Drone pilot program to tackle graffiti problem in Washington

Graffiti has always been an eyesore around Washigton’s roadways and starting this spring, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will begin a pilot program that will hopefully place drones in the front lines of this costly problem.

The idea began two years ago when Mike Gauger, a Tacoma maintenance crew member sent out his crew to clean up obscene graffiti for the second time in a week on the Capitol Boulevard Bridge in Olympia. The challenges he and his team experienced in tackling these types of jobs became a great idea moment for him. Equipment problems, use of resources, and job prioritization only added to the challenges of keeping up with the graffiti and he knew there had to be a better way to fight this problem.

While inspecting the Tacoma Narrow Bridge with a drone, he asked himself why not use them to paint.

With support from the maintenance director, and an approved grant passed earlier this year, Mike began working closely with manufacturers on his idea. After a few months, a prototype was ready for testing and WSDOT became the first transportation agency to use drones to paint over graffiti.

The program will undergo testing until the end of the year with results reported to lawmakers.

WSDOT acknowledges that this will not solve the graffiti problem, but it will be another tool that will improve its efficiency and the safety of its workers.

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