Disney’s spray-painting drone could end the need for scaffolding

It can spray paint both flat and 3D surfaces.

We've seen some pretty interesting work come out of Disney Research in the past, like techniques for digitally recreating teeth, makeup-projecting lamps, a group AR experience and a stick-like robot that can perform backflips. One of its latest projects is PaintCopter -- a drone that can autonomously spray paint both flat and 3D surfaces. Disney Research says the goal is to be able to paint large surfaces without the need for scaffolding and ladders.

The process consists of three steps. First, the target surface is scanned and an accurate 3D map is generated. Then a designer lays out what needs to be painted -- whether that be a filled in area or a line drawing -- onto the 3D model, and generates the necessary robotic painting commands. And once that's done, PaintCopter, a modified DJI Matrice 100, can get to work.

You can see the drone in action in the video below, and while its painting skills still leave a bit to be desired, you can imagine where this work is headed. And now that the Disney Research team has showed that this set up can, for the most part, fill an area with paint and paint a line drawing, they're working on developing more complicated actions, such as painting color gradients.