Will window cleaning be carried out by robots in the future?

Science fiction would have us believe that menial tasks we either find too tiresome or difficult to complete will be the domain of robotic entities in the distant future. Whilst past efforts to build robots have at times had a rocky start, robotics as an area of development is increasingly becoming a successful enterprise and producing startling results.

We might still be a long way from anything as sophisticated as an all-purpose machine that can do our housework for us and hold a conversation, but specialised devices, such as robotic vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers, are beginning to make an appearance in our society.

Of particular interest to LaddersFree and other commercial window cleaning companies across the World is the window cleaning robot concept, and its use by its team of commercial window cleaners. There are a couple of these machines already around or in development at present, with some intended for small scale residential use, such as the Winbot Series 7, and others designed to handle bigger jobs like the exterior of large office blocks, hotels and skyscrapers.

In 2011, we mentioned the launch of ‘Windoro’, a system designed in Korea for small shops and houses, consisting of two parts, one part for the inside of a window, the other for the outside.

Progress in this field is constant and the machines themselves are already quite capable at their job.

The Winbot is actually a second generation device, improving on its forebear by using suction to adhere to a surface rather than a system of magnetic clamps, and once set up is able to clean domestic windows autonomously. It uses cleaning pads and a squeegee combination to clean the entire surface, effectively mapping out a route all by itself to ensure it doesn’t miss a spot or leave any streaks. The system still requires human intervention, as you will need to set the device on the window and hold it there whilst it generates enough suction to remain fixed on the surface. For optimum results, you also need to add some solution to the cleaning pads before each clean.

Another futuristic robotic window cleaner is the Façade from the Swiss company Gekko. It has a bigger job than the Winbot, but it is not autonomous and at the present time Gekko’s robot needs to be controlled by a remote human operator. The device is still an impressive piece of equipment and has much to recommend it. Using ground-level operators, this system offers numerous benefits. There is no risk of falling from height, no additional equipment is required and the system is particularly useful for windows where access is an issue.

The designers hope to make the Façade autonomous in the future, and there is no reason why future skyscrapers could not have a couple of these crawling around their surfaces keeping them looking great.

In January this year the Façade machine was showcased in Dubai but it is not yet commercially available.

There are other contenders on the market or in development as well, with several companies making entries into the robotic window cleaning field for both residential use (Electrolux has a small solar-powered robot in development called Gecko – not to be confused with Gekko the company) and for more extensive exterior surfaces. More competition can only mean more drive for progress and innovation from the developers of robotic systems, which in turn will lead to even more impressive solutions for contemporary and future window cleaning challenges.