Building MAVSDK Library from Source

This section explains how to build and install the MAVSDK C++ library from source for all our target platforms.

Note that there are separate instructions to build the mavsdk_server.

Build the C++ Library

This section explains how to build the library along with its unit and integration tests.


The build requirements are git, cmake, and a compiler such as GCC, Clang, or MSVC.



sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install build-essential cmake git


sudo dnf update
sudo dnf groupinstall "Development Tools" "Development Libraries"
sudo dnf install cmake git

Arch Linux:

sudo pacman -Sy base-devel cmake git


First install XCode Command line tools:

xcode-select --install

And Homebrew (for cmake). Once you have installed brew, you can install cmake using brew in the terminal:

brew install cmake


To build the library in Windows, you need:

  • Build Tools for Visual Studio 2022: Download and install (only the "Visual C+ Build Tools" are needed from installer).
  • cmake: Download the installer and run it. Make sure to tick "add to PATH" during the installation.
  • git or any other tool to work with git.

Note: Building using Cygwin or MingW is not supported.

Getting the source

Download the source using git:

git clone

Make sure to get all the submodules as well:

git submodule update --init --recursive



To build the MAVSDK C++ Library for development, use the debug build.

Configure first, then build:

cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug -Bbuild/default -H.
cmake --build build/default -j8


Once you ship software, make sure to use the release build with optimizations turned on:


 cmake -Bbuild/default -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -H.
 cmake --build build/default -j8


cmake -Bbuild/default -H. -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release
cmake --build build/default -j8 --config Release

Note: It is not usual to use CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE on Windows (with MSVC), however, our build requires it for the dependencies which are built at configure time.

Installing the C++ Library

Installing builds the SDK and copies the libraries and header files into a "public" location so that they can be referenced by C++ applications (see Building C++ Apps).

System-wide Install

By default (when CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX is not set, cmake tries to install system-wide. For Linux/macOS that's /usr/local, for Windows it is somewhere in C:\Program Files.

To install system-wide the command needs to be run with sudo on Linux/macOS:

sudo cmake --build build/default --target install

or run in a command prompt with admin privileges on Windows, or using runas:

runas cmake --build build/default --target install

Make sure to prevent conflicts between libraries installed in your system. The mavsdk library installed via a .deb or .rpm file will be installed in /usr/ while the built library will be installed in /usr/local. It's recommended to only have one installed at any time to prevent conflicts.

Local Install

The install path can be set in the configure call using CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX:

For example, to install into the MAVSDK/install/ folder you would set the CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX variable to specify a path relative to the folder from which you call cmake (or an absolute path).

cmake -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release -DCMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX=install -Bbuild/default -H.
cmake --build build/default --target install

If you already have run cmake without setting CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX, you may need to clean the build first:

  rm -rf build/default

Once installed locally, you can then use the installed headers and library from the local folder by setting it using CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH.

For instance, to build the examples, you would do:

cd examples
cmake -DCMAKE_PREFIX_PATH=$(pwd)/../install -Bbuild -H.
cmake --build build -j8

MAVSDK uses the dialect common.xml by default. It does so by checking out the mavlink/mavlink repository at configure time and using Pymavlink to generate the C headers.

There are two options to change the default mentioned above.

Change dialect

If you need to build with a dialect other than common, you can specify that during the configure step:

cmake -Bbuild/default -DMAVLINK_DIALECT=mydialect -H.

If you also want to swap out the repository and git commit, you can do so in third_party/mavlink/CMakeLists.txt.

Provide C headers manually

Instead of depending on the generation of the MAVLink C headers as part of the cmake configure step, you can provide the generated C headers manually. This can be useful if you already have the headers generated in your worspace or CI, or if you don't have Python available during the configure step (e.g. as is the case for the dockcross images).

To provide the generated C headers manually, you have to set the path during the configure step:

Let's say the mavlink headers are "next to" the MAVSDK directory:

cmake -Bbuild/default -DMAVLINK_DIALECT=mydialect -DMAVLINK_HEADERS=../mavlink-headers -H.

Note that the structure of the headers needs to be like this:

mavlink-headers # <-- This is the directory referenced
└── mavlink
    └── v2.0
        ├── checksum.h
        ├── mydialect
        │   ├── mydialect.h
        │   ├── mavlink.h
        │   ├── mavlink_msg_...

Other build flags

During the configure step, there are various flags that an be set using -DFLAG=Value:

  • CMAKE_BUILD_TYPE: as documented above, to choose between Debug and Release build.
  • CMAKE_INSTALL_PREFIX: as documented above, to specify the directory in which to install library artefacts.
  • BUILD_SHARED_LIBS: set to ON to build dynamic libraries (such as .so on Linux, .dylib on macOS, .dll on Windows). Set to OFF to build static libraries (such as .a on Linux and macOS, .lib on Windows).
  • SUPERBUILD: set to OFF to use system dependencies instead of dependencies downloaded and built using cmake.
  • CMAKE_PREFIX_PATH: can be used to set the path where the dependencies can be found if SUPERBUILD is set to OFF.
  • BUILD_MAVSDK_SERVER: set to ON to build mavsdk_server, see instruction to build mavsdk_server.
  • ASAN: set to ON to enable address sanitizer.
  • UBSAN: set to ON to enable undefined behavior sanitizer.
  • LSAN: set to ON to enable leak sanitizer.
  • WERROR: set to ON to error on warnings, mostly used for CI.


Git submodules out of date

Some common build issues can be resolved by updating submodules and cleaning the distribution:

git submodule update --recursive
rm -rf build

Then attempt to build again.

MSVC vs. MingW

We only try to support building using MSVC, MingW is not working, mostly because the defines/flags for it are missing.

Undefined reference to mavsdk...

If you only just built the library and installed it system-wide may also need to update the linker cache.

On Linux this is done with sudo ldconfig.

© Dronecode 2017-2020. License: CC BY 4.0            Updated: 2023-03-09 01:10:03

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