The Piccolissimo: The World’s Smallest Self-Powered Controllable Drone

Key Takeaways

– The University of Pennsylvania has developed the world’s smallest self-powered controllable drone called the Piccolissimo.
– The Piccolissimo comes in two sizes, with the smaller one weighing less than 2.5 grams.
– The drone is made possible by UPenn’s ModLab, which specializes in “underactuated” robots.
– The Piccolissimo only has two parts: the propeller and the body.
– It can be steered by changing the propeller speed at precise points during flight.
– The drone’s low cost is attributed to its 3D-printed body.
– Potential applications for the Piccolissimo include agriculture and disaster relief.
– Multiple small controllable flyers can cover larger areas faster and more cost-effectively than a single large drone.
– The development of microbots like the Piccolissimo demonstrates the efficiency and effectiveness of smaller technology.


In the world of drones, size matters. While larger drones have their advantages, such as increased payload capacity and longer flight times, there is a growing interest in developing smaller drones that can perform specific tasks with precision and agility. The University of Pennsylvania has taken this concept to the extreme with the development of the Piccolissimo, the world’s smallest self-powered controllable drone. In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of the Piccolissimo and its potential applications.

The Piccolissimo: A Tiny Marvel

The Piccolissimo is a remarkable feat of engineering. Developed by UPenn’s ModLab, which specializes in “underactuated” robots, this tiny drone weighs less than 2.5 grams in its smaller size. The larger version weighs just 2 grams more. What sets the Piccolissimo apart is its simplicity. It consists of only two parts: the propeller and the body. This minimalist design allows for greater maneuverability and control.

Steering with Precision

Despite its small size, the Piccolissimo is fully controllable. It achieves this through precise changes in propeller speed during flight. By altering the speed at specific points, the drone can change direction and perform intricate maneuvers. This level of control is crucial for tasks that require precision, such as crop pollination or monitoring agriculture.

Cost-Effective 3D Printing

One of the reasons the Piccolissimo is so remarkable is its low cost. This is made possible by its 3D-printed body. 3D printing allows for the rapid and cost-effective production of complex shapes, making it an ideal manufacturing method for small drones like the Piccolissimo. The use of 3D printing also enables customization and rapid prototyping, allowing for faster iterations and improvements in design.

Potential Applications

The Piccolissimo opens up a world of possibilities in various fields. In agriculture, these tiny drones can be used for crop pollination, monitoring plant health, and even targeted pesticide application. Their small size allows them to access hard-to-reach areas and cover larger areas faster than traditional methods. In disaster relief scenarios, the Piccolissimo can be deployed for search and rescue missions, providing real-time aerial surveillance in areas that are inaccessible to larger drones or humans.

Efficiency and Effectiveness of Smaller Technology

The development of microbots like the Piccolissimo highlights the potential of smaller technology. While larger drones have their advantages, such as increased payload capacity and longer flight times, they may not always be the most efficient or cost-effective solution. By utilizing multiple small controllable flyers like the Piccolissimo, tasks can be completed faster and more cost-effectively. This approach also allows for redundancy, as the failure of one drone does not result in the complete loss of functionality.


The Piccolissimo represents a significant advancement in the field of drone technology. Its small size, controllability, and low cost make it a versatile tool with a wide range of potential applications. From agriculture to disaster relief, the Piccolissimo demonstrates that sometimes smaller technology can be more efficient and effective. As researchers continue to push the boundaries of what is possible, we can expect to see even more innovative and exciting developments in the world of small drones.

Written by Martin Cole

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