Recently reported winged microelectronic systems offer passive flight mechanisms as a dispersal strategy for purposes in environmental monitoring, population surveillance, pathogen tracking, and other applications. Initial studies indicate potential for technologies of this type, but advances in structural and responsive materials and in aerodynamically optimized geometries are necessary to improve the functionality and expand the modes of operation. Here, we introduce environmentally degradable materials as the basis of 3D fliers that allow remote, colorimetric assessments of multiple environmental parameters—pH, heavy metal concentrations, and ultraviolet exposure, along with humidity levels and temperature. Experimental and theoretical investigations of the aerodynamics of these systems reveal design considerations that include not only the geometries of the structures but also their mass distributions across a range of bioinspired designs. Preliminary field studies that rely on drones for deployment and for remote colorimetric analysis by machine learning interpretation of digital images illustrate scenarios for practical use.
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