Because Personal Drones Aren't Subject To Enough Ridiculous Rules, A Graffiti Artist Uses His To Tag A Six-Story Billboard

from the this-is-my-'get-off-my-lawn'-speech dept

Drones are a problem. The FAA has subjected private drone use to all sorts of ridiculous stipulations. Law enforcement agencies seem to feel drone operation should be left to the pros, and are suddenly sprouting privacy concerns whenever a citizen flies one over something of theirs. Our nation's three-letter agencies want to be able to deploy drones almost anywhere without oversight, even though they've proven to be much less efficient than boots on the ground. Then, of course, there are those piloted by the CIA -- the kind that kill foreigners (and the occasional American) with almost no oversight, and what oversight there is has "bought in."

So, with drone usage by citizens still being contested by a variety of federal agencies, this sort of thing doesn't help at all.

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.

This is KATSU's proof-of-concept. Last year, he managed to convert an off-the-shelf drone into a weaponized tagging machine by attaching a spray can to a DJI Phantom. It had previously only been deployed indoors to create art on the fly. Now, it appears to be the next step in graffiti/vandalism.

Previously unreachable areas can now be tagged by graffiti artists, although the technique is still far from artistic. An off-the-shelf drone is far more finicky than an average human's hands and wrists, especially considering the force of the aerosol spray can push a drone away from the "canvas."

As far as transgressive art/public statements of intent go, KATSU's tagging of this highly-visible, six-story billboard is, I suppose, appropriately juvenile. It's a "because it's there" statement -- an opportunity to deploy refashioned tech to hand out an old-school defacing. There's no underlying political statement, unless you consider the vandalization of an "unreachable" target to be some sort of clunky metaphor for the little people toppling the powers that be. Civil disobedience, this isn't.

What this will do is result in increased suspicion by any law enforcement officer who encounters someone piloting a drone. This isn't a positive development by any means, especially when the FAA seems more likely to let the government's (all bodies, from national to local) worst fears guide its future regulation. And this is piled on top of its pre-existing (and not entirely unreasonable) fears of airline flight interference. There are plenty of positive uses for personal drones, but most legislators and regulators won't be able to see past the spectacle of a six-story billboard being "owned" by a tiny drone and a cheap can of spray paint.

Filed Under: graffiti, personal drones


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  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 10:28pm

    Reminds me of the story from a couple of years ago where a guy who tagged houses suddenly did not find it cool anymore when someone retaliated by tagging his car.

    Graffiti artist? Yeah, right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 3:54am

      Re:

      That. Rather than bringing unnecessary regulations into the matter target the people misusing the drones.

      Of course, given our recent history the authorities will probably shoot the technology instead of the vandals/criminals.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 4:06am

        Re: Re:

        Just like with guns, the authorities and people alike, would rather target the tools than the wielder of the tools. You know, because inanimate objects are evil and stuff.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 7:08am

        Re: Re:

        Isn't what he was doing illegal already anyway? I'm not too familiar with drone regulations but I thought piloting them within a city is already pretty restricted if not outright banned. Not that that's ever stopped regulators from heaping on more restrictions.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Machin Shin (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 7:51am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Well really, who cares about the legality of flying the drone there? Vandalism is definitely illegal already.

          I don't get why this should really become an issue. They know who did it, and they know he is an idiot who loves destroying other peoples property. Arrest him, take him to court, make him pay damages, toss him in jail to cool off for a bit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    art guerrilla (profile), 7 May 2015 @ 10:58pm

    of *course* there is an inherent political 'statement'...

    ...might not have been the tagger's intention, know nothing about the guy/gal/droid; but it is almost certainly a 'political' statement in regards to they hit up a highly visible target sponsored by a company obsessed with and perpetrating a superficial, looks-ist kultur, and the spokesdroid being a celebutard manufactured by the machine to fill the needs of disposable, is only icing on the cake of in-your-face 'desecration'...
    (is korporate puffery such protected fee speech that it is a desecration to deface it ? ...to refute it ? ...to mock it ? ? ? )
    the whole '...with a drone' bullshit is the new '...on the internet' escape-from-rational-thinking clause...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Reality bites, 8 May 2015 @ 6:27am

      No inherent 'statement' except that of retardation.

      The vandal hopefully will be hit in the head with his drone which will save the world having to do it.

      The level of stupidity of the drooling cretin makes most of the clowns in washington DC actually look intelligent.

      Random marks on a wall, just like a 2 year old with crayons.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 9:24am

        Re: No inherent 'statement' except that of retardation.

