Adapt an UE project to Parrot Sphinx#

To be able to use your project with Parrot Sphinx, you must adapt the 3D environment and the project settings.

Running Unreal Engine Editor#

Once the editor is built and installed, you can start creating or editing an Unreal Engine project.

To create a new project, just start the editor and follow the instructions:

$ /opt/parrot-ue4-editor/Engine/Binaries/Linux/UE4Editor

To open an existing project:

$ /opt/parrot-ue4-editor/Engine/Binaries/Linux/UE4Editor </absolute/path/to/project.uproject>

Renaming levels [mandatory]#

All levels belonging to the projects should follow the rules below.

  • A level name should be written following the snake_case convention. No capital letter is allowed.

  • There must always be a level named main.

  • The main level should be the project default map. You need to set it in your project settings.

Adding spawnpoints [mandatory]#

The world requires at least one spawn point (or TargetPoint, in Unreal vocable). One of the created TargetPoints must be named default.

TargetPoints are actors used to specify where the drone will be spawned when the simulation starts. Before creating any new spawnpoint make sure you delete all the existing ones, to avoid sending false information to Parrot Sphinx.

To create a spawnpoint, go in the left panel, tab Place. Select All Classes and search for TargetPoint. To add one spawnpoint you should drag and drop it from the Place Actors panel to the desired location.


Once your spawnpoint is added to the world and you want to change its name, just select it in the World Outliner panel and rename it.


Note that the name that will be used by Parrot Sphinx is not the one shown in the panel but the one displayed when you hover with your mouse over it, the ID Name, and normally the editor name and the ID Name are the same but you should pay attention to that.


Finally, you need to adjust the spawnpoint height to 20 centimeters above the floor so the drone can be dropped smoothly with no damage.

Adding Parrot Sky#

If your scene is outdoor, it is highly recommended to use the Parrot Sky as simulated sky. This way, several runtime parameters controlling lights, shadows, and sky will be activated. To do that, you need to enable the Show Engine Content parameter in the Content Browser.


Once enabled, go to the folder named Parrot under the Engine Content, you will find an object named BP_ParrotSky in the Sky folder. Drag and drop that object into your world.

If you want to have the same visual effects of the world before adding the new sky, you need to copy the same parameters values from the old components to the new components.

The sky contains two visual modes and two lighting modes. The two visual modes are “Volumetric clouds” and “HDRI” and the two lighting modes are “Normal lights” and “Physical based lights” which are commonly named “intense lights”.

To adjust “Volumetric clouds” mode, you need to edit the material of the volumetric mesh. To do so, you need to create a material instance from the parent material under Engine/Content/Parrot/Sky/Materials/Volumetrics/Base/M_VolumetricClouds. To create the instance, you need to right click on the material and select Create Material Instance.


Once the instance is created, you need to assign it as material for the instance of Parrot Sky placed in the world.


Please make sure that you are editing the instance of ParrotSky not the original blueprint in the engine.

Now, when the material is set to the mesh, you can open the instance and edit it to create you custom volumetric material.


Make sure you move the instance from the engine folder to main project folder.

To adjust “HDRIs” parameters, same thing but the material is under Engine/Content/Parrot/Sky/Materials/HDRI/M_PanoramaSky.

Note that all those parameters to adjust are the default parameters to have when you run the simulation. You will be able also to adjust your environment parameters from the Web dashboard or sphinx-cli.

Adding AMS paths#

Here, this part shows how to create a predefined path that pedestrians and vehicles will be able to follow.

First of all, you need to enable the Engine contents, the same as with the sky, and then add the actor named SplineDef to the desired location. Then, Select the SplineDef actor in the content browser and drag and drop it in the desired location in the 3D scene.


The default path is defined by two waypoints forming a spline. But you can add as many waypoints as you want, and you can make your path as long as you desire.

To add a waypoint, you need to right-click on the spline where you want to add it and select Add Spline Point Here.


You can change a single waypoint location by selecting it and translating it where you desire.


Some properties can be adjusted for each path, such as:

  • Whether the path is a closed loop or not.

  • The pedestrian behavior beyond the related waypoint.

  • The vehicle speed beyond the related waypoint.

You can choose whether your path is a closed loop or not by selecting the Spline Component of your path in the “details” panel, then in the Spline Tab, you can check the Closed Loop option to make a closed-loop path.




Besides, you can choose the pedestrian behavior, beyond the related waypoint, by editing the behavior parameter in the path properties.

You can choose one of these behaviors:

  • Walk, the default behavior

  • Run

  • Stop

Also, you can choose the vehicle speed in km/h, beyond the related waypoint, by editing the vehicle speed parameter in the path properties.

