Tacoma, Washington, testing drones to remove graffiti

May 17, 2024

Maintenance crews for the city of Tacoma, Washington, are testing a powerful new tool to help remove graffiti from city walls and infrastructure – Drones.

The city’s pilot program uses a protype drone that sprays paint that covers up graffiti on bridges and overpasses – which can difficult to reach and risky for humans to try to cover up. Last year, Tacoma’s maintenance team spent over $815,000 and 10,000 hours removing graffiti.

Mike Gauger, a member of the Tacoma maintenance team, led the mission to find a solution to removing graffiti around the city. The city has been utilizing Under Bridge Inspection Trucks (UBIT), but with only six available, Gauger thought to try other options.

The city has used drones before for bridge inspections and to respond to disasters such as flooding and landslides, but this is the first time drones have been used for graffiti.

In tests so far, the drone hooks up to a hose from the ground and travels as far as the tether can reach, using an attached nozzle to dispense paint. The drone is developed from Aquiline’s Endure model, who agreed to partner with the city for the pilot project.

“This pilot program won’t end highway graffiti – it’s a constant struggle for our crews and law enforcement to address – but it’s another tool in our toolbox,” the city said on its website. “We are excited to continue exploring new technologies to keep our crews safer and make them more efficient.”

Washington State passed House Bill 1989 this year, which dedicates a portion of the $1 million for traffic camera research to fund the prototype drone testing. WSDOT plans to deliver findings to state legislature at the end of this year.

Gracie Warhurst

Gracie Warhurst has joined Strategic Partnerships, Inc. as a writer and digital content creator for the new Government Market News portal. With a rich background in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, Warhurst has experience as editor-in-chief of a literary magazine, assistant web editor, and project manager for an AI journalism project. She also contributed as a reporter during the development of SPI's news portal. Warhurst graduated summa cum laude in December 2023 with a Bachelor's in Journalism and a certificate in creative writing, making her a valuable asset to the SPI team.

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