The Evolution of Drones in Street Art

Carlo Ratti Associati

Carlo Ratti Associati


Not all street artists are excited by the prospect of scaling a twenty story building. Lucky for them, in recent years we’ve learned that drones can be used for more artistic purposes than just photography and film. Help is at hand for artists who own large drones with robust motors.

Drones have been used for a variety of street art purposes over the last few years to help artists paint bigger and bolder than ever before.

Katsu’s Drone Graffiti

Drones have been used on city blocks since 2015, when graffiti artist Katsu used a drone to paint across New York. Katsu initially used the drone to paint canvasses for galleries, demonstrating that one could attach a spray can to a drone in order to produce art.  

Katsu explained to Bard College's Center for the Study of the Drone, “Drones allow me to do what I had always yearned to do. I’ve always looked at a building or looked at a canvas and stretched my arms out with my eyes. My eyes have always been able to reach it but my limbs have never been able to touch and reach these spaces.” He continues to explain that the idea is to someday create a drone with a free flight mode to allow for more collaboration with the drone, painting a future where his drone spray team could create pieces that look less like Pollock’s art and more like something hand-drawn.

Paint by Drone Project

“Phygital graffiti” is a term coined by Professor Carlo Ratti used to explain how his Paint by Drone technology functions. “Phygital graffiti is the idea of leveraging drones and, more generally, digital technologies to create participatory works of public art,” Explains Ratti. “Paint by Drone offers a new way to engage citizens with the built environment. Our cities are filled with blank vertical surfaces, either permanent or temporary. With this system, any facade can become a space to showcase new forms of open-source, collaborative art or visualize the heartbeat of a metropolis using real-time data.”  

One meter wide drones are equipped with sensors and spray paint tanks, using CMYK inks (cyan, magenta, yellow and key) to create works of art on nondescript city walls. The UAVs are operated in real time via a central management system and an advanced monitoring system to track the position of each individual drone.

Artistic suggestions can be crowdsourced. People can download the mobile app, submit their work digitally, and select a spot on a canvas to draw their art. A protective net is placed over the site scaffolding for safety.  

The Paint by Drone project allows users to create inspired street art on difficult to reach urban structures, effectively making vertical city surfaces canvases ripe for painting and artistic expression. The project is expected to reach Berlin, Turin, and other European cities later this year.

Drones and Tilt Brush

Google’s Tilt Brush is one of the most immersive and impressive virtual reality apps out today, allowing users to paint, smear, and create art in a 3D space with the Oculus Rift or Vive.  

While artists have traditionally used their hands to create virtual reality art projects, artist Jaymis Loveday recently posted a video of himself using a drone to paint with Tilt Brush. His first video is a work of modern art in itself - Loveday sports his VR headset while the physical drone seems to paint beautiful bursts of texture and paint across thin air. The drone Tilt Brush projects can later be viewed from any angle, as they can be rotated a full 360 degrees. His works only improve from there as Loveday begins to experiment with vibrant colors with his VR controller and mixed reality camera.

KDE Direct Brushless Motors Built for Endurance  

Paint-loaded quadcopters can turn any vertical space or building into a canvas - if you’re using the right motors. It takes a great deal of power to lift a one meter (or larger) drone off the ground and keep it suspended for long periods of time in midair.  

KDE Direct leads the field in technology, employing top-of-the-line components to deliver longer flight times and more durable systems. Designed and engineered in the United States, KDE Direct’s brushless motors provide best-in-class power, performance, and efficiency. From design redundancy standards and fail-safes to payload capacity and thrust performance, KDE Direct motors are engineered for longer flight times, higher efficiency, and higher payloads that push the limits of today’s technology. 

The KDE Direct UAS Multi-Rotor Brushless Motor Series presents high-quality and engineered motors specific for multi-rotor and UAS applications. The series was designed to provide market-leading performance and zero-vibration operation for hours of maintenance-free usage and market-leading performance.

As an industry leader in component design and production for UAV and multi-rotor systems, KDE Direct is pleased to remain the leading choice amongst amateur and commercial artists alike who depend upon industrial quality and performance. KDE Direct heavy lift brushless motors, carbon fiber propeller blades and specialized electronic speed controller (ESC) systems and software have set the standard in the multi-rotor industry. 

Share this post


← Previous Post Next Post →