German rail network to fight graffiti with drones

Deutsche Bahn wants to deploy silent drones to thwart vandalism to its trains and property, which cost the operator nearly $10 million last year.

Trains such as Deutsche Bahn's high-speed Class 411 ICE T use rail yards where drones will be deployed.
Deutsche Bahn AG

From personal photographers to aerial artworks, drones are finding new applications every day. Now Germany's national rail network wants to deploy them against graffiti.

Deutsche Bahn says its trains were defaced about 14,000 times in 2012 alone, costing the operator about $9.8 million in cleanup expenses.

The company will start testing drones at large rail depots, where vandalism frequently occurs at night. The drones will be nearly silent and will have GPS tracking and sensitive infrared cameras to establish evidence for criminal prosecution.

The drones will fly at altitudes up to 492 feet with a top speed of 33 mph and monitor rail yards for more than 80 minutes at a time. They can also fly on autopilot for up to 25 miles.

"We must find new ways to fight graffiti," Deutsche Bahn security chief Gerd Neubeck was quoted as saying by Der Spiegel, quoting the newspaper Bild.

Strict German laws on privacy, however, will mean the drones will only be used on company property and that buildings and people outside would not be filmed.

It's a sensitive issue in Germany, where Google Street View cameras sparked a lawsuit. Nearly 3 percent of Germans opted out of Street View, and had their houses blurred in the images.

(Via BBC News)