Graffiti painting drones are not a new thing. The maker of the first graffiti drone, Leif Johnson has created another KATSU “Icarus Two”. This one can write letters that have been entered on a keyboard. It, “holds”, a spray paint can in an articulated arm.
It is not a particularly elegant solution, the DJI Phantom simply flying up to the wall to be painted and stopping when its prop guards hit it.
The Anti-Trump Grafitti drone will attract clicks today, but is there a serious use case for drones and paint?
Painting by drone has been a hype topic for a few years. In 2014 we saw company Handy Paint roll out (see what I did there) their plan. It makes a great deal of sense to try and apply paint on high rise buildings without the need for scaffolding and danger to the painter.
An estimated 2.3 million construction workers, or 65 percent of the construction industry, work on scaffolds. Protecting these workers from scaffold-related accidents may prevent some of the 4,500 injuries and over 60 deaths every year (Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2003 and 2004 data for the private sector)
Dull, dangerous and dirty it is the droning mantra.
Apellix has a much better looking solution.
Let us note the clever things they have done.
It is not carrying batteries; it’s tethered so can fly for as long as the ground-based power lets it.
It has sonar for anti-collision, it does not just bump into the building. It is aware of its surroundings.
It does not carry the paint, which flows through a pipe, no need to keep landing to top up.
Will it all get better?
Gains in detect sense and avoid sensor technology, coupled with simultaneous location and mapping (SLAM) make the navigation part almost trivial these days.
Once you have flown a building several times, you will have an amazing 3D model of it. This will make each subsequent paint job easier to fly.
Gather inspection imagery and put it through something like Sky-Futures Expanse inspection software suite and you would have a record for building maintenance. Killing two birds with one stone.
Apellix are certainly on the right track. It does not take much to see this a market where cost and risk reduction have the potential to be enormous. It’s not sexy like drone delivery, but it might more easily save a life.
Expect robotic painting of hard to reach verticle structures to become a thing.