Meet Piccolissimo, the world’s smallest self-powered flying robot

Imagine after an earthquake, a swarm of flying robots about the size of a coin spin into a room to sniff for poisonous gas. This is how the creators of the Piccolissimo imagine that their tiny invention might someday be used.

Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Engineering and Applied Science have built the world’s smallest self-powered controllable flying robot. (Piccolissimo means “tiniest” in Italian.)

Right now the device flies using directions from a handheld infrared device, similar to a TV remote control. But the inventors say it could easily be controlled using wi-fi or bluetooth, giving it a far wider range, says Matt Piccoli, the Piccolissimo’s inventor.

The robot is very simple. It is made of just two moving parts: a propeller and the light plastic body, which is made with a 3D printer.

Piccoli says another way of using the Piccolissimo would be to create vast airborne light shows using the robot as a pixel. “If you have a swarm you could make a 3D scene like a hologram!” he says.

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