Via IEEE Spectrum.
As much trouble as humanoid robots are to build and control, we keep on trying to make it work because it’s easiest to operate in a human environment if you can do the same things that a human can. There are some good arguments for why it makes a lot more sense to modify our environments to better suit robots, but the fact is, if you can pull it off, humanoid is still the best way to go.
Even for flying airplanes.
If this sounds crazy to you, it sounded crazy to us too, until we saw it basically working at an IROS presentation.
The little robot in the picture above is a PIBOT, a small, very low-cost humanoid (actually a Bioloid Premium from Robotis). It’s been slightly modified to be able to work the controls of a scaled-down, simulated aircraft cockpit, as in the pic above. PIBOT is able to identify and use all of the buttons and switches and stuff that you’d find in the cockpit of a normal light aircraft designed for humans:
Most of the inputs come from the simulator itself (roll, pitch, yaw, airspeed, GPS location), although the robot does use vision for some things, like identifying the runway using edge detection. And this is all it takes, according to the researchers, who state that: “PIBOT can satisfy the various requirements specified in the flying handbook by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
You can see PIBOT rocking a simulation in the video below, and for you pilot-types, appended is a comprehensive description of what the robot is doing. Remember, this is all autonomous.