Meet Pibot: Korea's LLM-powered smart robotic pilot

Called "Pibot," this humanoid robot integrates large language models to help it fly any aircraft as well as, if not better than, a human pilot.
Christopher McFadden
KAIST's "Pibot" in action.

Korea Herald 

Researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science & Technology (KAIST) are working to develop a humanoid pilot that can fly an aircraft without modifying the cockpit. Called "Pibot," the robot has articulated arms and fingers that can interact with flight controls with great precision and dexterity. It also comes with camera "eyes" that help the robot monitor the internal and external conditions of the aircraft while in control.

Real robot-pilot

"Pibot is a humanoid robot that can fly an aeroplane just like a human pilot by manipulating all the single controls in the cockpit, which is designed for humans," David Shim, an associate professor of electrical engineering at KAIST, told Euronews Next. According to the KAIST team, "Pibot" also has a large memory that enables it to memorize all the Jeppesen aeronautical navigation charts worldwide, a feat that human pilots cannot achieve.

"Humans can fly many aeroplanes, but they do have these habits built into them. So when they try to convert to different aeroplanes, they must take another qualification. Sometimes this is not that simple because our habit remains in our mind that we can’t simply change from one to the other," explained Shim. “With the pilot robot, if we teach individual aeroplane configuration, then you can fly the aeroplane by simply clicking the aeroplane's type,” he added.

Part of "Pibot's" impressive abilities is the integration of large language models (LLM), like ChatGPT, into its programming, which lets it read and understand instructions like a human being. “We had our predecessor of a pilot robot in 2016. At the time, we didn't have good AI technology, so what we built was a simple robot. They cannot really learn anything from the literature or the manual. But recently with ChatGPT or with other large language model systems, the technology made paramount progress,” Shim explained.

LLM has enabled Pibot to perform flawless aircraft operations and allowed it to respond rapidly in emergency scenarios, often surpassing human capabilities. Additionally, it can generate a secure flight path in real-time by analyzing the aircraft's current status.

"Pibot's" creators also pointed out that its versatility extends beyond its humanoid form, as it can be directly connected to aircraft for seamless communication. The robot can also interact with air traffic controllers and cockpit personnel through voice synthesis, enabling it to function as a pilot or first officer in the future.

Can operate other vehicles

With a height of 5.24 feet (160 cm) and weight of 143.3 pounds (65 kg), "Pibot's" humanoid form could enable it to take over other human tasks such as driving cars, operating tanks, and piloting ships on the water. "The human form may not be super efficient, but we specifically designed Pibot to be a humanoid form because all the things are built for humans. We can have eight arms and four eyes, but we find the human form is somehow optimal," Shim explained.

"Pibot" is still very much in its development stage but is expected to be completed by 2026.

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