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Tiny robot learns to fly a real plane

A doll-sized humanoid robot has learned how to use a cockpit simulator to fly a light aircraft designed for humans.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

A small, hobby-sized robot could herald the pilot of the future. At just 39.7cm (15.6in) tall, PIBOT -- a portmanteau of "pilot" and "robot" and not to be confused with Raspberry Pi-powered PiBot or 3D printer PiBot -- has been trained by researchers at KAIST to fly a human-sized aeroplane.

The robot used by the team -- Heejin Jeong, David Hyunchul Shim and Sungwook Cho -- is actually an off-the-shelf humanoid Bioloid Premium by Robotis, modified to be able to work the controls of a cockpit simulation, scaled down to mini-robot size.

The robot, presented at IROS Chicago earlier this month, has a video camera built into its "face", with software built in for runway detection and other visual cues. The rest of the buttons, sticks and switches allow the robot to control throttle, braking pitch, yaw, altitude, velocity, and direction, information is fed to the robot directly via wired inputs.

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

The PIBOT hasn't flown a full-sized plane just yet, but the team has plans to escalate the project to that stage. Already the robot has successfully flown computer simulations -- and a real-world, scaled-down model biplane.

You can see the little guy in action in the video below.

Via IEEE Spectrum