RAFCON: A Graphical Tool for Task Programming and Mission Control

  • Sebastian G. BrunnerEmail author
  • Franz SteinmetzEmail author
  • Rico Belder
  • Andreas Dömel
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9776)


There are many application fields for robotic systems including service robotics, search and rescue missions, industry and space robotics. As the scenarios in these areas grow more and more complex, there is a high demand for powerful tools to efficiently program heterogeneous robotic systems. Therefore, we created RAFCON, a graphical tool to develop robotic tasks and to be used for mission control by remotely monitoring the execution of the tasks. To define the tasks, we use state machines which support hierarchies and concurrency. Together with a library concept, even complex scenarios can be handled gracefully. RAFCON supports sophisticated debugging functionality and tightly integrates error handling and recovery mechanisms. A GUI with a powerful state machine editor makes intuitive, visual programming and fast prototyping possible. We demonstrated the capabilities of our tool in the SpaceBotCamp national robotic competition, in which our mobile robot solved all exploration and assembly challenges fully autonomously. It is therefore also a promising tool for various RoboCup leagues.



This work has been funded by the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Germany as part of the project RACELab, by the Helmholtz Association, project alliance ROBEX, under contract number HA-304 and by the European Commission under contract number FP7-ICT-608849-EUROC.


  1. 1.
    André, C.: SyncCharts: a visual representation of reactive behaviors. Rapp. de Recherche TR95-52 Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis (1995)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
  3. 3.
    Baillie, J.C., Demaille, A., Hocquet, Q., Nottale, M., Tardieu, S.: The urbi universal platform for robotics. In: First International Workshop on Standards and Common Platform for Robotics (2008)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bohren, J., Cousins, S.: The SMACH high-level executive [ROS news]. IEEE Rob. Autom. Mag. 4(17), 18–20 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Bohren, J., Rusu, R.B., Jones, E.G., Marder-Eppstein, E., Pantofaru, C., Wise, M., Mösenlechner, L., Meeussen, W., Holzer, S.: Towards autonomous robotic butlers: lessons learned with the PR2. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2011 IEEE International Conference on, pp. 5568–5575 (2011)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chang, D., Dooley, L., Tuovinen, J.E.: Gestalt theory in visual screen design: a new look at an old subject. In: Proceedings of the Seventh World Conference on Computers in Education Conference on Computers in Education: Australian Topics, vol. 8, pp. 5–12. Australian Computer Society, Inc (2002)Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Côté, C., Létourneau, D., Michaud, F., Valin, J.M., Brosseau, Y., Raïevsky, C., Lemay, M., Tran, V.: Code reusability tools for programming mobile robots. In: Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), IEEE/RSJ International Conference on, pp. 1820–1825 (2004)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Harel, D.: Statecharts: a visual formalism for complex systems. Sci. Comput. Program. 8(3), 231–274 (1987)MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Jentzsch, S., Riedel, S., Denz, S., Brunner, S.: TUMsBendingUnits from TU Munich: RoboCup 2012 logistics league champion. In: Chen, X., Stone, P., Sucar, L.E., van der Zant, T. (eds.) RoboCup 2012. LNCS, vol. 7500, pp. 48–58. Springer, Heidelberg (2013). Scholar
  10. 10.
    Kelly, J.F.: LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G Programming Guide. Apress, New York City (2010)Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Krithivasan, K.: Theory of Automata, Formal Languages and Computation. New Age International (P) Ltd., New Delhi (2014). ISBN (10): 81-224-2334-5. ISBN (13): 978-81-224-2334-1Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Leidner, D., Borst, C., Hirzinger, G.: Things are made for what they are: solving manipulation tasks by using functional object classes. In: Humanoid Robots (Humanoids), 12th IEEE-RAS International Conference on, pp. 429–435 (2012)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Mcdermott, D., Ghallab, M., Howe, A., Knoblock, C., Ram, A., Veloso, M., Weld, D., Wilkins, D.: PDDL - the planning domain definition language. Tech. Rep, Yale Cent. Comput. Vis. Control (1998)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Nguyen, H., Ciocarlie, M., Hsiao, K., Kemp, C.: ROS commander (ROSCo): behavior creation for home robots. In: Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2013 IEEE International Conference on, pp. 467–474 (2013)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Navarro Prieto, R., Cañas, J.J.: Are visual programming languages better? The role of imagery in program comprehension. Int. J. Hum Comput Stud. 54(6), 799–829 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Quigley, M., Conley, K., Gerkey, B., Faust, J., Foote, T., Leibs, J., Wheeler, R., Ng, A.Y.: ROS: an open-source robot operating system. In: ICRA Workshop on Open Source Software, vol. 3 (2009)Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Resnick, M., Maloney, J., Monroy Hernández, A., Rusk, N., Eastmond, E., Brennan, K., Millner, A., Rosenbaum, E., Silver, J., Silverman, B., et al.: Scratch: programming for all. Commun. ACM 52(11), 60–67 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Schuster, M., Brand, C., Brunner, S., Lehner, P., Reill, J., Riedel, S., Bodenmüller, T., Bussmann, K., Büttner, S., Dömel, A., Friedl, W., Grixa, I., Hellerer, M., Hirschmüller, H., Kassecker, M., Marton, Z.C., Nissler, C., Rueß, F., Suppa, M., Wedler, A.: The LRU rover for autonomous planetary exploration and its success in the SpaceBotCamp challenge. In: Submitted to IEEE International Conference on Autonomous Robot Systems and Competitions (ICARSC) 2016 (2016)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Wedler, A., Rebele, B., Reill, J., Suppa, M., Hirschmüller, H., Brand, C., Schuster, M., Vodermayer, B., Gmeiner, H., Maier, A., Willberg, B., Bussmann, K., Wappler, F., Hellerer, M.: LRU-Lightweight Rover Unit. In: ASTRA (2015)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Widmoser, H.: Interaction planning for collaborative human-robot assembly tasks. Master’s thesis, TU München (2012)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Robotics and Mechatronics Center (RMC) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR)WesslingGermany

Personalised recommendations