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It appears we have now entered the era of “robotic graffiti”, which is a term I was not aware of until a few days ago when I read the term on Wired and The Next Web.

Wednesday morning, KATSU, a well-known graffiti artist and vandal, used a Phantom brand drone to paint on model Kendall Jenner’s face on one of New York City’s largest billboards.

Personally I find drones interesting and fun to fly around. I have a hobby drone and fly it on occasion. In a way it reminds me of the radio control cars or model airplanes of my youth. But drones, unmanned arial vehicles, or whatever you prefer to call them, are in a class of their own. They are fun, powerful, easy to use, usually have cameras, and dropping quickly in cost.

We discussed drones at the first Police Innovation Conference in 2013. We had a few drone type discussions on the agenda and were proud to be discussing a leading edge topic. Two years later drones are a hot topic. There is still a great amount of uncertainty and confusion surrounding the regulations, laws and future . Having had the first drone vandalism occurrence we have another topic to throw into mix. Drones could change destructive vandalism and how police attempt to disrupt it.

The billboard is one of the largest in NYC. It would have been almost impossible to tag the board without the drone. There is no way quick enough that one could do it without someone spotting it. With the drone it took under a minute.

KATSU told Wired Magazine, “It’s exciting to see its first potential use as a device for vandalism” and he also mentioned that “It’s a bit frightening.”

drone graffiti

Photo Credit – Wired.com / ARTHUR HOLLAND MICHEL

There are people on both sides of the drone debate. I know police officers that own drones and see their value for search and rescue as well as other applications. There are police officers that would prefer to ban them. The same goes for people on both sides of the privacy debate, some are concerned about the videos and government intrusion, and others concerned about their neighbors flying by their windows.

Law enforcement has a variety of challenges, they now have to deal with neighbors complaining about other neighbors flying drones, drones being used for committing crimes, new drone legislation, and when an agency can or cannot use a drone.

I am not sure what the future holds for drones and there are many people like Captain Bill Bongle and Professor Missy Cummings from our Police Innovation Conference panel who are more learned than me on the subject matter. I think that like many other technology advances, drones will be both help and hinder public safety and law enforcement. They will be a tool to assist in doing good as well as one used to commit crimes. It will be interesting to see in the coming years where the technology takes us and if the legislators and laws can keep up with the fast paced changes technology brings.

Post Author Peter Olson

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