package com.arcrobotics.ftclib.controller

In FTCLib, there are controllers that can improve the motion of mechanisms in FTC. This includes PID control and feedforward control. For information on the theory behind PID control, we recommend reading this page in gm0.

PID Control

The following post from Noah in the FTC Discord best explains PID control.

You'll hear the term PID Controller used a lot (F is tacked on sometimes) in robotics. It's relatively simple and pretty effective at a lot of simple tasks. A PID controller is a form of "closed loop control." This basically just means you're altering an input to some "plant" based on feedback. This concept applies to a wide range of actions but we'll take a look at velocity PID control as that is what's relevant for this year's game. So say you have a goBILDA 3:1 1620RPM motor powering a flywheel. You want that flywheel to spin at a constant speed to ensure consistency between your shots. So you run a motor.setPower(0.5) which sends 50% of 12v to the motor. The motor is getting a 6v signal (technically not true bc of PWM but that's another topic). The motor should be running at 810 RPM right? That's 50% of 1620RPM. Chances are, it's not actually running at this speed. Motors have +- 10% tolerance between them. The voltage-torque curve isn't linear. Or there is something resisting the motor (like the inertia of the flywheel) so it takes extra power to get it up to that speed. So how do we actually ensure that our motor is running at exactly 810RPM? Most FTC motors come with an encoder built it. This allows us to measure the velocity of the output shaft. So with the encoder all hooked up, we know that our motor isn't spinning as fast as we want it to. But how do we actually correct for this? You slap a PID Controller on it. A PID controller is a pretty basic controller (despite the daunting equation when you look it up) that basically responds to your the difference between your measured velocity and desired velocity (error) and will add more or less power based on error. You just check the velocity every loop, feed the value in the controlled, and it gives you the power you want to set it to the desired velocity.

The following video does a good job explaining each gain:

Our base class is PIDFController for the FTCLib PID control scheme. This class performs the calculations for PIDF, which are proportional, integral, derivative, and feedforward values. The additional F term is an additional gain for creating offset, for purposes like maintaining a position, counteracting weight/gravity, or overcoming friction.

Using the PIDFController Class

Constructing a PIDFController

In order to use FTCLib's PIDF control functionality, users must first construct a PIDFController object with the desired gains:

// Creates a PIDFController with gains kP, kI, kD, and kF
PIDFController pidf = new PIDFController(kP, kI, kD, kF);

 * Here are the constructors for the other controllers
PIDController pid = new PIDController(kP, kI, kD);
PDController pd = new PDController(kP, kD);
PController p = new PController(kP);

You can also pass in an additional two parameters: the setpoint and previous value. The default values for these are 0.

You can also change the gain constants even after creating the controller object.

// set our gains to some value

// get our gain constants
kP = pidf.getP();
kI = pidf.getI();
kD = pidf.getD();

// set all gains
pidf.setPIDF(kP, KI, kD, 0.7);

// get all gain coefficients
double[] coeffs = pidf.getCoefficients();
kP = coeffs[0];
kI = coeffs[1];
kD = coeffs[2];
kF = coeffs[3];

These gains must be tuned. An example of tuning PID can be found on this page of Learn Road Runner.

Using the Feedback Loop Output

The calculate() method should be called each iteration of the control loop. The controller uses timestamps to calculate the difference in time between each call of the method, which means it adjusts based on the loop time. You can obtain the cycle time of your current loop iteration by calling getPeriod().

Using the constructed PIDFController is simple: call the calculate() method from the main loop.

// Calculates the output of the PIDF algorithm based on sensor
// readings. Requires both the measured value
// and the desired setpoint
double output = pidf.calculate(
    motor.getCurrentPosition(), setpoint

 * A sample control loop for a motor
PController pController = new PController(kP);

// We set the setpoint here.
// Now we don't have to declare the setpoint
// in our calculate() method arguments.

// perform the control loop
 * The loop checks to see if the controller has reached
 * the desired setpoint within a specified tolerance
 * range
while (!pController.atSetPoint()) {
  double output = pController.calculate(
    m_motor.getCurrentPosition()  // the measured value
m_motor.stopMotor(); // stop the motor

// NOTE: motors have internal PID control

Checking Errors

The methods getPositionError() and getVelocityError() are named assuming that the loop is controlling a position - for a loop that is controlling a velocity, these return the velocity error and the acceleration error, respectively.

The current error of the measured process variable is returned by the getPositionError() function, while its derivative is returned by the getVelocityError() function.

Specifying and Checking Tolerances

If only a position tolerance is specified, the velocity tolerance defaults to infinity.

As above, “position” refers to the process variable measurement, and “velocity” to its derivative - thus, for a velocity loop, these are actually velocity and acceleration, respectively.

