Graffiti by Drone

Drones can graffiti walls that no person can reach.

(Note that wired.com blocks ad blockers. My trick is to copy the page and then paste it into my text editor.)

Posted on April 25, 2016 at 12:07 PM • 52 Comments

Comments

hræfnApril 25, 2016 12:39 PM

As an aside, I use uBlock Origin as my adblocker and have enabled the anti-adblock blocking list in the options, and can read Wired fine.

DavidFMMApril 25, 2016 12:56 PM

I've always thought a natural use for drones would be for the social rebel to use them for, say, spray painting traffic camera lens. Similar concept to graffiti.

Clive RobinsonApril 25, 2016 1:05 PM

"tagging" is not quite what I would call the mess made.

I suspect it would need two cameras one on the spray drone for closeup fine control, and another on another drone to give a wider view and thus sense of placment.

But we've seen drones used for all sorts of other previously not possible activities.

I'm waiting for some one to drop a carbon filement or some such on to power cables as the next vandalism stunt.

WiredApril 25, 2016 1:14 PM

The Age of Drone Vandalism Begins With an Epic NYC Tag

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the age of robotic graffiti was born. KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a hacked Phantom drone to paint a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest and most viewed billboards. By all accounts, it is the first time that a drone has been deployed for a major act of public vandalism.

In April last year, KATSU made headlines when he demonstrated that he had figured out how to attach a spray can to an off-the-shelf DJI Phantom drone. At the time, he was only using the drone to paint canvasses for white-wall galleries. But he assured the world that soon he would take his mad invention out into the streets and create enormous tags in places that were previously inaccessible to even the most daring and acrobatic taggers. Now, he appears to have made good on his promise in grand fashion.

“It turned out surprisingly well,” said KATSU, whose previous stunts include using a hacked fire-extinguisher to vandalise L.A. MOCA. “It’s exciting to see its first potential use as a device for vandalism,” he added, cheerfully.

The Calvin Klein billboard, one of New York City’s largest, sits at the busy intersection of Houston St and Lafayette St. The graffiti drone’s potential for troublemaking on an unprecedentedly grand scale is obvious. The billboard, which was previously graced by a topless, (perhaps) digitally-enhanced Justin Bieber, is absolutely gigantic, about six stories tall. It would have been almost impossible to tag Jenner’s face using the traditional methods. One could rappel off the top of the building or use a cherry picker, but neither option is exactly safe, or subtle, or quick enough that one could do it without cops on regular patrol spotting it. With the drone, by contrast, it took less than a minute. Still, the artist admitted, “It was a bit tense.” (Needless to say, the stunt was extremely illegal).

As the domestic drone industry grows feverishly, and multicopters like DJI’s Phantom become cheaper and more powerful, artists have been eager to experiment with the technology. It was only a matter of time, then, that people would figure out that the drone has enormous potential for subversive acts on the streets, where defying the laws of gravity is the whole point. 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.

Still, police departments across the country probably don’t need to start panicking quite yet. This is, after all, graffiti drone 1.0. KATSU said that it can be temperamental and unpredictable, especially when it shifts perpendicular to the surface that its painting. The controls can be twitchy. “Seventy percent of the concentration is in maintaining this equilibrium with the two dimensional surface while you are painting,” he explained. We have a ways to go until drones are capable of autonomously blasting tags while their artist masters relax at home.

But that is the plan, and KATSU’s stunt this week was proof of concept. He is also gearing up to release a new, more user-friendly version of the graffiti drone “very soon.” While he refused to give me too many details, he did say that it would have some element of computer vision to help with stability.

Still, even graffiti drone 1.0 is something to be reckoned with. It has made what was up until yesterday an impossible tag look easy. KATSU himself seems to have been caught a little off guard by how powerful the drone has proven to be. “It’s a bit frightening.”

AdrianApril 25, 2016 1:25 PM

I don't have an ad blocker, but Wired thinks I do, so I stopped reading Wired. Apparently all you have to do is disable third-party cookies to confuse its ad-blocker detector.

Vesselin BontchevApril 25, 2016 1:43 PM

To block Wired's ad-block blocker:

Method #1: If you use Firefox, switch to Reader View. Reload the page, if necessary.

