Using Rust for Robotics - A Complete Guide

Using Rust for Robotics - A Complete Guide

Get ready to dive into an innovative world where Rust programming language revolutionizes the sphere of robotics. This guide provides relevant, comprehensive knowledge about utilizing Rust in robotics applications, going from its benefits to hands-on examples of robotic projects using Rust. It's crafted to cater to both beginners and those with a little Rust and robotics experience.

What is Rust?

Rust is a multiparadigm systems programming language focused on safety, especially safe concurrency, and performance. As a language, Rust also emphasizes zero-cost abstractions, minimal runtime, and improved memory safety while still maintaining C++ level of performance.

Why Use Rust for Robotics?

Rust addresses two core requirements for robotics software. These are safety and concurrency. Safety ensures that the robotic software runs without crashes, security vulnerabilities, or memory-related bugs. Concurrency allows managing several operations simultaneously for complex tasks.

To understand better why Rust suits robotics, here are key advantages:

  1. Memory Safety without Garbage Collection: Rust's primary feature is memory safety but without the need for garbage collection, which can introduce latency issues in real-time systems like robotics.

  2. Efficient Concurrency Management: Rust natively supports "fearless concurrency", letting you exploit the full power of modern multi-core processors in your robotics applications.

  3. High-Performance: Rust gives you control over system resources, closely resembling languages like C++ in terms of speed and memory use. It's an ideal choice for resource-constrained robotics systems.

  4. Rich Type System and Ownership Model: These features make abstraction cost zero, meaning the run-time efficiency of your robotics application isn't compromised by layering additional abstractions necessary for the complex logic to work.

How to Get Started With Rust in Robotics?

To start using Rust in robotics, you need to install Rust on your device. For this, you can use rustup, which is the recommended way to install the Rust programming language.

curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSf | sh

After getting Rust installed, there are plenty of open-source robotics libraries available for Rust such as rosrust, rustbotics, kiss3d etc.

To develop an understanding of Rust, make sure to engage with the community, study existing projects, and refer to the documentation and tutorials available.

Examples of Rust in Robotics

  1. ROS Rust: It is an unofficial Rust project for the Robot Operating System (ROS). It allows writing ROS nodes natively Rust and provides message generation for ROS message, service, and action types.

  2. Google's Open-Source Project - Cartographer: A real-world example of Rust in robotics is the use of Rust in the development of Google’s Cartographer, a system that provides real-time simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) in 2D and 3D across multiple platforms and sensor configurations.

  3. Drone OS: This OS enables writing high-level code for drones in Rust, allowing developers to test their software in a simulator before deploying it on drones.


Q: Can Rust replace C++ in the future for robotics?

A: While Rust has several advantages over C++, a full-scale replacement of C++ by Rust in the near future is unlikely due to the vast amount of existing C++ codebase and libraries. However, Rust is already being adopted for new projects in robotics due to its benefits.

Q: What makes Rust's memory management unique?

A: Rust's memory management is unique due to its Ownership concept which prevents most common memory management errors. Rust ensures memory safety without the need for a garbage collector, eliminating the latency issues in real-time systems like robotics.

Q: Where to find resources for learning Rust for Robotics applications?

A: To understand Rust better for robotics, you can start with Rust's official documentation and The Rust Programming Language Book. Observing rust-embedded and rosrust projects, and understanding working code examples can greatly assist in learning. It also helps to actively participate in the Rust community for insights and guidance.

In conclusion, Rust, with its safety, speed, and zero-cost abstractions, offers promising capabilities for robotics. As you embark on your journey to use Rust in robotics, collaborate with the community, experiment with new projects, and dive into learning to unravel Rust's potential and reshape your robotics journey.

How to Write Embedded Rust

Writing embedded Rust involves a series of steps to set up and develop applications for embedded systems. Here's a high-level overview:

Setting Up Your Environment

  1. Install Rust: Use rustup, the Rust toolchain installer.
curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSf | sh
  1. Add the target for your embedded device: For example, for a Cortex-M microcontroller,
rustup target add thumbv7m-none-eabi

Creating a Project

  1. Create a new project:
cargo new --bin your_project_name
cd your_project_name
  1. Configure Cargo.toml: Add necessary dependencies and configuration specific to your target hardware.

Writing Code

  1. Main Function: Unlike standard Rust, embedded Rust doesn't always use main(). It depends on your target.
  2. No Standard Library: Embedded Rust typically uses #![no_std] attribute to exclude the standard library.
  3. Hardware Abstraction Layer (HAL): Use the HAL that corresponds to your microcontroller.
  4. Interrupts and Concurrency: Implement as required for your application.

Building and Flashing

  1. Build your application:
cargo build --target your_target
  1. Flash the binary to the microcontroller using tools like openocd or J-Link.


  1. Use gdb for debugging. Set up a debugging environment compatible with your hardware.

Best Practices

  1. Safety: Leverage Rust's safety features to prevent common bugs.
  2. Modularity: Keep your code modular for easier testing and maintenance.
  3. Documentation: Document your code for future reference and for others.

This is a simplified guide. Embedded systems vary greatly, so adjust these steps to suit your specific hardware and project requirements.

Why Rust is Efficient for Robotics

Robotics is a field that demands both reliability and performance. As robots become increasingly integrated into critical tasks, the need for a programming language that can deliver both becomes paramount. Rust, known for its performance and safety, emerges as an ideal candidate. Here’s why:

1. Memory Safety Without Garbage Collection

Rust provides memory safety without relying on garbage collection, a feature crucial for robotics where deterministic execution is key. This aspect ensures predictable performance, a must-have in real-time robotic applications.

// Example: Rust's ownership model ensures memory safety
fn main() {
    let sensor_data = vec![1, 2, 3, 4];
    // Rust's borrow checker ensures no invalid memory access here

2. Concurrency Without Data Races

Rust's ownership model and type checking eliminate data races, enabling safe concurrency. This is essential in robotics where multiple processes like sensor data processing and actuator control must occur simultaneously.

// Example: Safe concurrency in Rust
use std::thread;

fn main() {
    let data = vec![1, 2, 3, 4];

    thread::spawn(move || {
        // Safe concurrent access
        println!("{:?}", data);

3. Interoperability with C

Rust's ability to interoperate with C allows it to leverage existing robotics libraries written in C. This makes it easier to integrate Rust into existing robotic systems and utilize a vast ecosystem of C-based tools and libraries.

// Example: Interoperating with C
extern "C" {
    fn c_library_function(arg: i32) -> i32;

fn main() {
    unsafe {

4. Cross-Platform Development

Rust supports cross-platform development, a critical feature for robotics applications that may run on diverse hardware platforms, from high-end computers to microcontrollers.

5. Robust Ecosystem and Modern Tooling

Rust has a growing ecosystem with powerful tools like Cargo for package management and a wide range of libraries for robotics applications, making development more efficient and less error-prone.

Conclusion Rust's unique blend of performance, safety, and modern features positions it as a highly efficient language for robotics. Its ability to handle complex, concurrent processes safely and efficiently, while interacting seamlessly with existing C libraries, makes Rust a compelling choice for modern roboticists.