Humanoid pilot: PIBOT, a toy-sized robot, learns how to fly a real plane

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It might be not long from now that robots will be flying planes. A tiny humanoid robot proved that when he successfully completed a take-off, a short flight and a landing in a flight simulator.

Going by the name PIBOT, the robot knows how to use each button and switch that can be found in a real cockpit of an ordinary civilian aircraft.

In a video featuring the robot, PIBOT is seen preparing flight during a simulation, grabbing control sticks and guiding “the plane” from take-off back to landing. The footage was presented at a robotics event, called IROS 2014, in Chicago last week.

Researchers from KAIST in South Korea – who built this low-cost robot – assure that “PIBOT can satisfy the various requirements specified in the flying handbook by the Federal Aviation Administration.”

The possible pilot of the future is just 39.7cm (15.6in) tall. The team “trained” – or actually, modified – it to receive visual input and information about GPS location, airspeed, roll, and other flight details that are crucial to know when flying a plane.

During the entire flight on the simulator, PIBOT makes all the decisions itself.

While most of the inputs come from the simulator itself, the humanoid robot uses its webcam “vision” to identify the ground and sky in order to react accordingly, using edge detection.

PIBOT is a significant breakthrough, but it won’t be completely replacing people in a cockpit anytime soon. However, the inventors are confident that one day PIBOT will be advanced enough to meet government guidelines for flying real airplanes.

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“Humanoid pilot: PIBOT, a toy-sized robot, learns how to fly a real plane”