A team of researchers from the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has achieved a revolutionary success in the field of robotics by developing the world’s first humanoid robot. This innovative robot, dubbed PIBOT, not only has the physical ability to sit in the pilot’s seat and operate switches in the cockpit, but also uses artificial intelligence technology to memorize flight maps and emergency protocols.
Previous developments in the field of robot pilots
There have been several steps forward in the development of robot pilots over the years. In 2016, DARPA introduced the Aircraft Cockpit Crew Automation System (ALIAS), which helped human pilots perform basic in-flight maneuvers. The following year, ALIAS successfully landed a Boeing 737 airplane in a simulator. Soon after, RE2 Robotics announced a partnership with the U.S. Air Force to develop Common Aircraft Retrofit for Novel Autonomous Control (CARNAC), a system designed to enable robotic control of unmodified aircraft. ROBOpilot made its first two-hour flight in 2019.
Distinctive features of ROBOpilot
What sets PIBOT apart from previous designs is its humanoid design and use of artificial intelligence technology. While other robot pilots have relied on non-humanoid structures or limited capabilities, PIBOT combines both physical and cognitive abilities to control an airplane. The humanoid shape of the robot allows it to easily fit into existing airplanes without any modifications, making it very practical and applicable.
Benefits of PIBOT artificial intelligence technology
The use of ChatGPT technology gives PIBOT a significant advantage. It allows the robot to memorize Jeppesen aeronautical charts from around the world, which is an impossible task for human pilots. In addition, PIBOT memorizes a Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) containing procedures for abnormal and emergency situations. These capabilities allow PIBOT to fly error-free and react quickly to various situations, surpassing the capabilities of human pilots.
PIBOT capabilities and application perspectives
In addition to being physically present in the cockpit, PIBOT’s built-in camera allows the pilot to analyze both the cockpit and external environment. This allows the robot to precisely operate switches in the cockpit even in turbulent conditions. So far, PIBOT’s capabilities have only been tested in a flight simulator, but the researchers plan to conduct real-world tests on a light aircraft in the near future.
The researchers see wider applications for PIBOT beyond just piloting airplanes. They envision its integration into a variety of vehicles such as cars and military trucks, as it can control a wide range of equipment. PIBOT could prove particularly useful in military resource-constrained environments.
Commercialization and future plans
The PIBOT project should be completed by 2026, after which researchers plan to commercialize the robot for both military and civilian use. PIBOT’s potential to revolutionize various industries is significant, and its advanced capabilities are attracting worldwide attention.
David Hyunchul Shim, PIBOT Project Manager, emphasizes the immediate applicability and practicality of humanoid robots in automated flight, “Humanoid robots do not require modification of existing aircraft and can be immediately applied in automated flight.” He also notes their potential in other industries, “We expect them to be used in a variety of other vehicles, such as cars and military trucks, as they can control a wide range of equipment.”