Meet ‘Pibot,’ The Robot Who Can Fly Planes

First-of-Its-Kind Robot

At the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST), a team of researchers has built a humanoid robot that can operate most airplanes. The humanoid, dubbed “Pibot,” can pilot an aircraft without majorly modifying the cockpit.

Pibot resulted from the collaboration of Professors David Hyunchul Shim, Jaegul ChooKuk-Jin Yoon, and Min Jun Kim. The robot can fly a plane just like a pilot by manipulating all the single controls in the cockpit. It can grasp control and maintain altitude even in the harshest conditions.

The bug-eyed humanoid designed for sitting and working measures 160 cm tall and weighs 65 kg. According to Shim, Pibot‘s human form may not be super efficient, but they designed it to be a humanoid form since everything in the cockpit is built for humans. It uses high-precision technology to control its arms and fingers to operate an aircraft, even with severe vibration. In addition, it can communicate with air traffic controllers and humans in the cockpit using voice synthesis.

Unlike conventional robots designed for preprogrammed or repetitive tasks from a fixed position, Pibot can assess the plane’s situation using multiple cameras. It has built-in external cameras designed to keep track of the aircraft’s current state and internal ones, which helps it manage important switches on the control panel. Shim boasts that this serves as Pibot‘s key feature, distinguishing it from automated systems such as autopilot or uncrewed airplanes.

As the world’s first humanoid pilot, Shim believes that Pibot is more capable than human pilots because it uses large language models to memorize documentation instead of flipping through printed-out manuals. It also can remember all the air routes like the Jeppesen Chart, an aeronautic tool composed of navigational information, flight planning products, and operations planning functions.

The KAIST researchers plan to have Pibot fly an actual aircraft before 2026, from takeoff to landing. They must settle further technical and regulatory challenges for their real flight test. Shim believes that Pibot can replace humans in dangerous jobs since it can drive cars, operate tanks, or even command ships.

Other Innovative Aviation Projects

As artificial intelligence expands to more fields, government agencies have also started building planes with built-in AI systems. For instance, the U.S. Department of Defense collaborates with Lockheed Martin to develop an AI jet named Variable In-flight Simulation Test Aircraft (VISTA X-62A), which contains multiple AI systems that simulate existing planes.

Meanwhile, NASA developed the experimental X-59 aircraft known as the “Son of Concorde,” which can fly at supersonic speeds. The original Concorde plane used sonic booms and posed challenges with its loud engines. The new version uses Quiet Supersonic Technology or “Quesst” to reduce the sound of the sonic boom.

Don Pedro Aganbi

Don Pedro Aganbi is a Nigerian Journalist, broadcaster, Filmmaker, brand and Public Relations Specialist and 1st prize winner, TV category, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) & Africa Information Society Initiatives (AISI) Awards. He is also a recipient of the Global IT Champion Awards, courtesy of World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA).

He is the Founder/Managing Partner, TechTV Network and convener of the hugely popular Titans of Tech Awards, Pan African Digital Initiative Summit & Expo and the TechTV Digital Agenda Forum.

Don Pedro Aganbi is the producer and host of the popular international award winning TV show, TechTV.

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