The default speed is 15 km/h and the max speed is 150 km/h.


Adding Areas#

Areas are 3D volumes that do not physically exist in the world but can be requested via the web dashboard. For example, you might use areas to represent target areas to use with the Pove tool.

Areas are represented by Trigger Volume actors. Trigger Volumes can be created by selecting the Trigger Volume type from the Volumes tab on the Place Actors panel and dragging and dropping it into the level viewport.

In Unreal Engine, Trigger Volumes are Actors that are used to cause an event to occur when they are interacted with by some other object in the world. For example, the light is turned on when a persons enters a room. Entering the room for Unreal Engine is overlapping with the boundaries of the volume, and thus the event gets triggered.

With Parrot Sphinx, interacting with the world elements is not wanted, so make sure you delete all the existing Trigger Volumes in the world to prevent Unreal from sending false information to Parrot Sphinx.

Once the Volume has been placed in the level, you can resize or reposition it as you see fit. Scaling the Volume is not recommended. You should modify the Brush Settings in the Details panel instead.


Adding 3D background#

3D backgrounds are used to hide the empty space on the edge of the maps and to hide the horizon.

3D backgrounds are huge meshes in the form of mountains with a reasonable amount of vertices and triangles to keep good performances when being added to the environments.




To add the backgrounds, you need to migrate the content from other projects that already have them. Let’s take for example “industrial_city”. Under the content folder, you will find a folder named Environment. Right-click on it, and click Migrate then choose the path to the Content folder of your project.

Once the backgrounds are migrated, open your new project, and under the folder Environment, you will find all the available backgrounds. The content is a bunch of separated meshes that you need to assemble to have an appropriate mountain. It is not so simple to assemble them, so it’s recommended to open the map named Overview_Map under Content/Environment/PhotoR_Backgrounds/Maps and copy-paste the desired mountain.


You need to select all the meshes making the mountain and copy/paste them together to keep their relative locations. Once you paste them into your new map, you need to scale them to fit well with the map.

Adjusting transparent shaders [mandatory]#

Some objects use translucent shaders to imitate the transparency behavior, such as windows and glasses, etc… The problem with those materials is that they don’t appear in the depth cameras and the segmentation shaders used by the simulated drone.

To avoid having this problem, there are some settings you need to set in the material parameters:

  • Allow custom depth writes => true

  • opacity mask clip value => 0

Modifying animated shaders [mandatory]#

Some objects have animated vertices, for example, trees and bushes. Those objects are animated by their materials using the World position offset property. This type of animation cannot be controlled at runtime. To be able to do that you need to adjust those materials by adding a collection parameter as a multiplier to the value connected to the property. As shown below:




Manually adding the collection and searching for translucent materials to edit their properties is too slow in case there are many materials, so it is recommended to use the python plugin and the script found under: /opt/parrot-ue-sdk/

This script will edit all the selected materials in the Content Browser and compile and save them.

To do so, you need to enable the python plugin within the Unreal Engine’s editor, under Edit > Plugins > Scripting > Python Editor Script Plugin.


A small hint about the material selection. You can filter your content browser by type. Thanks to that, you can filter by Material while you are in the root folder of your content. This will show all the materials of the project and you can select them.


It is also recommended, in case there are a lot of materials, to select multiple materials at once. For example, select up to 20 materials at a time and run the python script, when it is done, select 20 more, etc … This will avoid having the editor crash.

Now all you need to do is select the materials, run the python script using the UE4 terminal found in the output log window, and wait until it ends. When it ends, all the materials using the WPO property will be edited and the collection will be added to them and all the translucent materials will have their properties set.

The collection added to the materials using WPO will be used to control those animations with the Parrot Sphinx dashboard.


About foliage & performance#

In Unreal Engine, there is a feature named “Foliage”. It allows us to paint different objects on the landscape’s surface with better performance than placing the same objects as actors. It unites groups of meshes in clusters, which will be rendered at the same time making this process more efficient. Using “Instanced Static Mesh Components”, all the objects in a cluster will be drawn on the screen at the same time.

You can improve the performances related to the foliage by adjusting some parameters in the foliage and in the mesh itself.

Optimizing with cull distance#

Cull Distance is an optimization tool provided by Unreal Engine that allows for meshes to be culled (not drawn to the screen) based on the distance between the camera and the mesh itself and its size.


To adjust the cull distance, open the foliage mode, select the type of mesh you want to edit, search for cull distance and adjust the min and max distances.


Be aware that the higher value you put in the cull distance, the more it consumes in terms of resources.