Method #2: For any browser, disable JavaScript. uBlock Origin probably blocks just the right script.

ianfApril 25, 2016 1:59 PM


[…] “a hacked Phantom drone painted a giant red scribble across Kendall Jenner’s face

This is supposed to be THE EPIC moment that signifies a new drone-art (or something) era, defacing a model's face with an unintelligible scribble?

    This pioneering artist couldn't come up with some equivalent of A SMALL SCRIBBLE FOR A DRONE, A GIANT LEAP IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST ADVERTISING BILLBOARDS?????

rApril 25, 2016 2:13 PM

And here I am wondering if duplicating wired's IP and circumventing it's protections is a legal grey area. Especially advocating a way around said intended deployment.

rApril 25, 2016 2:15 PM

Does tagging illegally with a drone constitute using a computer in the commission of a crime?

rApril 25, 2016 2:19 PM

Wow Clive, that I'd totally not cool bro.

Make sure drones in proximity to power lines is the next addendum for the rule books.

ChelloveckApril 25, 2016 2:21 PM

Let me know when someone programs a drone with plotter software and feeds it a vector drawing to reproduce.

JeffApril 25, 2016 2:25 PM

Quick ad blocker bypass on an iPad: simply touch and hold the Reload icon in the address bar,

BillApril 25, 2016 2:44 PM

@r: Copying the entire article doesn't come under the fair use doctrine. Pretty much into the black there.

Discussing how to get around their ad blocker blocker is more of a grey. In my opinion, a pretty light grey.

rApril 25, 2016 2:49 PM

@bill,

Lol when I went to post that, the verbatim copy wasn't there... But I do thank you for the clarification.

oh crap!April 25, 2016 2:56 PM

So, soon, the whole countryside will be covered in paint, and areas that allow more gun freedom will have less of it, but sound like a warzone?

And yeah, according to DMCA "anti-circumvention" it may be illegal to get around ad blockers, as well as to tell others how to do so. See you all in prison! You commit 3 felonies per day anyway... But of course, you want a panopticon to make sure everyone can be caught with them at will... Who needs justice, just classify 100% of the population as felons, and nab anyone you want.

albertApril 25, 2016 3:11 PM

I have Firefox, Ad Blocker and Privacy Badger enabled and all scripts disabled, and I can still read Wired just fine. Also, 'View -> Page Style -> No Style' is useful for copying text and images.
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IonescuApril 25, 2016 3:54 PM

Nothing new.

It is new for Wired. The guy already explained the procedure one year ago.

And he used to do the same thing, only using a ladder. So it is not a "drone" thing. It is still a human thing.

Which won't stop the public to enjoy its right to ban something. It is like banning spray paint because the brushes are good enough for somebody who does not paint for a living. Hopefully they will ban batteries too.

oh crap!April 25, 2016 4:29 PM

Don't worry, if Feinstein gets her way, it will soon also be illegal to delete files (or make/conceive of an OS with that capability), use/make/invent a paper shredder, and throw away or collect garbage or even to have a landfill (because all those activities in some way facilitates "obfuscating" data which she wants to be broadly illegal, unless you literally save a copy for government snooping on demand).

MartinApril 25, 2016 5:30 PM

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do it.
This action takes no artistic or technical talent.
A monkey taking a selfie demonstrates more talent.
This graffiti is immature, disgusting, and completely classless.

p. pukApril 25, 2016 5:49 PM

To get around the ad-block blocker I use Tampermonkey on Chrome. Mostly Tampermonkey is disabled and I enable it for Forbes and Wired when I visit.

Four easy steps to follow to get it all working. It's basically clicking OK a few times to allow different stuff to install. Available for FF, Chrome, Opera and Safari here: https://github.com/reek/anti-adblock-killer

Scroll down till you get to the instructions.

albertApril 25, 2016 6:22 PM

Drone graffiti is a form of ad-blocking!

@r,
I'm not worried much about power lines per se, but drones could easily drag fine wire across substations. A few minutes work, and a whole lotta damage results. This goes far beyond vandalism.

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Marcos El MaloApril 25, 2016 6:37 PM

@albert

Exactly. Graffiti is at one end of the vandalism spectrum. Structure hits are at the other. I think a paint bomb suicide drone would have been more interesting, splattering a gallon of black paint on Jenner's billboard face. It would be a bit more terrifying, too, because it would suggest real bomb suicide drones (and possibly be an homage to Robert Motherwell).