        If he WAS an actual artist, he would invest the time and effort necessary to develop a system with enough control to be able to actually create something that is actually creative before releasing this.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 May 2015 @ 11:39pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous RC guy, 8 May 2015 @ 5:34am

    I keep seeing the news talking about DRONE this and DRONE that.

    A drone is a aircraft being flown by a flight computer on a pre programmed path. 90% of these incidents are RC planes being flown by (Usually stupid) people doing something they shouldn't.

    99.9% of RC pilots fly in a safe and smart manner. With all the press on that 0.01%, the idiots in Washington are going to have to Save us from the dangerous Drones, and take away yet another one of our rights.
    Sigh

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 6:44am

      Re:

      The word "drone" has already been misused to the point it no longer means what it used to.

      I think the most egregious example of this phenomena is the word "literally". This word is now used by ignorant people to mean the complete opposite of its original meaning.

      This is a bit annoying to say the least.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 7:44am

      Re:

      They do need to be careful with definitions, but if it carries camera that is used for navigation, that likely qualifies, since it can fly "beyond line of sight".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 7:54am

      Re:

      With all the press on that 0.01%, the idiots

      Unfortunately, the .01% of idiots account for most of the laws on the books today. God only need 10 commandments, humanity needs 80,000 pages of laws and regulations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/drone

      3: an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers

      Drones are not necessarily autonomous. Just unmanned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 9:36am

        Re: Re:

        That definition is worthless, though, as it doesn't make a distinction between R/C aircraft and drones, when there's clearly a distinction to be made. I think autonomy is an important part of what differentiates a drone from old-school R/C aircraft.

        Mirriam-Webster needs to update their dictionary. (Remember, dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 10:18am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The point was that the word drone is a synonym for an unmanned vessel, autonomous or not. And even if the word previously meant it had to be autonomous, that is no longer the case. Languages are dynamic, the meanings of words change over time and regardless of whether we like it or not, words mean what people generally accept them to mean. Since most people consider the word drone to include R/C aircraft, guess what? It does.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            John Fenderson (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 10:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "Languages are dynamic, the meanings of words change over time and regardless of whether we like it or not"

            This was my point exactly. The dictionary definition is the old one, not the new one.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 11:24am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Except, the definition I gave is reflective of what the vast majority of people currently believe the word to mean.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Reality bites, 8 May 2015 @ 6:29am

    Hopefully the drooler will get hit in the head with his drone.

    Thanks to the vandal the clowns now have even more excuses to ban the hobby.

    Really hope he gets hit repeatedly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 6:44am

    well obviously the level headed reaction would be to make spray paint cans illegal.

    why go after the person committing the crime when we can blame an inanimate object instead

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      ...make spray paint cans illegal...

      In my area these are already under lock & key. In most stores you have to wait 5 minutes or more for a clerk that has the keys to unlock them.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Atkray (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 4:36pm

      Re:

      Given that we learned from this that the spray can is powerful enough to push the drone away from the target it is clear that the spray can is more dangerous.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 May 2015 @ 8:24am

    a big good stable n-copter (octo)
    with a turret and 2 or 3 paintball colors would do a better job.

    but then it would be similar to our murder drones...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 8 May 2015 @ 11:41am

    That was entirely uncreative.

    See, what you do is put an infrared LED on the back of the drone so a computer can monitor its location in respect to the billboard. A rangefinder that monitors the exact distance between drone and billboard will keep sprays consistent. At that point you have a basic printer system.

    Then you program the computer to position the drone and spray enough to make a mark based as per a pre-made design.

    If you want to go the extra mile you add in stroking, where you turn the spray on and then gently move the drone. Turn off the spray when you reach the endpoint of the stroke.

    Revolutionary vandalism needs to be recognizable and associated with the revolution. e.g. SECVNDNDVS PRIME SVAE VBI QVE ISSE SALVTE or Viva la Resistance!

    Baby steps, I guess.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steven Hoy, 9 May 2015 @ 2:29am

    Punning is the lowest for of wit...

    "It had previously only been deployed indoors to create art on the fly."

    On the fly! Ha Ha!

    Geddit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    LAquaker (profile), 10 May 2015 @ 12:49am

    Resistance or suicide

    I live in 'South Central' Los Angeles. 25 years now.
    99% of the spraycan art in this town is the only real estate the artist will ever own. I painted the front concrete, between the curb and the sidewalk chalkboard green, the locals love it.
    The high schools here manage to eject way more than half of their male students before they can get a 'diploma' maintaining a buyer's market of black market labor. Of course, a career with the NBA is always open.
    I hope one of you guys send KATSU the auto-pilot hack he needs.

    P.S.
    Personally i despise the fact that my government 'permits' my visual horizon to the highest bider.
    See Abbey's 'The Monkey Wrench Gang'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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