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Researchers create a robot pilot that can fly a real plane

Researchers have created a robot that they believe could one day pilot a full-size aeroplane.

Named the PIBOT, a portmanteau of "pilot" and "robot," the device stands at just 39.7cm tall and has already successfully flown a real-world scaled-down model biplane.

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Researchers at the South Korean university KAIST, including Heejin Jeong, David Hyunchul Shim and Sungwook Cho, designed the robot from an off-the-shelf humanoid Bioloid Premium by Robotis. The robot was then modified in order to work the controls of a scaled-down cockpit simulation.

The robot, which was presented at IROS Chicago earlier this month, has a video camera built into its face and additional software installed to detect runways and other visual clues.

The PIBOT also has the ability to activate various buttons and switches, which allows it to control an aircraft's throttle, braking pitch, altitude and direction, with information being fed to the robot directly via wired inputs.

The KAIST research team clearly has high hopes for the project, even suggesting that it could eventually replace human pilots.

"PIBOT can satisfy the various requirements specified in the flying handbook by the Federal Aviation Administration," the team confirmed.

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Aside from its biplane flight, the PIBOT has so far only flown computer simulations, but the KAIST team already has plans in place for the robot to eventually pilot full-sized aircraft.

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with IT Pro Portal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.