Will Buildings Ever Be Cleaned By Drones?

The role of drones in our everyday lives is growing each and every day. In the past year alone, we've seen some amazing uses for them. Start-ups like Zipline, for example, even utilize them to deliver blood to hard to reach villages in Rwanda.

Is it only a matter of time before we see drones taking the place of our high-rise window cleaners? I foresee this as a possibility in three parts-- Here's how such a thing could be feasible:

The Water:

       As most property managers know, pure water systems are currently used to clean buildings up to four stories tall. This system is necessary when a building is too tall to clean with a squeegee and a pole but too small to rope drop from the roof. So generally this applies to 3-4 story buildings.

     In our industry, "pure water" is water that has gone through a filtration process to remove minerals and solids. When pure water is used to clean windows, it dries completely clear. Normal tap water in Phoenix has a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) level of around 300. Once it goes through our pure water tanks, this level is dropped by 99.99%

      If a drone was designed to clean windows, the best option would be to use a pure water system. It would be to difficult to program a drone to clean windows effectively with a squeegee, especially with different sized panes. I imagine the technology exists needed for a drone to dispense pure water.

Pure water system on a residential.

The Brush

        In addition to water, an abrasive is needed to effectively clean any window. Without something to scrub off dust, dirt and debris, the glass would still be dirty. To accomplish this with a drone, it would need some sort of brush head that could extend out further then the drones body. 

      This drone was used last month in China to burn off a piece of plastic that got stuck on a telephone pole. Awesome!  Notice how the nozzle is extended further than the props to shoot the flames. If you similarly attached a nozzle with a lightweight brush, in theory it could absolutely clean a window on a flat building. 

The Tank

Now that we've considered the water and brush, we would just need a tank attached to the drone to hold and pressurize the water. We already know drones can carry up to 200lbs of weight. Casey Neistat did an amazing video where he flew via drone- check out a clip below!

     The problem with having the tank mounted onto the actual drone is that it's an incredible amount of weight to carry. And as cool as Casey's lift off is, the batteries could only handle 10 minutes of flight time at a time. Therefore a better option would be to have the water tank on the roof of the building with a thin water line running to the top of the drone. As it cleans, gravity would then add enough pressure to push water out the nozzle without the need of a pump.

 Rough sketch of a drone cleaning a building

Rough sketch of a drone cleaning a building

In summation as the owner of a high-rise window cleaning company and also a drone enthusiast, I see a working prototype developed within the next few years as a very real possibility.

What would it mean for window cleaners?      

Instead of cleaning windows while suspended from the building, cleaners would learn how to operate drones from the ground. Anyone with a fear of heights would have a much easier time!

What would it mean for building owners/managers?

Cheaper, faster, more efficient service. And if there are any streaks, don't blame us, blame the drone!

- AJ Harris Owner of Clean Towers 7.12.17