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Autonomous (SITL) Flight Simulation Tutorial

Updated: Oct 10, 2023

In this tutorial, you will learn how to carry out Software-In-The-Loop (SITL) drone simulation within SIMNET using ArduPilot or PX4.


In order to carry out SITL simulation, you will need to use a 3rd party Ground Control Station software, such as Mission Planner, or QGround Control. Download and install these on your device of choice. Note that these can run on any internet-connected device, and don't need to be installed on the same computer where SIMNET is running.

If you wish to carry out fully autonomous flights, you will not need a controller. However, if you want to combine autonomous and manual flight, you will need to configure your controller with SIMNET in order to fly your aircraft manually. Please see our Controller Setup Tutorial for more information.

General Usage

  1. Load Your Aircraft: Click on 'Aircraft->Load...' in the toolbar, and load an aircraft that is set up for SITL simulation. In SIMNET, any aircraft that says 'ArduPilot' or 'PX4' in its name (for example, the 'T55 Quadcopter ArduPilot') is set up for SITL simulation.

  2. Load Your Flight Location: Click on 'Location->Load...' and select your flight location of choice. If you want to create a custom flight location, please follow our Custom Flight Locations Tutorial.

  3. Select Your Layout: You may wish to use only one simulation view or combine multiple at a time. For example, when flying an aircraft with a camera, you may choose to have the pilot's point of view on the left, and the camera point of view on the right. To open a new simulation pane, click on 'New Pane->Simulation' on the toolbar, then you can drag the pane to the desired location by dragging the 'Simulation' label on top of the toolbar. Use the 'View' button to select the desired view on each simulation pane. Alternatively, you may load a preset layout using the 'Layouts' button on the toolbar, such as the 'Simulate (Pilot and Camera Views)' layout.

  4. Connect Your Ground Control Station: Open your ground control station software, and create a new TCP connection, using the IP and Port provided in SIMNET under the 'Ground Control Station' toolbar button. Connect the Ground Control Station to SIMNET.

  5. Start Simulating: Use the Ground Control Station to create and upload an autonomous mission plan to your aircraft. Once done, initiate the arming process through the same station to commence the flight. Additionally, the Ground Control Station allows you to switch the aircraft to a manual control mode, like 'Position' mode. This will allow you to manually pilot the aircraft with the controller, after arming the aircraft. To reset the simulation, either press the space bar or select 'Simulation->Reset'.

Tutorial Videos

Below are some videos demonstrating this process for specific Ground Control Station software.

SITL Simulation Using Desktop Version of QGroundControl

SITL Simulation Using Mobile Version of QGroundControl

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