Model structure and requirements


Gazebo is able to dynamically load models into simulation either programmatically or through the GUI. Models exist on your computer, after they have been downloaded or created by you. This tutorial describes Gazebo's model directory structure, and the necessary files within a model directory.

Models in Gazebo define a physical entity with dynamic, kinematic, and visual properties. In addition, a model may have one or more plugins, which affect the model's behavior. A model can represent anything from a simple shape to a complex robot; even the ground is a model.

Gazebo relies on a database to store and maintain models available for use within simulation. The model database is a community-supported resource, so please upload and maintain models that you create and use.

The Model Database Repository

The model database is a GitHub repository found here.

You can clone the repository using:

    git clone

Model Database Structure

A model database must abide by a specific directory and file structure. The root of a model database contains one directory for each model, and a database.config file with information about the model database. Each model directory also has a model.config file that contains meta data about the model. A model directory also contains the SDF for the model and any materials, meshes, and plugins.

The structure is as follows (in this example the database has only one model called model_1):

  • Database
    • database.config : Meta data about the database. This is now populated automatically from CMakeLists.txt
    • model_1 : A directory for model_1
      • model.config : Meta-data about model_1
      • model.sdf : SDF description of the model
      • model.sdf.erb : Ruby embedded SDF model description
      • meshes : A directory for all COLLADA and STL files
      • materials : A directory which should only contain the textures and scripts subdirectories
        • textures : A directory for image files (jpg, png, etc).
        • scripts : A directory for OGRE material scripts
      • plugins: A directory for plugin source and header files

Plugins Directory

This is an optional directory that contains all of the plugins for the model.

Meshes Directory

This is an optional directory that contains all of the COLLADA and/or STL files for the model.

Material Directory

This is an optional directory that contains all of the textures, images, and OGRE scripts for the model. Texture images must be placed in the textures subdirectory, and OGRE script files in the scripts directory.

Database Config

This is the database.config file in the root of the model database. This file contains license information for the models, a name for the database, and a list of all the valid models.

Note: The database.config file is only required for online repositories. A directory full of models on your local computer does not need a database.config file.

The format of this database.config is:

<?xml version='1.0'?>
  <license>Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported</license>
  • <name>

    The name of the database. This is used by the GUI and other tools.

  • <license>

    The license for the models within the database. We highly recommend theCreative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

  • <models>

    A listing of all the model URIs within the database.

    • <uri>

      The URI for a model, this should be file://model_directory_name

Model Config

Each model must have a model.config file in the model's root directory that contains meta information about the model.

The format of this model.config is:

<?xml version="1.0"?>

  <name>My Model Name</name>
  <sdf version='1.5'>model.sdf</sdf>

    <name>My name</name>

    A description of the model
  • <name> required

    Name of the model.

  • <version> required

    Version of this model.

    Note: This is not the version of sdf that the model uses. That information is kept in the model.sdf file.

  • <sdf> required

    The name of a SDF or URDF file that describes this model. The version attribute indicates what SDF version the file uses, and is not required for URDFs. Multiple <sdf> elements may be used in order to support multiple SDF versions.

  • <author> required

    • <name> required

      Name of the model author.

    • <email> required

      Email address of the author.

  • <description> required

    Description of the model should include:

    • What the model is (e.g., robot, table, cup)
    • What the plugins do (functionality of the model)
  • <depend> optional

    All the dependencies for this model. This is typically other models.

    • <model> optional

      • <uri> required

        URI of the model dependency.

      • <version> required

        Version of the model.

Model SDF

Each model requires a model.sdf file that contains the Simulator Description Format of the model. You can find more information on the SDF website.


Standard SDF file which can contain ruby code embedded. This option is used to programatically generate SDF files using Embedded Ruby code templates. Please note that the ruby conversion should be done manually (erb model.sdf.erb > model.sdf) and the final model.sdf file must be uploaded together with the model.sdf.erb (this one only for reference).

Examples of sdf.erb files are available in the gazebo_models repository (some of them use the deprecated suffix .rsdf). An easy ERB file is the which uses a simple loop.