Occasionally, it is useful to know if a controller has tracked the setpoint to within a given tolerance - for example, to determine if a command should be ended, or (while following a motion profile) if motion is being impeded and needs to be re-planned.

To do this, we first must specify the tolerances with the setTolerance() method; then, we can check it with the atSetPoint() method.

// Sets the error tolerance to 5, and the error derivative
// tolerance to 10 per second
pidf.setTolerance(5, 10);

// Returns true if the error is less than 5 units, and the
// error derivative is less than 10 units

Resetting the Controller

It is sometimes desirable to clear the internal state (most importantly, the integral accumulator) of a PIDFController, as it may be no longer valid (e.g. when the PIDFController has been disabled and then re-enabled). This can be accomplished by calling the reset() method.

Feedforward Control

So far, we’ve used feedback control for reference tracking (making a system’s output follow a desired reference signal). While this is effective, it’s a reactionary measure; the system won’t start applying control effort until the system is already behind. If we could tell the controller about the desired movement and required input beforehand, the system could react quicker and the feedback controller could do less work. A controller that feeds information forward into the plant like this is called a feedforward controller.

A feedforward controller injects information about the system’s dynamics (like a mathematical model does) or the intended movement. Feedforward handles parts of the control actions we already know must be applied to make a system track a reference, then feedback compensates for what we do not or cannot know about the system’s behavior at runtime.

There are two types of feedforwards: model-based feedforward and feedforward for unmodeled dynamics. The first solves a mathematical model of the system for the inputs required to meet desired velocities and accelerations. The second compensates for unmodeled forces or behaviors directly so the feedback controller doesn’t have to. Both types can facilitate simpler feedback controllers. We’ll cover several examples below.

FTCLib provides a number of classes to help users implement accurate feedforward control for their mechanisms. In many ways, an accurate feedforward is more important than feedback to effective control of a mechanism. Since most FTC mechanisms closely obey well-understood system equations, starting with an accurate feedforward is both easy and hugely beneficial to accurate and robust mechanism control.

FTCLib currently provides the following three helper classes for feedforward control. The feedforward components will calculate outputs in units determined by the units of the user-provided feedforward gains. Users must take care to keep units consistent as it does not have a type-safe unit system.


The SimpleMotorFeedforward class calculates feedforwards for mechanisms that consist of permanent-magnet DC motors with no external loading other than friction and inertia, such as flywheels and robot drives.

To create a SimpleMotorFeedforward, simply construct it with the required gains:

// Create a new SimpleMotorFeedforward with gains kS, kV, and kA
SimpleMotorFeedforward feedforward =
    new SimpleMotorFeedforward(kS, kV, kA);

Please note that the kA value is optional. If the mechanism does not have much inertia, then it is not required.

To calculate the feedforward, simply call the calculate() method with the desired motor velocity and acceleration:

// Calculates the feedforward for a velocity of 10 units/second
// and an acceleration of 20 units/second^2
// Units are determined by the units of the gains passed
// in at construction.
feedforward.calculate(10, 20);


The ArmFeedforward class calculates feedforwards for arms that are controlled directly by a permanent-magnet DC motor, with external loading of friction, inertia, and mass of the arm. This is an accurate model of most arms in FTC.

To create an ArmFeedforward, simply construct it with the required gains:

// Create a new ArmFeedforward with gains kS, kCos, kV, and kA
ArmFeedforward feedforward = new ArmFeedforward(kS, kCos, kV, kA);

To calculate the feedforward, simply call the calculate() method with the desired arm position, velocity, and acceleration:

// Calculates the feedforward for a position of 1 units,
// a velocity of 2 units/second, and
// an acceleration of 3 units/second^2
// Units are determined by the units of the gains passed
// in at construction.
feedforward.calculate(1, 2, 3);


The ElevatorFeedforward class calculates feedforwards for elevators that consist of permanent-magnet DC motors loaded by friction, inertia, and the mass of the elevator. This is an accurate model of most elevators in FTC.

To create a ElevatorFeedforward, simply construct it with the required gains:

// Create a new ElevatorFeedforward with gains kS, kG, kV, and kA
ElevatorFeedforward feedforward = new ElevatorFeedforward(
    kS, kG, kV, kA

To calculate the feedforward, simply call the calculate() method with the desired motor velocity and acceleration:

// Calculates the feedforward for a position of 10 units,
// velocity of 20 units/second,
// and an acceleration of 30 units/second^2
// Units are determined by the units of the gains passed
// in at construction.
feedforward.calculate(10, 20, 30);

Using Feedforward to Control a Mechanism

Feedforward control can be used entirely on its own, without a feedback controller. This is known as “open-loop” control, and for many mechanisms (especially robot drives) can be perfectly satisfactory. A SimpleMotorFeedforward might be employed to control a robot drive as follows:

public void tankDriveWithFeedforward(double leftVelocity,
                                     double rightVelocity) {

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