Every building engineer, facility maintenance technician, and property manager wants to stay proactive with their building’s maintenance. They want to catch minor concerns before they become large, costly issues. Spotting those problems can be difficult in hard-to-see places like crawlspaces and above drop ceilings.
A US-based manufacturer recently purchased a fleet of our crawlspace inspection robots because a small chemical leak went undetected. Before they contacted us, they only inspected their crawlspace annually. The crawlspace was dirty and confined, making it difficult to inspect. That small leak could have been repaired for a few thousand dollars if caught earlier. Unfortunately, it wasn’t, and that leak cost them millions of dollars in environmental mitigation and facility repairs.
They, and other commercial property managers, asked us to develop an easy-to-use, affordable robot to inspect drop ceilings (also known as suspended ceilings or false ceilings). Why? Because the traditional way of inspecting a plenum (the space between the top of the suspended ceiling and the bottom of the floor of a commercial structure) required climbing a ladder, popping up a tile, and looking around the space with a flashlight. Reference photos are limited to that position and the light you’re using. Then you repeat this process over and over because you can only see so much from one access point.
Inspecting a drop ceiling can feel like a game of whack-a-mole where you’re the mole.
Challenges Inspecting Above Suspended Ceiling
- Time-Consuming Process: It takes time to move the ladder, crawl up, look around, climb down, move the ladder, and repeat that process again and again.
- Limited Visibility: even though you move your ladder from place to place, you can only see so much from each location and you do not have any visibility in corners and behind ductwork and equipment.
- Restricted Access: Clear floor space dictates where you can access a drop ceiling. Desks, equipment, and furniture make it hard to use a ladder safely.
- Safety Concerns: Climbing up and down a ladder repeatedly increases the potential of a fall. Also, people can overstretch their bodies trying to view something just out of sight.
- Poor Documentation: While taking pictures helps with documentation, those pictures are almost useless when you get back to your desk because they lack orientation and thoroughness.
We developed a new configuration for our GPK-32 tracked inspection robot that includes a light ring and a 360° camera.
Check out what we saw above our CEO’s office.
This 360° view above the false ceiling lets you inspect the ductwork, pipes, electrical wires, cables, and other concerns such as leaks or mold. You can even use the robot to run a pull tape (mule tape) to run wires and cables.
Benefits Using a Drop Ceiling Inspection Robot
- Accessibility: Drive the robot places you can’t access, whether that’s because of obstacles in the ceiling on the floor.
- Visibility: See more of the space, including distant corners and around ductwork, and in much more detail.
- Speed: Using a robot is much faster compared to climbing up and down a ladder and moving it over and over.
- Safer: Reducing how often you climb up and down a ladder in a crowded environment and not needing to overstretch to see something, drastically reduces your potential for injury by using a robot.
- Better Documentation: The robot’s 360° camera gives you more detail to make critical decisions about proactive maintenance and repairs. It also makes it easier to share with colleagues and supervisors as well as comparing inspections year-to-year.
ROI of Drop Ceiling Robots
Besides speeding up drop ceiling inspections and making those inspections safer, the improved documentation is invaluable for facility managers to catch minor issues before they become major problems.
Check out our drop ceiling robot.