PIBOT2 is a robot pilot: not just an autopilot, but a human-sized android who can sit in the pilot’s seat and fly an aircraft, operating the stick and the throttle, reading the instruments and looking through the window. PIBOT2 was created by researchers at the Korean KAIST , and can carry out a complete flight from starting the engine to takeoff, flying a planned route and landing at the other end – details in this piece in the Economist
Now the US Air Force wants ‘drop in’ robot pilots to convert its manned aircraft into unmanned ones for cargo, resupply — and reconnaissance missions in dangerous places.
Unlike existing drones, PIBOIT2 is autonomous, flying without remote control or human assistance.
This is a strong sign of how the military is now prepared to leverage commercial developments in autonomous systems, and how advanced those systems now are. It costs over a million dollars and several months to convert a manned F-4 Phantom to an unmanned QF-4 aerial target; a robot like PIBOT2 costs only about $100k and can be strapped into the pilot seat in minutes. And this is only the start; PIBOT2 may be a rookie pilot now, but he will continue to get better and better.