidate network related configurations with respect to IP addresses and port assignments
  • Completed first pass at Flask/Jinja2 template support for flightblock, guided and waypoint views
  • Added Flask/Jinja2 template support and refactor flightblock view using template approach
  • Parse configuration files and populate aircraft data objects on startup
  • Integrate real-time aircraft message handling features(-s switch to subscribe to ivy message bus)
  • Added curl code generation and ivy message interface tracing support(-c and -v, respectively)
  • Refactor with direct calls to the IvyMessagesInterface
  • Removed external python scripts:,,
  • Refactor code to use updated IvyMessagesInterface
  • Refactor python modules to use the pprzlink interface


Browser based Paparazzi UAV Mission Plan Control application



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