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Graffiti Takes Flight Via Drone

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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Italian architect Carlo Ratti is taking graffiti art to new heights.

Ratti, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founding partner of the international design office Carlo Ratti Associati in Turin, Italy, announced plans May 1 to deploy drones to use paint to transform the facades of construction sites into immense canvases.

Photos courtesy of Carlo Ratti Associati

Italian architect Carlo Ratti announced plans to deploy drones to use paint to transform the facades of construction sites into immense canvases.

The first two installations of Paint by Drone, which propose to use the facades of construction sites as giant canvases, are planned for this fall in Berlin and Turin. Ratti has been assisted in the project by his design team of Saverio Panata, Antonio Atripaldi, Monika Love, Andrea Galli, Gary di Silvio and Gianluca Zimbardi.

“Our cities are filled with blank vertical surfaces, either permanent or temporary,” Ratti said. “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 facade can become a space where to showcase new forms of open-source, collaborative art or to visualize the heartbeat of a metropolis through real-time data.”

How It Works

Paint by Drone will use a fleet of one-meter wide Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Each UAV will have sensors and carry a spray paint tank. The drones will paint with CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Key), like in most traditional printing processes.

A central management system will regulate the drones’ image painting and flight with an advanced monitoring program. Drones can draw content digitally, via an app.

A central management system will regulate the drones’ image painting and flight with an advanced monitoring program that tracks the UAV’s position. A protective net secured on the scaffolding’s cover permits the drones to move into a safe space.

Drones can draw content digitally, via an app. Input can be drawn from crowdsourced platforms, or by a curator gathering the contributions of several artists.

"This project encapsulates our vision of the city as an emergent system,” said 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.”

Next Level

This isn’t the first time Ratti has experimented with this sort of project. In 2015, he employed a Vertical Plotter device to print images on walls.

Ratti likened the Vertical Plotter to a giant inkjet printer head that could sit over a wall; the newer drone system will offer a more portable way to paint colorful murals without lengthy delays to set up and calibrate the Vertical Plotter.


Tagged categories: Architecture; Drones; Paint; Paint application; Paint application equipment; Spray Paint

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