Rise of Robotic Graffiti: Drone Vandal Sprays Paint in Midair

drone graffiti

In what appears to be the first recorded work of public aerial drone vandalism, this off-the-shelf quadcopter was hacked to hold and use a can of spray paint, forever transforming the landscape of potential graffiti targets (image above by Arthur Holland Michel).

Attacking a giant Calvin Klein ad in the heart of New York City, this modified Phantom drone sprayed red paint on the face of model Kendall Jenner, able to fly up to and hover around the area of application much faster (then escape much easier) than a human ever could, finished in under a minute. Robot-made murals and computer-generated street art are nothing new, but putting them in the sky could change everything.

spray paint test aerial

The artist behind this intervention, KATSU, has been exprimenting with drone-mounted spray cans for some time now in controlled indoor environments, but wanted to show the potential for his work to reach places inaccessible to humans.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

More proof of concept than finished piece, this particular work of graffiti was difficult to accomplish, with a great deal of effort put into stabilizing the aerial robot – creating a tag with any kind of precision using this method would be effectively impossible.

spray painting drone

Per Wired, though, the implications are bigger than this test: “Given the enduring privacy, safety, and legal concerns around the technology, conceptually it makes a certain amount of sense that it would find uses at the peripheries of what most people (let alone the law) would consider acceptable. KATSU’s scribble high above SoHo might not look like much, but it represents the potential that drones have to transform graffiti forever.”