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Data Collection from AirSim via Python API

Final result after 3D reconstruction is done with MetaShape

Github AirSim config repo

AirSim Environment Setup

First, we need a game world environment that supports AirSim. There are two options:

Here, we focus on the first option using a precompiled binary, but these instructions should also work in custom environments.

For this example, we’ll use the AirSim Neighborhood environment, which can be downloaded here:

Settings File

You’ll also need the settings.json file from the git repo to be placed in your AirSim directory. On a typical installation it’s set to C:\Users\<username>\Documents\AirSim. This tells the plugin important information about what types of cameras to use, image resolution, recording options, and lots of other settings. The provided settings.json file is a good starting point, and can be edited once you become familiar with the parameters available.

  "SeeDocsAt": "",
  "SettingsVersion": 1.2,
  "SimMode": "ComputerVision",
  "ViewMode": "NoDisplay",
  "Recording": {
    "RecordOnMove": true,
    "RecordInterval": 0.1,
    "Cameras": [
        { "CameraName": "front_center", "ImageType": 0, "PixelsAsFloat": false, "Compress": true }
  "CameraDefaults": {
    "CaptureSettings": [
        "ImageType": 0,
        "Width": 5472,
        "Height": 3648,
        "FOV_Degrees": 90,
        "AutoExposureSpeed": 100,
        "MotionBlurAmount": 0

Python Setup

An easy way to keep Python environments organized and independent is to use the Conda package manager, either as part of the full-featured Anaconda distribution, or as the minimal Miniconda installer. It’s recommended to setup the environment from an administrator terminal to , although this may not be required.

Once Conda is installed on your system, you can run

conda create --name sim python=3.8

to create a new Python 3.8 environment. (Note that we are using Python 3.8 due to some dependency issues with Open3D.)

Activate the new environment with

conda activate sim

Install the dependencies with

pip install open3d
pip install msgpack-rpc-python
pip install airsim
pip install pandas pillow tqdm

Collecting Data

We describe two methods for collecting data in AirSim: manual and scripted. For the manual approach, we will launch the AirSim runtime and control the drone camera with the keyboard. The scripted approach will use a Python script to move the drone to specified waypoints. Both approaches will save data in the AirSim recording format.

Start by running the Unreal environment with the AirSim plugin. For this example using the neighborhood map, unzip the binary package from above and run AirSimNH.exe. For other environments, launch the executable or put the Unreal Editor into “Play” mode. You may need to click inside the window to make it active. Make sure your settings.json file is stored in the correct location and is loaded properly.

Manual Recording (not applied)

In Computer Vision mode (set by the settings file), you can steer the drone camera with the following keyboard controls:

  • Arrow keys -> Move forward, backward, left, right
  • Page Up/Page Down -> Move up, down
  • A,D -> Yaw
  • W,S -> Pitch

Pressing Backspace will reset the drone to the original position.

Press R to start or stop recording. (Note that our settings file is configured to only record data frames when the drone has moved.) Once recording has started, data will be saved in a timestamped folder in your AirSim directory, C:\Users\<username>\Documents\AirSim. The recording directory contains a metadata file airsim_rec.txt that includes camera pose information for each frame. Inside the images directory, you will find the color and segmentation images stored as ‘png’ files, and the depth image data stored as a floating point array in the ‘pfm’ format. We will demonstrate how to use this data in the reconstruction section of this example.

Scripted Recording

In many cases, it may be preferable to automate the data collection process. An example script demonstrating how to generate waypoints in a “lawnmower” pattern is provided in It can be run with


This script connects to the AirSim drone using the Python API. It tells the drone to start recording and then moves between waypoints. Since the settings file is configured to record only after moving, it collects a new frame at each waypoint. The data is stored in a timestamped folder in your AirSim directory, C:\Users\<username>\Documents\AirSim.

The script defines a bounding region around the initial starting location, an altitude, and a step size. The units for working with AirSim are in meters. In the example, the bounds are set to +/- 100 m in the x and y directions, with an altitude of 50 m and a step size of 50 m. After each waypoint is generated, the AirSim API function simSetVehiclePose is called to move the drone and record a new frame. A short delay is included to ensure that the data from each waypoint has time to be written to disk. Including a delay can also help with loading assets into the Unreal environment after moving the camera.

This scripting approach can also be used for other collection patterns. Optionally, waypoints could be loaded from an external source, such as a CSV file, and then used to position the drone camera for each frame.

For more interactive control, it may be useful to use the AirSim Image APIs to access the image data directly in the Python code. We recommend the simGetImages function call, which can provide multiple image types simultaneously. More information can be found at

Published Apr 28, 2023

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