Graffiti-fighting drones are coming to clean up San Jose

San Jose has a new high-tech solution to its persistent graffiti problem.

Mayor Sam Liccardo on Wednesday announced a graffiti-removing drone as the winner of the city’s “Unleash your Geek” contest. Entrepreneurs Christopher Farmer and Candace Marbury, a couple from downtown San Jose, demonstrated their prototype drone at the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose. Dubbed GRAD — Graffiti Removed by Automatic Drone — the small drone buzzed around the stage, spraying white paint on a canvas to cover up graffiti that had been painted there.

GRAD was dreamed up in response to a challenge by San Jose city leaders: find a solution to remove graffiti from hard-to-reach spots like overpasses, freeway signs, sound walls and railroad trestles. Those cleanup efforts can be difficult and costly for the city — recent graffiti removal along Highway 101 required closing freeway lanes for three nights, deploying large cranes and dozens of workers, an effort that cost $60,000, according to the city. Therefore, unsightly graffiti often remains for weeks or months before it can be removed.

So the city invited inventors to propose a solution, offering $20,000 in prize money to four finalists, and an extra $5,000 and assistance in obtaining a patent to the winner.

On Wednesday, Liccardo congratulated Marbury and Farmer for coming up with a fix that works.

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“When this thing really works well, we’re going to see cities throughout the country wanting to buy this incredible product,” he said.

The couple is working on updating their prototype in collaboration with CalTrans, he said.

And they’re already at work on a version 2.0, which will walk or crawl up the side of buildings to eradicate graffiti, KRON4 reports.

The drones hopefully will be buzzing around San Jose by the summer of 2018, according to KTVU.

Photo: An over-crossing on I-280 near Bird Avenue is covered in graffiti. (Richard Wisdom/ Mercury News)


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  • is the eyesore target chosen by operator control, or whatever meets the programs fancy?
    # mistakes happen

  • Gene Steagall

    the bridge pictured in the headline has been graffiti free for about 3 years now. Too little too late.