Using Drake from Python

A limited subset of the Drake C++ functionality is available from Python. The Drake Python bindings are generated using pybind11, which means that every function or class which is exposed to C++ has been explicitly enumerated in one of the source files inside the bindings/pydrake folder. These bindings are installed as a single package called pydrake.

Python 2.7 is currently the only supported version for these bindings.

Building the Python Bindings

To use the Python bindings from Drake externally, we recommend using CMake. As an example:

git clone
mkdir drake-build
cd drake-build
cmake ../drake
make -j

Please note the additional CMake options which affect the Python bindings:

  • -DWITH_GUROBI={ON, [OFF]} - Build with Gurobi enabled.
  • -DWITH_MOSEK={ON, [OFF]} - Build with MOSEK enabled.
  • -DWITH_SNOPT={ON, [OFF]} - Build with SNOPT enabled.

{...} means a list of options, and the option surrounded by [...] is the default option. An example of building pydrake with both Gurobi and MOSEK, without building tests:


Using the Python Bindings

To use the Drake Python bindings, follow the build steps above or ensure that you have installed Drake appropriately. You will also need to have your PYTHONPATH configured correctly.

As an example, continuing from the code snippets from above:

cd drake-build
export PYTHONPATH=${PWD}/install/lib/python2.7/site-packages:${PYTHONPATH}

To check this:

python -c 'import pydrake; print(pydrake.__file__)'


If you are using macOS, you must ensure that you are using the python2 executable to run these scripts.

If you would like to use jupyter, then be sure to install it via pip2 install jupyter (not brew install jupyter) to ensure that it uses the correct PYTHONPATH.


If you are using Gurobi, you must either have it installed in the suggested location under /opt/... mentioned in Gurobi 7.5.2, or you must ensure that you define the ${GUROBI_PATH} environment variable, or specify ${GUROBI_INCLUDE_DIR} via CMake.

What’s Available from Python

The most up-to-date demonstrations of what can be done using pydrake are the pydrake unit tests themselves. You can see all of them inside the drake/bindings/python/pydrake/test folder in the Drake source code.

Here’s an example snippet of code from pydrake:

from pydrake.common import FindResourceOrThrow
from pydrake.multibody.rigid_body_plant import RigidBodyPlant
from pydrake.multibody.rigid_body_tree import RigidBodyTree
from import Simulator

tree = RigidBodyTree(
simulator = Simulator(RigidBodyPlant(tree))

If you are prototyping code in a REPL environment (such as IPython / Jupyter) and to reduce the number of import statements, consider using pydrake.all to import a subset of symbols from a flattened namespace or import all modules automatically. If you are writing non-prototype code, avoid using pydrake.all; for more details, see help(pydrake.all).

In all cases, try to avoid using from pydrake.all import *, as it may introduce symbol collisions that are difficiult to debug.

An example of importing symbols directly from pydrake.all:

from pydrake.all import (
    FindResourceOrThrow, RigidBodyPlant, RigidBodyTree, Simulator)

tree = RigidBodyTree(
simulator = Simulator(RigidBodyPlant(tree))

An alternative is to use pydrake.all to import all modules, but then explicity refer to each symbol:

import pydrake.all

tree = pydrake.multibody.rigid_body_tree.RigidBodyTree(
simulator =

For Developers

If you are developing Python bindings, please see the Doxygen page for Python Bindings. This provides information on programming conventions as well as tips for debugging.