April 29 marked the beginning of robotic graffiti, as KATSU, a popular graffiti artist, was able to use a hacked DJI Phantom drone to vandalize a billboard of Kendall Jenner for Calvin Klein in New York City.
In the first instance of a drone being used for a major act of vandalism, KATSU used the drone to paint a red scribble across the face of Jenner on the billboard, considered to be one of the biggest and most viewed ones in the city.
During an interview with online magazine Motherboard last year, KATSU revealed that his thoughts on attaching a spray paint can to a DJI Phantom drone was to blend art with technology.
"I really want to look into the way that a person and a drone could connect," then said KATSU. "I thought, 'I could go out into the city and spray paint using a drone wherever I wanted to, in basically unreachable spots and in unusable areas.'"
KATSU previously only used the drone to make paintings on canvasses to be displayed on white-wall galleries. However, he said that he will soon be using the drone to make enormous tags on locations that were previously unreachable even to the most daring taggers.
With the vandalism on Jenner's billboard, KATSU has definitely made good on his promise.
"It turned out surprisingly well," KATSU said of his work, adding that it was exciting to see the first time that a drone has been used for an act of vandalism.
Jenner's billboard is located in the busy intersection of Lafayette St. and Houston St. and has a height of around six stories. There was no way that the billboard would have been vandalized using traditional means, as possible methods were either too dangerous or too slow to finish without patrol cops spotting the vandalism going on.
With KATSU's drone, the vandalism did not last longer than a minute.
Artists have been looking for ways to apply drone technology, as drones have become more powerful recently despite dropping prices. It was only a matter of time before drones began to be used as instruments for acts such as vandalism. And while the scribbles that KATSU made on Jenner's billboard does not look much compared to the graffiti that can be found on certain walls, it shows the potential of the effect of drones on vandalism and other illegal acts.
The authorities will not have to panic just yet, as KATSU himself said that using the drone to commit the act of vandalism is difficult due to the unpredictability of the drone's flight. However, KATSU did say that he is working on a more user-friendly version of his graffiti drone, which he would be introducing soon.