The classic slapstick comedy movie, Airplane, tends to be one of those films that you either love or hate.
Some people find it hilarious; other think it’s dumb.
Put me in the first category.
When I saw the following story, it triggered a memory of the scenes where the inflatable autopilot takes over the controls when the human pilots fall ill.
We’re all familiar with autopilot… but an inflatable one?
That would surely take top spot on the implausibility scale.
Now, while human pilots are in no danger of being replaced by inflatable dolls, they should, however, be more worried about these guys…
Would You Let This Fellow Pilot Your Next Flight?
In South Korea, engineers are developing the next captain in the cockpit.
And what he lacks in charm and charisma, he makes up for with intelligence.
At the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Pibot is the world’s first humanoid pilot.
Now, if you’re worried about a hunk of metal piloting your future flights… I hear you. It’s one of those innovations that takes a while to get your head around.
But the field of robotics and artificial intelligence grows fast, it’s little surprise that this is on the “to-do” list for engineers.
Understand that the South Koreans’ innovation is different from autonomous drone technology. While that’s geared towards specific aircraft and missions, their humanoid design is more versatile.
What distinguishes their design is that the robots would be built to fly any aircraft with no additional sensors.
As creator, Shim Hyun-Chul, says, “While many existing drones have been developed, Pibot is the world’s first robot that can immediately automate any kind of aircraft.”
Their thinking is simple: All aircraft were designed and built to be flown by humans. So let’s design a robot that can fly like a human.
Sounds rational enough.
Besides, the idea came from a tragic event, where putting humans in harm’s way would have been highly dangerous…
A Design Born From Disaster
When the Japanese earthquake of 2011 triggered a devastating tsunami, it smashed many areas of the coastline and beyond.
Chief among the casualties was the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Hyun-Chul explains, “There was a helicopter that was trying to spray extinguishing agents, but it couldn’t get close to the site because of the radiation hazard [for the pilots].”
He says Pibot could have solved that issue.
The robotics are engineered so that they communicate with a plane’s instruments and sensors. It’s able to read the data and automate the functionality accordingly. For example, in the same way that existing autopilot technology is able to control a plane, Pibot uses computer data and vision to navigate during takeoff and landing.
Take a look…
As a result, Pibot’s missions are designed to be perilous ones – flying planes and helicopters into danger zones.
The South Korean team has put Pibot through rigorous flight simulation training, as well as field tests. Next up: Putting Pibot behind the controls of a full-scale plane to really see if the guy can earn his wings.