If you were responsible for the upkeep of a 20-story-tall building, you wouldn’t just stand on the ground and look up at it to see if it needed any structural repairs. Instead you’d hire a building inspection service, which would lower inspectors down the side of the building on a swing stage or bosun chair, like window cleaners use. The folks at FTD Highrise Inspection, however, are now using something that they claim is a superior alternative – a highrise-inspecting robot they created, called SAM.

The robot doesn’t actually cling to the side of the building like Spider-Man, but instead uses a roof-mounted custom rigging system. “This allows us to send wires down the side of the building,” FTD’s Filip Sobotka explained to us. “We then attach SAM to the wires and he climbs up them, he reaches the top of the rigging system and begins his inspection. He takes an image which is then relayed to the operator on the ground. He continues to do this until he reaches the bottom of the run. After this is completed we re-position the rigging and repeat this process.”

Using their tablet-style control unit, the operator assesses each wirelessly-transmitted photo, looking for things like cracks, faulty window moldings, or other problems. When they do notice something, they don’t have to look at the building and try to memorize the spot by sight – because each image is data-tagged, its location on the building is recorded on a digital 3D grid map of the building.

So, why is SAM reportedly better than dangling human inspectors?

Speed is the main reason. The robot recently took less than two days to inspect a building with 21,000 square feet (1,951 sq m) of exterior surface area. According to FTD, this would have taken weeks using people on a swing stage or chair. Because SAM is so much quicker, inspection costs are apparently also considerably lower.

Additionally, the robot takes photos of every square inch of the building, and those photos are saved for future reference. As long as the operator looks at the images thoroughly, then – in theory – nothing should be missed. If there are concerns after the inspection is complete, the photos can still be accessed by the client online at any time.

FTD is based out of Mississauga, Canada, and serves clients around the Southern Ontario area. SAM can be seen in use in the video below.

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