BY: DANIEL KORN
Unmanned aerial vehicles—more commonly known as drones—have become one of the dominant issues of the early 21st century. The anxiety surrounding drones has to do with the technology’s military applications—the fear that either a paranoid government or rogue psychopath could remote-control a drone into view on your walk to the grocery store and open fire, with no accountability on the part of the aggressor. None of this is unfounded; a report by the human rights group Reprieve found that, as of November 2014, over a thousand people had been killed by US drone strikes, despite the fact that only 41 people were actually targeted. And as drones become more affordable for the average consumer—as has already begun—so too does the potential for dangerous tomfoolery rise.
But like any technology, drones have good applications to go along with the bad. A former NASA engineer is using drones to plant a billion trees a year. Others have used them to make farming more efficient or to take stunning aerial photographs. Now, drones have crossed over into street art.
A well-known street artist based in New York City who goes by the name KATSU, is the first person to tag a previously inaccessible area using a drone. His place of attack is the Calvin Klein billboard, which sits at the intersection of Houston St. and Lafayette St. and stands about six stories tall. The tag itself is quite simple—just a few red lines painted over fashion model Kendall Jenner’s face—and functions more as a promise for what’s to come in the future of street art than a strong piece in its own right.
That promise, though, is a strong one. While drone control is not precise enough to draw anything resembling an actual tag yet—never mind an elaborate mural—KATSU’s piece shows the unexplored heights that graffiti could make in the near-future. According to an article on Wired, the artist is working on a more user-friendly version of his modified drone that will have some element of computer vision “to help with stability.” One also imagines that a whole lot of copycats will follow KATSU’s initial stunt with drones of their own.
One thing’s for certain: city walls are about to get a whole lot messier.