South Korean Scientists Unveil AI Pilot, PiBot

Coming to a flight deck near you soon? Here's PiBot, the AI humanoid pilot under development in South Korea.



August 22, 2023

DALLAS - As the world continues to adapt to the growing trend of Artificial Intelligence (AI), South Korean scientists have unveiled a humanoid robot capable of piloting an aircraft.

Named Pibot, the life-sized robot, measuring 160 cm tall and weighing 65 kg, is capable of gripping the controls, memorizing aircraft manuals, and even responding to emergency situations. It is fitted with multiple cameras capable of monitoring the aircraft's systems and operational conditions.

PiBot from above. Photo: KAIST.

What can PiBot do?

Under development by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), researchers utilized AI chatbots such as ChatGPT to create ways for PiBot to learn the pilot manuals for various aircraft. The robot can then be changed to an alternative airframe by clicking the type. It can also memorize worldwide Jeppesen aeronautical navigation charts, an impossible task for its human equivalent.

PiBot can also communicate with air traffic control (ATC) and other humans on the flight deck, meaning it can operate via a Captain or First Officer. This has been done using Voice synthesis. By plugging the robot into the aircraft, it can communicate directly with the airframe.

PiBot is seen in a flight simulator. Photo: KAIST.

Other Uses

Tests via simulators have already demonstrated that the robot can control an aircraft safely, even during the most severe turbulence. KAIST researchers plan to put PiBot to the test on a real light aircraft, with completion scheduled for 2026. And it won't just be aircraft that the robot can control. Ships, cars, and military vehicles are all places where the developers believe that PiBot will be able to replace humans.

This isn't the first time robot pilots have threatened to replace the real thing. DARPA's Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) joined a human pilot in performing basic in-flight maneuvers in 2016. A year later, the system was used to land a Boeing 737 via a simulator. The US Air Force and NASA have also worked on various AI technologies to pilot aircraft. But PiBot is the first humanoid version to be developed. 

What do you think of the development of AI? Would you feel comfortable having a robot pilot flying your plane? Let us know your thoughts.

Featured Image: KAIST