A fleet of miniature helicopter drones mounted with thermal imaging cameras are to be deployed to combat graffiti-spraying gangs on the German railway network.
The drones, which fly at an altitude of 150 metres, will be used at graffiti hot spots such as the big German cities of Berlin, Leipzig, Cologne and Hamburg, a spokesman for Deutsche Bahn confirmed.
The use of drones against vandals is the latest indication of the growing civilian market for unmanned aerial reconnaissance. More than 400 drone systems were being developed by firms based in Europe, according to a European Union report in September.
The drones cost €60,000 (NZ$95,598) each and are made by German firm Microdrones, which also markets the machines for landscape photography, analysing traffic accidents and monitoring crops.
They will be painted in Deutsche Bahn's red livery.
Deutsche Bahn spokesman Jens-Oliver Voss said privacy laws meant drones would not be used near stations, where members of the public might be filmed.
"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,'' he said.
Deutsche Bahn, which spends €7.6 million (NZ$12.1 million) a year removing graffiti, won't say how many drones it has bought.
"We have to find news ways to wage the anti-graffiti struggle,'' said the head of railways security, Gerd Neubeck.
- FFX Aus