Using Rust in RIOT

On supported CPUs, Rust can be used to develop RIOT applications. Support is indicated in the has_rust_target feature, and tested for in applications using the Makefile line FEATURES_REQUIRED += rust_target.

In addition to the regular RIOT build toolchain and a recent nightly Rust toolchain for the given target, using this also requires C2Rust with some patches applied to be installed; see toolchain for installation instructions. All these are readily available in the official RIOT docker image, which gets used by default if BUILD_IN_DOCKER=1 is set.


Two examples are provided:

  • rust-hello-world is minimal in the sense of setup and code complexity; it is the typical Hello World example.

    (Note that it is not necessarily minimal in terms of built size, as Rust's regular printing infrastructure is more powerful and a bit heavier than your off-the-shelf printf, which embedded libcs already often trim down).

  • rust-gcoap is a set of demo CoAP resources both from the coap-message-demos crate (containing platform and library independent examples) and from the riot-module-examples crate (containing RIOT specific examples).

There are additional examples available on GitLab, maintained in coordination with the riot-wrappers crate.

How it works

The easy part of the story is that Rust code gets compiled into a static library which is then linked together with the rest of the RIOT code; if the main function happens to be implemented in Rust, so it is.

The RIOT build system contains rules and metadata to facilitate building and linking: it calls cargo (Rust's own build system), sets up paths to work well with out-of-tree builds, configures the Rust target depending on the board's CPU, and unpacks the static library into object files to facilitate interaction with XFA.

The riot-sys crate translates a selected subset of RIOT's header files for use in Rust; this happens both using the bindgen crate (working from API information in header files) and C2Rust (translating static inline functions, and with some help from riot-sys, constant preprocessor initializers). Functions exported by riot-sys are inherently unsafe to use (in Rust's sense of unsafe), and may be somewhat volatile in their API due to mismatches between RIOT's / C's and Rust's API stability concepts.

The riot-wrappers crate creates safe and idiomatic wrappers around the types and functions provided by riot-sys. Thanks to Rust's strong zero-cost abstractions, these often come at no increased runtime cost. For example, locking a riot_wrappers::mutex::Mutex can rely on it having been properly initialized at creation; furthermore, the mutex is freed when it goes out of scope.

Where practical, the wrappers are not accessed through own methods but through established platform independent traits. For example, the main API surface of an I2CDevice is its implementation of the corresponding embedded-hal I2C traits for reading and writing.

The wrapper are documented together with riot-sys and some of the examples.


To install the necessary Rust components, it is easiest use rustup, installed as described on its website.

Using Rust on RIOT needs the latest stable or nightly version of Rust, depending on the precise example used. (Several modules, such as CoAP, SAUL or the shell, need features not yet available on stable yet; the minimal test is performed on stable, and examples are configured to use stable as it becomes available).

Make sure you have both the nightly and stable toolchains and the core library for the CPU (target) of your choice available:

$ rustup toolchain add nightly
$ rustup toolchain add stable
$ rustup target add thumbv7m-none-eabi --toolchain nightly
$ rustup target add thumbv7m-none-eabi --toolchain stable

Substitute thumbv7m-none-eabi with the value of RUST_TARGET in the output of make info-build of an application that has your current board selected, or just add it later whenever the Rust compiler complains about not finding the core library for a given target). Installing only nightly will work just as well, but you may need to remove the CARGO_CHANNEL = stable lines from tests or examples.

While Rust comes with its own cargo dependency tracker for any Rust code, it does not attempt to install system components. To avoid playing the whack-a-mole of installing components whenever an install step fails, consider installing this list of packages on Debian (or an equivalent list on the distribution of your choice):

# apt install libclang-dev llvm llvm-dev cmake libssl-dev pkg-config

This encompass both components needed for riot-sys and for the later installation of C2Rust.

Installing C2Rust is special because it can only be built using a particular nightly version (as explained in its introduction post):

$ rustup install nightly-2019-12-05
$ rustup component add --toolchain nightly-2019-12-05 rustfmt rustc-dev
$ git clone
$ cd c2rust
$ git reset --hard 6674d785
$ cargo +nightly-2019-12-05 install --locked --path c2rust

The git reset step pins C2Rust to the version at time of writing. It is expected that later versions of C2Rust would work just as well, but they may need a more recent nightly Rust.


The riot-sys and riot-wrappers crates are currently maintained outside of the RIOT project, primarily for practical historical reasons (all their CI has been set up on GitLab in the organization it was developed in).

As Rust is stricter in APIs than C is (for example, it is a breaking change to start returning an integer where previously void has been returned). Dealing with this, and other aspects of maintenance of the crates, is described in the rust_minimal test's README.