There ar some low tech variations for knocking out substations and/or local transformers and distribution: kites, a balloon and an air gun, trained suicide squirrels. Hey, wouldn't that be funny? Robotic squirrels?

Mike BarnoApril 25, 2016 6:45 PM

@ Marcos El Malo,

...or a piss-bomb drone would be an homage to Robert Mapplethorpe.

SteveApril 25, 2016 7:46 PM

I run AdBlock Plus, UBlock, and NoScript, all of which are turned up to 11, and I have no problem reading TIRED, either.

Dan3264April 25, 2016 7:54 PM

@Oh Crap!,
In a squid post recently(the squid post titled "Replicating Reflecting Squid Tissue"), I joked that it might outlaw reversible computation.


I am not sure, but I think the proposed law also outlaws any non-reversible computation. By definition, such computation loses information. The consequences are clearly ridiculous. "From now on, You are not allowed to use logic gates such as: AND, OR, IMPLIES, NAND, XOR, XNOR, NOR, NON-IMPLIES, CONVERSE IMPLIES, and CONVERSE NON-IMPLICATION in your circuits. You should move to NOT, CNOT, CCNOT(Toffoli gate), CSWAP(Fredkin gate) and other reversible gates. Remember that you can be prosecuted for removing a single bit of entropy from the input to your circuit."

The bill might actually have the effect I joked about. The bill would not withstand scrutiny(by anyone other than a lawmaker). I have a great idea for a new law. It is "Lawmakers must research the industry/field of study/concept they are attempting to regulate". Lawmakers seriously need to understand the implications of what their laws would do. They should at least have informed opinions when they are making important decisions.

rApril 25, 2016 8:04 PM

@oh crap!

Red Green on PBS has a commercial running currently that illustrates dual use with a mechanical pasta maker as a paper shredder. There are off prescription clauses for medication are there off-intention clauses for devices?

WhiskersInMenloApril 25, 2016 8:48 PM

I should disclose a system and method for law enforcement and others to
mark and optionally disable motor vehicles involved in or suspected
to be involved in the commission of a crime.

A drone or squad car in pursuit can use a paint gun, spray or aerosol device
to deliver common, well chosen or specially tagged paint to mark vehicles
involved in law enforcement actions.

Visibility can be reduced splat by splat to make it difficult for an alleged
criminal to see the road and negotiate an escape.

Specially chosen colors can (like a blue or green screen) become
a special keyed color (chroma key) for clear and quick and reliable
identification of a vehicle by other chase vehicles. Micro tags in
the blend can further be used to match the paint used.

Small rotary or fixed winged drones can be launched and controlled from helicopter
or fixed wing pursuit aircraft. These smaller vehicles would have less risk to
civilians (non zero) and as drone obstacle races today demonstrate can negotiate
their way through a maze of obstacles. These small devices can be controlled
by a second passenger in the chase vehicle.
Optionally they could be launched from squad car and released from roof racks.

WhiskersInMenloApril 25, 2016 8:57 PM

Note to others, the site did notice my ad-blocker. No violation that I can see.

I have little problems with advertising but when my tool notices +5 per page
I just close the page. Cascading style sheets, included by a page, that contain
malware are still part of the page and IMO the page owner should know that
they are liable for malware damage. Ransomware... and the like come to mind.

oh crap!April 26, 2016 12:01 AM

@Dan3264

Thanks for posting that! I must confess I often stop reading squid comments when it starts getting like drinking out of a firehose... I have to breathe some time :)

oh crap!April 26, 2016 12:16 AM

@Dan3264

Keep in mind that the simplest way to have a "reversible" algorithm is to literally save a copy before applying it... So you can have your full set of "terrorist" logic gates as long as they are redesigned to keep an "unobfuscated" copy somewhere for government access...

So, for example, you can still use paper shredders, as long as they all have scanners attached that scan in each document and save the data for special government access before shredding it... Similar for deleting files or letting your junk mail decompose in a landfill...

Sounds like completely reasonable precautions, right? :)

WaelApril 26, 2016 12:31 AM

Billboards, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Phantom. Its 5-year mission: to explore strange new cities, to seek out new canvases and new walls, to boldly go where no graffiti has gone before.

rApril 26, 2016 12:34 AM

AMOLED is already there, and it has better visibility at night.

