PIBOT will be the next Flying Captain: Humanoid Learns to Fly Real Airplanes


Last week, we talked about NAO, the humanoid learning to steer wheels and now we have a similar humanoid that is learning to fly real planes. PIBOT is the name of the small and affordable humanoid that is ready to take off our expectations into the skies.

PIBOT has been fabricated to operate a toned down, simulated aircraft cockpit. The intelligent synthetic creature is able to make out and use the entire controls comprising of buttons and switches present in the cockpit of a light aircraft that is especially designed for humans.


The bot takes the input from the simulated arena itself. However, the main function of vision element is made to identify the runway using edge detection. As per the research team behind the machine, it has already earned full marks from the Federal Aviation Administration by satisfying the requirements laid down by the flying handbook.

The video below shows how PIBOT is taking off the plane and then maneuvering at the heights, all autonomously:

Automatic takeoff and landing simulation

Very deftly, PIBOT is able to pull throttle to zero point, turns on the battery, altimeter, avionics, fuel pump and finally ignition. Brakes are released as soon as it takes the charge of the two control sticks. Upon aligning the plane’s heading along with runway, it increases the speed and finally the power. All this is done within an error less than five degree.

No sooner the plane takes off, the bot immediately takes charge of pitch & speed so that the vertical velocity of the aircraft touches the initial rate of climbs. Sequence 3 is initiated after covering a particular distance and the plane moves to the opposite direction in the maintained order of its speed and altitude.

For landing, the machine reduces its speed after establishing the required distance from the estimated landing point thus performing a successful sequence 4, base leg.

For sequence 5, the bot parallelly adjusts the plane with the runway and slowly tone down at a slower speed. Upon reaching 20 feet above ground, it flares and smoothly lands on the ground.

The takeoffs, maneuverings, landing are performed amazingly well by PIBOT however researchers behind the machine are still not over with the final touches. Once they raise the green flag, we would be seeing more of PIBOT’s work in the real arena.

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