It’s not science fiction: A drone that removes graffiti has arrived

Apr 29, 2024, 2:43 PM

Photo: A prototype drone test sprays paint to cover up graffiti in Tacoma in spring 2024....

A prototype drone test sprays paint to cover up graffiti in Tacoma in spring 2024. (Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation)

(Photo courtesy of Washington Department of Transportation)

I’m not sure why, but the “Flight of the Valkyries” plays in my head as I dream of sky full of graffiti drones descending Interstate 5 (I-5) with their nozzles locked and loaded.

Maybe I’ve seen “Apocalypse Now” too many times, but that is my vision for this Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) pilot program designed to combat graffiti, especially on bridges and overpasses.

And why not? WSDOT spent $815,000 on graffiti removal in 2023. Workers spent more than 10,000 hours painting over 700,000 square feet of graffiti last year.

The government agency noted in its online story its crews report seeing new graffiti appear “sometimes days or even hours after an area is cleaned.”

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More on the drone that removes graffiti

The machine, built from an Aquiline Endure model, uses a spray nozzle and is linked to a paint supply on the ground. As the agency explains, an operator can position the drone anywhere the tethered hose can reach. The idea is that a drone used this way “makes quick work of painting over graffiti on tall retaining walls, bridges and overpasses.”

Drone No. 1 failed during initial testing, but the newest drone is up and running. It is being tested in Olympia and Tacoma, under control of licensed drone operators inside the Pierce County regional maintenance division.

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The Washington legislature in Olympia passed House Bill 1989 during their session in 2024. The legislation provides WSDOT $1 million to research traffic camera technology for monitoring graffiti removal.

In December, the agency will submit a report to the legislature in December about the findings of the program for further evaluation. WSDOT emphasized in its story that “it will be a while before we know if this is technology that we will implement in the long term.”

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints here. You can also follow Chris on X, formerly known as Twitter. Head here to follow KIRO Newsradio Traffic’s profile on X.


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It’s not science fiction: A drone that removes graffiti has arrived