Cutting edge aviation and painting are not two things you’d readily associate with Disney, so it’s a little strange that this week the media giant has published work outlining a combination of the two.

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Disney’s “system for autonomous spray painting using a UAV” has been designed to eventually be suitable for industrial applications. The company says the project “is motivated by the potential for such a system to achieve accurate and fast painting results.”

Disney’s PaintCopter
To be fair, this isn’t Disney’s first foray into the world of drones. As early as 2014, the company was exploring the use of UAVs for aerial entertainment.

Disney’s resort in Orlando has also been the venue for Intel’s drone light shows. Now Disney’s own research arm is getting in on the action.

This new application – Paintcopter – represents a step in a different direction. The drone appears to be a modified DJI Matrice 100, but it’s been custom fitted with an arm with a spray gun on a pan-tilt mechanism.

We all know that no masterpiece is created within a normal drone’s 20-30 minute flight time. So Disney’s Paintcopter is tethered. A cable providing paint and power allows for long deployment times for industrial painting tasks.

You can see from the images above and video below that Disney’s painting drone is, shall we say, still at the impressionist stage. But the company has said that “this work addresses a more sophisticated operation” – which includes painting on 3D structures, color gradients and painting the desired texture appearance.

Eventually, Disney’s system could be painting complex patterns onto complex structures, reducing the risk for workers and in some cases removing the need for them completely.

Disney’s system requires the target surface to be scanned to develop a 3D map of the job to be done. The operator will then point out which areas need to be painted and how. The system then generates the necessary commands and the drone gets to work.

Check out the video below for more detail.