The R2D2 of window cleaners rolled its way up the side of Dubai’s Dusit Thani Hotel yesterday to show off its polishing prowess for an audience of investors and municipality officials.
And the audience – apart from window cleaning companies that rely more on flesh and blood to get the job done – seemed quite impressed.
The German engineering company Samad International says it designed the Robo Clean specifically for the UAE.
The robot, measuring one metre by 1.5 metres and weighing 60 kilograms, climbs using 22 suction cups to clean 210 square metres of glass an hour.There is no limit to how high it can climb.
“It is not just for efficiency, but it’s a matter of safety and the cost of life,” said Ali Abou Taha, an agent for Samad.
Last month, two window cleaners died after their cradle fell from the 15th floor of a building on Khalifa Street in Abu Dhabi.
“In this part of the world you also have the cultural aspect of total privacy,” Mr Abou Taha said. “There have been cases in Sharjah where guests have complained the cleaners are peering in at them, and some have even gone to court.”
Robo Clean has a cable as a fail-safe, and the cleaning system is attached to the top of the robot.
“We have two types of cleaning systems,” said Mr Abou Taha. “The first is a regular rotating brush, similar to what you have at a car wash. “The other system we hope to have next year uses dry ice.”Tarek Aouini, director of rooms at the Dusit Thani Hotel, was impressed.
“It takes us 33 days for the window cleaners to complete the whole building, and that is if the weather permits,” said Mr Aouini.
Robo Clean can finish the task in a day and a half, the company says.
But Mazen Harake, the managing director of Spider Access, which cleans more than 400 high-rise buildings in the UAE by hand, is not a fan.
“We’ve had previous encounters with about five of these robotic cleaners, mostly Swiss-made,” Mr Harake said. “They are very expensive, reaching up to Dh2 million, require a lot of maintenance, and are not very effective.
“The main issue is access restriction. These robots can only go up and down and can’t reach all the areas. These robots will not affect our business at all.”
But Mr Abou Taha says his robot can handle any shape of building.
“We need about half a day to configure the system to the shape of the building,” he said.
“The next step for us is to configure it for curved surfaces, like the http://www.thenational.ae">Metro stations, http://www.thenational.ae">Dubai Airport, and http://www.thenational.ae">Ferrari World.”