Disney Builds Autonomous Graffiti Drone

Ever seen a bit of graffiti in a strange location and wondered how the graffiti artist got up there? It might have been a drone rather than an athletic teen. Disney research has just published an interesting research paper that describes the PaintCopter: an autonomous drone fitted with a can of spray paint on a pan-tilt arm. It’s more than just sticking a paint can on a stick, though: they built a system that can scan a 3D surface then calculate how to paint a design on it, and then do it autonomously. The idea is that they want to use this to paint difficult-to-reach bits of theme parks, or to add seasonal decorations without sending someone up a ladder.

The PaintCopter is built from a DJI M100, with an Nvidia TX2 and Intel UP processor boards added to give it some more processing power. The paint can is fitted to a pan-tilt arm that can trigger the paint can with a servo. The surface is scanned using an Intel R200 RGBD (Red, Green Blue Depth) camera, which feeds data back to a base station, which then builds a 3D model of the target. The base station then calculates the path and orientation for the drone to paint the required design onto the surface, which is then passed to the drone for the actual painting. The examples that the team produced are simple but show that the technique can be quite effective at mapping the design onto a complex 3D surface. It only works with one color at the moment, but authors suggest that creating paint gradients and other more complex techniques are on the way.

31 thoughts on “Disney Builds Autonomous Graffiti Drone

    1. Simple – it allows for more development time. This is a research project, they want to focus on the control algorithms. So they run the paint (and/or power) via a hose, so they can test at length. Once the algos are in good shape, they can transition to battery powered platforms.

      You often see simplifying assumptions like this in research, it’s a useful way to do development and often speeds things along.

    2. one of the lines is a pneumatic tube it seems, for air delivery for the paint. though it might include the paint. i would hate to have to clean that line if it does have paint in it.

  1. Can’t Intel support anything past the introductory period? The link to the camera SDK is already cutting support.
    “The Intel® RealSense™ SDK has been discontinued. No ongoing support or updates will be available.”
    It seems like they come out with interesting technologies and then right after their introduction they drop support. Is there some masterfully intricate business model where doing this makes sense?

    1. Intel is a giant company that fosters competition between siloed R&D teams. I have yet to talk to a current or former employee that doesn’t paint it as an adversarial environment.

    2. Welcome to the customer-as-QA paradigm, where we pay for the privilege of testing out new software and business strategies that might get dropped at any time. And if it turns out to be useful and profitable, you never own it. You rent it as a “service.”

  2. “The idea is that they want to use this to paint difficult-to-reach bits of theme parks, or to add seasonal decorations without sending someone up a ladder.”

    Next up, intelligent paint.

    1. Are you goddamn kidding? You’re going to liken painting a wall with art with rape, robbery, and murder? Get a fuck.

      Not to mention if you bothered to learn to read you’d see that the drone is meant to paint the owner’s own property.

      1. Destruction of another person’s property and/or interference in their livelihood is theft of a portion of their lifetime. If it is publicly owned, then it takes a little life from everyone. How much of your life – how many hours or months or years of your life’s work – must be stolen before you consider it a serious crime? It directly corresponds to robbery, burglary, and murder. How much “vandalism” or artistic expression will you equate to each?

        1. 100% strawman since this device is designed and intended to paint the owner’s own property, but nice mental gymnastics to equate painting a squiggle on an underpass to literally raping and killing people. You’re not convincing anybody.

        2. Reading from the beginning “I see a market for anti-graffiti drones of two kinds. The ones that eliminate graffiti drones and the ones that eliminate graffiti “artists”. Every train I see has been tagged from end to end.”

          No straw there.

    2. You disgusting fucking idiot.
      Is this about raping people? No.
      Killing? No.
      Stealing? No.
      Does it compare to those things? No.
      Is it about something illegal even? No.

      Are you a waste of atoms? Yes.

      1. Beginning of thread “I see a market for anti-graffiti drones of two kinds. The ones that eliminate graffiti drones and the ones that eliminate graffiti “artists”. Every train I see has been tagged from end to end.”

        Try again?

  3. Train cars? Soon every tall building and water tower will be covered with unreadable text. I saw this coming years ago and have been waiting for it, net flinging cop drones too.

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