Optimizing with Screen size#

Each mesh has different Levels Of Details, aka LOD. Each LOD has some details of the mesh to be shown when it is selected by the engine. Based on variable distance, the object’s complexity, or textures resolution will gradually decrease to optimize performance.




The transition between two levels of details is done based on a variable named Screen size. This variable defines when to swap from one mesh to the other as the camera moves closer or farther away.


Replacing imposters [mandatory]#

Some meshes use imposters as the last LOD. Imposters are sprites that use flipbook style textures to store a view of a Static Mesh from a number of views stored in a texture. The result is a sprite that matches the original mesh very well in terms of the material and lighting. However, it leads to some undesired effects in Parrot Sphinx (for example with the fisheye camera).

That’s the reason why you need to replace the imposters with geometric LODs.

To identify the imposters, you need to switch to the last LOD, and check if it is a 2D sprite or not, as shown in the video below.


Some imposters are in 3D. You don’t need to replace them.

To replace the imposters, you need to remove the LOD containing them and create a new one.

To remove one LOD, you need to select it using the LOD picker menu and remove it with the Remove LOD button.


Once the LOD is removed, you can either create manually a new LOD by manually setting its parameters and reduction settings, or ask the engine to recreate automatically all the LODs and set their settings. The easiest way is to ask the engine to do it all automatically, but the best way is to manually create one LOD and adjust its reduction settings to have the best trade-off between the visual and the complexity of the LOD. Because some LODs could be imported from meshes, 3D artists can create custom meshes and import them into Unreal Engine as LODs. But when the editor regenerates the LODs, it removes the existing LODs and replace them with new ones. The new LODs will be the base mesh with reductions applied on the number of its triangles.

To manually add a new LOD, you need to:

  • Increment the total number of LODs.

  • Select the new LOD and set its screen size and reduction settings.

  • Click on apply changes to apply your new settings.

To automatically recreate new LODs:

  • Set the wanted number of LODs, the total number.

  • Check the option Auto compute LOD distances

  • Apply changes

More details are in UE4’s documentation.

Disable post process effects for fisheye cameras#

Some post-processing effects may introduce artifacts like seams in video frames produced by wide-angle camera sensors. If you plan to simulate fisheye cameras, you should consider applying the following changes:

  • In you project settings, Screen Space Global Illumination must be disabled.

  • If your scene contains an exponential height fog or an atmospheric fog, make sure that their Volumetric Fog property is disabled.

  • Directional lights must not generate light shafts. If you have directional lights in your scene, make sure that their Light Shaft Occlusion and Light Shaft Bloom properties are disabled.

Setting stencil IDs#

Stencil ids are numbers (between 0 and 255) given to meshes to be used with the segmentation cameras in case the parameter OverrideExisting is set to true in the stencil file. See the segmentation camera for more details.

You can give any value you want to any object you want in the environment, but it is recommended to give them certain values to some types of objects.

Here’s a list of reserved values in the segmentation page

To set the wanted stencil values, you need to select the static mesh component, search for CustomDepth Stencil Value, and set it to your custom value.

Configuring the GameMode [mandatory]#

The GameMode is an Unreal Engine class used to set some default configurations for the simulation, for example, the pawn to use when a simulation gets started, etc …

GzUE4Bridge comes with its own GameMode. So you need to make sure that the project doesn’t use any GameModes.

To do so, you need to set the world game mode to None and the project default game mode to the Unreal Engine base game mode.

_images/world_gamemode.jpg _images/project_gamemode.jpg

Customizing .ini files [mandatory]#

To be used with Parrot Sphinx, the unreal project will be built with different plugins. The main plugin is GzUE4Bridge. As mentioned earlier, the plugin comes with its proper game mode, and it should be set as the project game mode.

To prepare your project to host the main plugin, you need to add the following lines in the .ini file Config/DefaultEngine.ini (leave the comments as they are):


Parrot Sphinx expects the project to be configured with extended luminance range enabled to set physically accurate lighting ranges. You must enable this option by making sure that .ini file Config/DefaultEngine.ini contains the following lines:


Sometimes, the project contains many levels and they are not all meant to be used. For example, when you get a new environment from the marketplace, the Epic Games policy forces the content creator to provide an overview map with all the assets in it. One way to get rid of those maps is to delete them from the content folder, but you can also decide to keep them in the project and not include them in the package application.

In that case, you need to tell the project which map you want to add to the packaged application, this will also reduce the package size.

To do so, you need to add the levels you want to package to the Config/DefaultGame.ini file. Here’s an example that shows how to add levels: