Phygital graffiti

The Spark

12th May 2017

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When you think of the term graffiti, what instantly springs to mind? Perhaps it evokes hooded youths defacing someone’s property, the mysterious Banksy spraying another social commentary piece, or even some rather fantastic publicity work from ourselves.

What you probably wouldn’t imagine, however, are swarms of remote controlled, quadcopter drones loaded with paint tanks that allow them to produce a wide range of colourful corporate creations. That’s where Paint By Drone comes in.

Paint by Drone is a recent project from Italian innovation and design firm Carlo Ratti Associati. The company has designed portable paint distribution systems in the form of meter-wide drones, controlled in real-time at a desk by a central management system.

This means the drones can be directed by a user on the ground to colourise a specifically mapped area on a structure. As Mr Ratti so eloquently puts it, “Any facade can become a space to showcase new forms of open-source collaborative art. Or we can collectively visualise the heartbeat of a metropolis through real-time data”.

In practical terms, this will see an artist do an initial drawing on the canvas – such as the facade of a massive construction site – and then members of the public will colour in sections using the drone, controlled by an app on their smart phone. Dubbing the process Phygital Graffiti, Carlo Ratti sees this as a new form of collaborative expression.

However the possibilities are legion. Imagine, if you will, designers applying their artwork to skyscrapers whilst sat at their desks; or a listed building being repainted without a human crew even touching its delicate exterior. Hive-mind drone systems like this, enabled with a purpose, can elevate the risks associated to real-world tasks and help optimise and streamline the process in future.

In the meantime, those who want to see the drones in action can visit two European exhibitions later this year, in both Berlin and Turin. These demonstrations will allow users to a get a hands-on experience with the drones, using an app to control the bots as they spray scaffold sheeting.


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