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$30K drone for surface prep?

16 November, 2022

Drones are ever more common — they’re great for photos and videos, spying on your neighbors, planting seeds in forests, and more recently … pressure washing. Painting contractors as well as cleaning companies have found that a drone can do a great job washing off the side of a building, can reach places that may be hazardous for human beings, and get work done in a short labor market.

Tim Payne Painting, a 25-year-old business in Chattanooga, Tennessee, was recently featured in a city newspaper for its use of soft washing drones. An article by Dave Flessner in the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports on how after the 2008 financial crises, the company started to change its focus from newly built homes to residential repaint as well as painting and washing commercial and government buildings.
Then, starting late last year, Payne began using drones to wash multi story buildings, and he is looking into using them to paint as well as this technology progresses. This has been especially helpful with buildings higher than two stories, where it can become difficult and dangerous to put painters on the task.

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s…
It still takes some dollars to do it; the article states that the drones cost $30,000 and require an FAA Certified Pilot to operate them in a commercial setting. And that doesn’t mean the employees have nothing to do — there’s still work to be done on the ground, and this service inevitably draws curious crowds that the crew needs to keep out of the way.

Shannan Payne, the company’s director of business development, notes that this was, at the time of the article, the only such service in Tennessee, that the process was approximately 25% more cost effective than conventional methods, and that it provides a safer cleaning of delicate architectural features. It’s also brought about a huge increase in business and repeat clients.

Worker safety and environmental sustainability
Payne’s website provides a detailed page devoted to the process; space-age photos show the flying apparatus washing the side of a building while the marketing copy encourages clients to sign up for regular soft washing. The company uses Lucid drone soft washing units, noting that the procedure saves on both labor and time to get the work done. This will allow a company who uses such technology to get more work done with the same size team.

Lucid, founded by Andrew Ashur in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, provides drones for clients nationwide. Along with washing, Ashur and his team developed these small aircraft to aid in disinfection during the pandemic. “Over the past three years, Lucid Drone Technologies has developed a successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the D1 disinfecting drone and created the only purpose-built cleaning drone in North America,” its website states.

While this will take a significant investment on the part of any painting contractor, it may pay off in increased worker safety as well as provide, such as in the case of Payne Painting, enhanced visibility as passersby enjoy watching the spectacle from below. It can also put you at the forefront of environmental sustainability and allow you to expand into other services that these drones can provide.

Some other companies involved in this technology include Apellix and Aquiline Drones. Earlier this year Apellix was involved in an award-winning project of cleaning a 115-foot-tall water tower in Wooster, Ohio. The company, which designs its drones to work with standard equipment (hoses, nozzles, power sources, etc.) states that these craft make many such jobs much safer than in the past: “We remove the risk of people falling by keeping them safe on the ground and the aerial platform in the air.”


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