ModLab UPenn the modular robotics laboratory at the university of pennsylvania

Matthew Piccoli

Matthew Piccoli
Position: Ph.D. Student

Research Interests: Underactuated UAVs, Motor Control, and Rapid Robot Design

Office: Towne 170

Email: piccoli at

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Piccolissimo is the smallest self-powered flying vehicle (to the best of our knowledge). Thanks to its passive stability, it can fly with only one actuator. This makes it simple and low cost to construct and less likely to have a component fail.

Passive Stability of MAVs Without Angular Momentum

We modeled and built Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) that naturally hover without any sensing or control. These types of vehicles, called passively stabilized vehicles, can be made less complicated, more robust, and at lower cost with the addition of simple, yet carefully designed, stabilizer sails.


Smooth motion is critical to robotic applications like haptics or those requiring high precision force control. These systems are often direct-drive, so any torque ripple in the motor output must be minimal. Unfortunately, low inherent torque ripple motors are expensive. We came up with a method to map and suppress torque ripple from cogging torque so low cost motors can perform as well as expensive ones, while using only a position sensor, which is already required for servo control. We call this compensation "Anticogging".

Passive Stability of a Single Actuator MAV

In an effort to build one of the world's smallest flying vehicles, we built a flying vehicle with only two moving parts connected by one motor. Because the vehicle cannot control its attitude with its one actuator, passive stability is a required trait, so we derived design requirements for making passively stable vehicles.


The SEAL Pack is versatile, portable, and quickly deployable, similar to the Navy SEALs.  SEAL stands for SEa, Air, and Land and the SEAL Pack is versatile enough to traverse all three.  The SEAL Pack is transported in a compact way, and can be unpacked into either a car, boat, or quadrotor in a matter of minutes thanks to its modular design.


Connection mechanisms are critical to modular reconfigurable systems. The ModLock manual connection system is both fast to attach/detach and strong. This low cost, low profile connection system has been demonstrated on a variety of robot configurations including legged walkers, flying quadrotors and wheeled robots.

ICRA Robotic Planetary Contingency 2008

ICRA Robotic Planetary Contingency 2008 featured four teams competing in multiple, time sensitive, emergency scenarios with modular robotic solutions.

Quick Change End Effector

This prototype allows PR2 to change end-effectors on his own. He could trade in his hand for a different gripper, a screwdriver, or even a sensor such as a camera. The quick release mechanism makes it easy for him to attach and detach and it also features electrical connections to transfer power and communication.