Automatization: Drones and robots in facility management

    Drones have been conquering the leisure sector for years and are increasingly playing a role in commercial applications as well. Not only in the photography and film business do they unlock awesome opportunities. They are also already a useful addition in the maritime environment for surveillance and analysis tasks. 

    Since their potential is also very high in the industrial sector, their use in facility management and real estate management is promising. Equipped with cameras and often additional sensors, and in some cases already autonomous, drones can take a close look at facades. After all, many buildings are difficult to access from the outside - especially when it comes to sophisticated architecture. Based on the data of such a 360° documentation by a drone, expert opinions of the building envelope can be prepared or a digital object file can be maintained. Drones are not only suitable for inspecting individual objects, but also for monitoring entire areas. Areas of application in building management include real-time monitoring, selective inspection of neuralgic points or periodic patrols in the course of maintenance and repair. Automated monitoring operations can be integrated into existing CAFM (Computer-Aided Facility Management) systems via numerous interfaces in order to make processes in technical building management more efficient. For example, drone data can be used to maintain an object database that feeds a digital twin with data. And data from existing BIM models can also be supplemented with drone images so that algorithms can match model and reality. This makes predictive maintenance much easier. It is also possible to integrate it with the thermography of objects to more easily identify thermal and cold bridges. Thus, thermal drone images can help optimize energy consumption and save costs in the building sector. All things considered, aerial drones have great potential as a future key technology in building management, thanks to the systematic and precise collection of data, while at the same time lowering labor and material costs.

    If you don't want to aim high, automation has also been facilitating processes in other fields of work for years - for example, in building cleaning. This does not mean the vacuuming robots that are often ridiculed for their actual cleaning performance and whir through private apartments like oversized ice hockey pucks. In the commercial sector, cleaning robots can be more than just a nice gimmick. Here, they maintain office spaces just as resource-efficiently as large open spaces in lobbies or airports. There are also possible applications in the reverse case of particularly difficult-to-access areas, such as sewers and pipelines. There, modern equipment can not only inspect, but also directly repair, weld and disinfect. In the health sector, the last point is significant. The first UV disinfection robots on the market are combating the Corona virus with light beams and are thus expected to help contain the pandemic. Many other applications for robots in maintenance, cleaning and protection are just being developed.

    It will take time for autonomous devices to replace human activities in facility management. But until then, they can certainly be an efficiency-enhancing addition under the supervision of human colleagues.