Is going to post something about one more job being lost to automation but... Certainly drones could be used to hijack billboards.

Guerilla Advertising for the win.

MXApril 26, 2016 1:20 AM

@droncita, an activist graffitiing drone, has been doing this for some time. See link for its twitter account.

Clive RobinsonApril 26, 2016 2:13 AM

@ ianf,

This pioneering artist couldn't come up with some equivalent of...

But as Wired and most other similar publications are "ad-driven" do you realy think they would publish such a "terrorist" --at least to them-- manifesto?

B. D. JohnsonApril 26, 2016 6:12 AM

"...that no person can reach."

Obviously, someone reached them at least once before.

Ergo SumApril 26, 2016 8:17 AM

@WhiskersInMenlo...

Cascading style sheets, included by a page, that contain malware are still part of the page and IMO the page owner should know that they are liable for malware damage. Ransomware... and the like come to mind.

I am not against that, but...

The page owners do not control the advertisement incorporated in to the page. They just sell control some of the web page to the advertisement company. There’s no need for approval by the page owners, approved in advance when space sold. They will pretty much blindly refer your browser to the site, specified by the advertisement company, where the actual ad is hosted.

The ad in question isn't even hosted at the advertisement company controlled server. The content of the ad is hosted by entities that bid to advertise with the company. Hackers can bid to place an ad (laced with Ransomware) to any sites that opted in to sell space to advertisement company.

Seemingly, the advertisement companies should be held liable for the damages for their ads. They should be one verifying the actual content, but they don't, due cost implication...

albertApril 26, 2016 12:09 PM

@Marcus, @Mike,

Settle down, class...

For painting with explosives (really, anything with explosives:), Mythbusters is required viewing. They actually 'painted' a room that way. IRRC, you want a low-velocity explosive to get more paint on the wall. Obviously, you'd want to hang it by a string, and orient it so the paint-filled balloon faces the wall...

. .. . .. --- ....

AppleApril 26, 2016 7:47 PM

@Bill

@r: Copying the entire article doesn't come under the fair use doctrine. Pretty much into the black there.

IIRC fair use has certain variations depending on the level of educational/research use and commercialization amongst other factors. One can readily craft a hypothetical not completely dissimilar to the present case, where in order to make valuable information available to researchers, something like this needed to be done. I.e. imagine some weird triple reverse logic psyop where the government releases some snowden-like embarassing secret, but does so woven into a web of zoophilia (just read wikipedia's censorship regex) or extreme bdsm pr0n. Precisely to interfere and pervert its absorbtion by ethical academics. In that case, defeating the attempt at propagandistic manipulation, ethical academics would most certainly have the moral and legal authority to simply make the desired content available divorced from the poisonous platform it was originally published on.

DavidApril 26, 2016 11:10 PM

You have publicly explained how to circumvent anti ad-blocking measures, which is a Federal Crime. Black helicopters have been dispatched. Go outside, lie face-down with your arms out-stretched and wait for our arrival. Resistance is futile.

H3r0April 27, 2016 12:55 AM

Drones can also probably clean up graffiti on walls that no person can reach too. Sensationalism Countered. My trick is to wait until a news story is reported on by more major outlets than just wired.com.

rApril 27, 2016 8:31 AM

@brian,

Attaboi', expand the available attack surface.

(That's what I do, back everything up that comes into contact with my eyes.)

StevenApril 27, 2016 1:53 PM

I use Firefox with NoScript & Adblock. The site itself still delivers up the content. All you have to do is prevent their malicious, and I am calling it that, javascript from screwing up your browsing experience.

Bumble BeeApril 28, 2016 9:30 AM

I am sick of reading and hearing about consumer "drones" powered by heavy, inefficient, environmentally harmful (and in the end, disposable) batteries. When I was young, kids who could afford it had "remote controlled helicopters" or "remote controlled airplanes" for which they had enough respect not to call them "drones." They had smaller, better quality batteries to power the electronics, but the flight was powered by gasoline, kerosene, or some better quality aviation fuel.

If something went wrong, there was always the option to fix it yourself rather than throw the whole thing away.

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