Aerodynamically light particles incorporating a surfactant on the surface thereof for drug delivery to the pulmonary system, and methods for their synthesis and administration are provided. In a preferred embodiment, the aerodynamically light particles are made of a biodegradable material and have a tap density less than 0.4 g/cm.sup.3 and a mass mean diameter between 5 .mu.m and 30 .mu.m. The particles may be formed of biodegradable materials such as biodegradable polymers. For example, the particles may be formed of poly(lactic acid) or poly(glycolic acid) or copolymers thereof. Alternatively, the particles may be formed solely of the drug or diagnostic agent and a surfactant. Surfactants can be incorporated on the particle surface for example by coating the particle after particle formation, or by incorporating the surfactant in the material forming the particle prior to formation of the particle. Exemplary surfactants include phosphoglycerides such as L-.alpha.-phosphatidylcholine dipalmitoyl. The aerodynamically light particles incorporating a therapeutic or diagnostic agent and a surfactant may be effectively aerosolized for administration to the respiratory tract to permit systemic or local delivery of wide a variety of therapeutic agents.