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Piper puts new robot to work on M600

There’s a new addition to the Piper Aircraft staff working on the top-of-the-line M600/SLS turboprop, and it never tires of drilling wings.

The M600 has been the top of the Piper Aircraft line since it was first introduced in 2016. Photo by Chris Rose.

Aircraft were exclusively handmade at Piper for more than 85 years, until the arrival in 2022 of a new machine that measures 12 feet by 8.5 feet and is fully autonomous. The Agile Manufacturing Robot from Wilder Systems is Piper's first robot, designed to drill the holes required to build PA–46-600TP wings.

Stand back, if you tour the factory in Vero Beach, Florida, and just watch it work: Safety devices installed include a Keyence Safety Scanner that halts the robot if a person or object enters the designated safety area. The robot project began in August, Piper announced in a press release, and has completed calibration and testing, “culminating with a full production handoff at the end of [January].”

“Investing in the latest manufacturing technology is of the utmost importance to Piper Aircraft,” said Piper Vice President of Operations and Supply Chain Greg Spadaro, in the news release. “As we’ve been manufacturing hand-crafted aircraft for over 85 years, we're constantly finding new methods of increasing both product quality and manufacturing efficiencies to benefit our customers. Additionally, we’re looking forward to now having the opportunity to train our assembly teams on the most advanced production tools, and elevate their skills as aircraft production professionals.”

The M600/SLS is the modern, turbine-powered version of the PA–46 Malibu that entered service in 1984. AOPA flew the updated SLS version of the M600 in 2021, noting updates including the addition of Garmin's Autoland system, which enables the aircraft to land automatically in the event of pilot incapacitation due to hypoxia or another medical emergency. That basically means that you can now buy—and fly—a robot made by another robot.

The Agile Manufacturing Robot from Wilder Systems drills holes for M600 wings in the Piper Aircraft factory in Vero Beach, Florida. Photo courtesy of Piper Aircraft.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Piper Aircraft Inc, Automation, Technology

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