An up-and-coming Kansas City startup has high hopes in rolling out a safer, more cost-effective alternative to traditional commercial building exterior cleaning methods.
Founded in the fall, Drone Wash owes its origins to a pain point Brain Group co-principal Andrew Brain encountered in arranging cleaning for the firm’s West Plaza Tower at 4700 Belleview Ave., the roof of which does not allow a cleaner to hang down and wipe windows.
“To rent a bucket truck, to get somebody up in it, to get the permit to close the street and then the actual time it takes to clean, that is a very slow process,” Brain said, citing several thousands of dollars in costs for a single cleaning.
Brain had subsequent conversations with acquaintances who spoke about painting houses with drones, as well as skyrocketing liability insurance premiums for window cleaning companies. The idea then crystallized: drone-powered cleaning for exterior building surfaces.
Brain said he researched the idea and connected with local entrepreneur Leland Sanders, owner of the Touch of Class transportation service in Overland Park. The two acquired an industrial spraying drone — Lucy — from Charlotte-based Lucid Drone Technologies and got to work on testing.
The drone connects via hose to a grounded rig that mixes and compresses a cleaning solution. Certified local drone pilot Justin Lee then navigates the aircraft first in spraying building windows with the chemicals and then rinsing them with deionized water.
The technology employs a 300 pounds-per-square-inch (psi) soft wash system meant to clean buildings without damaging facades or windows. Brain estimated that the process leaves building exteriors almost as clean as a worker manually using a squeegee — and is anywhere from six to 10 times faster.
The spraying drone’s nozzle can be reconfigured downward and use water to hose debris off rooftops. Drone Wash is able to clean buildings as high as 110 feet, or about seven to eight stories, based on Federal Aviation Administration restrictions for tethered drones.
To date, Brain said, the startup has connected with several commercial real estate firms interested in cleanings for their portfolios, and he hopes to begin making the rounds with its services in earnest in April.
Drone Wash has raised about $50,000 through an early family-and-friends fundraising round. Brain said the firm plans to seek angel investor funding and acquire three to four more drones later this year.
“It’s a chemical-based cleaning system, and the drone is just the delivery mechanism for it,” he said. “I’m able to clean my windows more quickly and save money, and it’s a lot safer for the people doing the work, so to speak.”
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