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The next target for drones: Graffiti?
A German rail operator hopes unmanned aircraft can thwart the nation's illegal art scene
Drones may be used on a different kind of battlefield.
Drones may be used on a different kind of battlefield. CC BY: ...some guy
I

t's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a tiny drone making sure you're not trying to paint your moniker all over a train car.

Germany's national railway, Deutsche Bahn, is set to begin testing miniature drones in an attempt to thwart would-be taggers. Using thermal cameras, the helicopter-like drones will be able to film nighttime vandals who break into train depots to paint rail cars. The images will be so detailed that the railway hopes they can be used as evidence to prosecute illicit artists.

"They will be used in combination with security guards, identifying graffiti-sprayers so they can be apprehended by security forces, who can hand them over to police," a Deutsche Bahn spokesman told the Telegraph.

The railway plans to deploy the drones to graffiti hotspots, though it has remained quiet on where exactly those locations are. Berlin has a world-renowned graffiti culture, so it and other "problem areas" will likely see some of the new drones first.

Trains have long been a favorite target of graffiti artists due to their high visibility. Cleaning graffiti costs Deutsche Bahn alone an estimated $10 million per year.

Remote pilots will fly the craft at heights up to 500 feet and speeds up to 33 miles-per-hour, according to AFP. However, they'll only be used inside train depots and other areas under Deutsche Bahn's control.

That's because drones and public surveillance are extremely touchy subjects in Germany. A proposed military drone purchase sparked an outcry from some German politicians, with critics noting the aircraft were instruments of death that have led to the deaths of innocent civilians.

As for domestic surveillance, that, too, hasn't gone over so well. A German regulator last month fined Google $190,000 over its Street View service. Germany claimed Google had collected personal and confidential data from WiFi networks through the program.

Jon Terbush is a staff writer for TheWeek.com covering politics, sports, and other things he finds interesting. He has previously written for Talking Points Memo, Raw Story, and Business Insider.

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