Piccolissimo Joins the Ranks of Ultra-Tiny Flying Robots

The Piccolissimo becomes one of the smallest drones in the game.

By Devin Coldewey

Big robots like Spot may be great for carrying things or trotting out onto stages, but just as much sophisticated engineering goes into creating tiny ones as well — and this little flyer from the University of Pennsylvania is one the tiniest yet.

It’s called Piccolissimo, both Italian for smallest and also a play on the creator’s name, Matt Piccoli — and while it isn’t actually the world’s smallest flying robot, Penn does get to claim it as the world’s smallest self-powered, controllable flying robot. Others are smaller, but either can’t be steered or (like the Robobee) are wired for power.

About the width of a quarter, Piccolissimo has just two moving parts, which is one more than the ballbot we saw earlier this month. One is the propeller, the other is the 3D printed body: both spin, but at different speeds. The propeller is slightly off-center, and the body turns 40 times per second, evening out the thrust to vertical — but tiny modifications to that spin speed can send it in one direction or another. It’s all controlled with a simple signal sent over an infrared beam.

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