I have been witnessing some bizarre behaviour with my very simple node.

I have a custom message that contains uint8[] type (it's 8 elements long). I have a subscriber that subscribes to a topic of the custom message and stores it in a global variable:

uint16* leddar_distance_cm_1 = NULL;

void leddarCallback(const perception_msgs::Leddar8::ConstPtr& msg) {
  if (msg->leddar_id == 1) {
      leddar_distance_cm_1 = const_cast<uint16_t*>(&(msg->distance[0]));

  for (uint8_t i = 0; i < 8; i++) {
      ROS_INFO("VALUE: [%d]", leddar_distance_cm_1[i]);

int main(int argc, char** argv) {
  ros::init(argc, argv, "collision_avoidance_node");
  ros::NodeHandle n;

  ros::Subscriber leddar_sub = n.subscribe("perception/leddars", 1000, leddarCallback);


  return 0;

I then have 2 publishers publishing onto that topic using rostopic pub. When I try to print the stored array from the callback I get this (bottom right window):

enter image description here

As you can see the two publishers seem to be interfering with each other and somehow overwritting leddar_distance_cm_1 pointer repeatedly. This doesn't happen with any non-pointer types from the message such as char or int.

I even tried creating 2 different subscribers for each publisher, same issue! As if both publishers are overwriting the same memory address (which they in fact are). Does this have anything to do with queues? I have a feeling that I am not reading the array correctly. I have spent over 8 hours looking at this and I can't figure out what the problem is, if there is an obvious mistake could someone please tell me what it is?

  • $\begingroup$ possible cause .... google atomic write $\endgroup$
    – jsotola
    Jan 13, 2019 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @jsotola, I am familiar with atomicity, I got this fixed, it was the message callback deleting itself so instead of using pointers I had to copy the data instead. $\endgroup$ Jan 13, 2019 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


The problem was that I was pointing a pointer to a memory address that gets free'd after the callback is executed.

Instead of using C style arrays I moved onto vectors, where leddar_distance_cm1 is std::vector<uint16_t leddar_distance_cm1(array_size, starting_value).

When using callbacks always copy rather use references or pointers, unless you know your object's lifecycle.

If you still want to use C array, use std::copy or memcpy.


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