Attack of the Paint Drones

We thought it would be sometime in the distance future before the robots conquered paint and coating application. The first large scale projects are scheduled to be done later this year. Apparently, like the great painting innovations of the Renaissance, the Italians are leading the way. Remember that the greatest strides in art started with masterful paint techniques (arguably) that may have not been completely recognized by many contemporaries of the time period. In addition, the rebirth lasted hundreds of years; from the 14th to the 17th century.

The Italian artisans were out far and ahead of the rest of Europe; some evidence demonstrates that the boot-shaped country started the now classic paint and finish transformation 100+ years before anywhere else. Although some may judge drone painting as a nothing, interesting conversation, this may be the very beginning of the new world order in paint and coating application. Rather than dismiss and deny the drones and eventually fight them, we say fasten your seat belt, it is going to be a zoom ride; embrace the game change.

Technology interrupts the regular day in every business including the painting industry! Beam me up Scotty…or for the time being…PPT will monitor and report.

The Carlo Ratti Associati (a design studio) is planning to paint empty urban surfaces across the world — not by hand, but by drone. The studio has developed a system called ‘paint by drone’ that can draw on building façades, turning any blank surface into an artistic space for urban data visualization. A fleet of one-meter wide unmanned aerial vehicles carrying spray tanks are filled with CMYK paints.

Multiple drones are programmed to draw content submitted digitally via an app

“Our cities are filled with blank vertical surfaces, either permanent or temporary”, says Professor Carlo Ratti, founder of Carlo ratti associati. “Scaffold sheeting, for instance, has great potential, but in fact it is mostly used in bland ways – left empty or employed for advertising. With ‘paint by drone’ we would like to unleash the potential of ‘phygital graffiti’. Any façade can become a space to showcase, new forms of open-source, collaborative art or to visualize the heartbeat of a metropolis through real time data”.

Equipped with sensors, the drones are programmed to draw content submitted digitally via an app, while a central management system regulates their operations in real-time. The artistic input can be derived from multiple outlets, such as crowdsourcing platforms or from curators collecting several contributions.

A fleet of one-meter wide unmanned aerial vehicles carrying spray tanks filled with CMYK paints

The first two installations of ‘paint by drone’ — which propose to use the façades of construction sites as giant canvases — are planned for fall 2017 in Berlin, Germany and Turin, Italy. The collaborative graffiti projects will allow either an artist to do an initial drawing on the canvas to be colored in by users — with each person picking a favorite ‘spot’ for the drone to paint — or offer people the option to use the mobile app to draw their own designs.

A protective net placed on the scaffolding’s cover allows the drones to move into a safe space

“This project encapsulates our vision of the city as an emergent system”, explains Antonio Atripaldi, project leader at carlo ratti associati. “With paint by drone, the contributions of different people generate a result in which the final drawing is more than the sum of its parts”.

An advanced monitoring system precisely tracks the UAV’s positioning


carlo ratti plans to deploy a fleet of drone graffiti ‘artists’ across urban façades

Depictions/Graphic credits by carlo ratti associati