exterior building cleaning drones Lucid Sunbelt

Exterior building cleaning businesses: here’s an easy way to incorporate drones (and likely reduce expenses)

Drones are becoming one of the hottest new tools for exterior building cleaning businesses. But purchasing an exterior building cleaning drone can be expensive — and it might not be worth buying outright for small businesses unsure about committing to such a big investment.

But here’s a new solution that might make it easier for exterior building cleaning businesses to get their hands on a drone: outdoor washing drones for rent. And one major industrial equipment rental company in particular is diving into the drone business, thanks to a partnership with a company that makes exterior building cleaning drones.

Sunbelt Rentals, which rents out all sorts of commercial products ranging from forklifts to generators to pumps, recently announced a partnership with Lucid Drone Technologies. Lucid Drone Technologies is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based startup building drones for all sorts of labor-intensive jobs, including exterior building cleaning. With the new partnership, you can now rent Lucid’s C1 industrial spraying drones for use pretty much anywhere drones can be legally flown in the U.S. Those drones have proven key cleaning tools for exterior surfaces such as roofs, stadiums, schools, office buildings, and apartment buildings that are otherwise too challenging, time-consuming, and dangerous to clean and maintain.

Lucid began in 2018 by using retrofitted, off-the-shelf drones to handle exterior soft-washing, before ultimately evolving to build its own drones. Today, its flagship product — the Lucid C1 drone — is designed, assembled, and tested in-house by the Lucid team in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Pricing is custom, but typically it starts at $25,000 for the base model. Most packages ultimately cost around $35,000 as customers purchase add-ons such as a Window Payload option which allows the operator to switch from window cleaning products to regular cleaning products using a switch. 

But when you rent the Lucid C1 drone, it starts at just $350 per day (depending on location), which might prove a far more affordable option for exterior building cleaning businesses that are curious about getting into drones.

For now, there are few drones in the exterior cleaning space. Connecticut-based Aquiline Drones also makes an exterior spray washing drone, though it is not solely focused on leaning. Its other focus areas include using drones for crowd counting and asset inspections, among others.

exterior building cleaning drones Lucid Sunbelt
Photo courtesy of Lucid.

Why rent instead of buy a drone for your exterior building cleaning business?

Renting rather than buying a drone can make sense especially for small businesses that aren’t completely larger jobs regularly. A fully-owned drone might not make sense for a side hustle business that typically completes small jobs, such as power-cleaning homes on weekends, but that every once in a while lands a bigger contract with a multi-acre property that has far more square feet to clean.

 It could also be beneficial for properties who do their own cleaning, but only need to wash the facility exterior a couple times a year or so. 

And it might also be a surefire bet for what might now be small business that is looking to grow, but doesn’t have the capital to go all in on one drone just yet. Having a drone in the toolkit could be that key to landing more, larger jobs — and ultimately increasing profitability.

“Because the pressure washing industry is sleepy and more traditional, transforming the space with an innovative tool like the C1 Drone definitely opens the door for companies to make more money, save on liability and keep workers safe, and increase efficiency,” a Lucid spokesperson told The Drone Girl.

Lucid claims that its drones:

  • Reduce job site injuries by 95% by keeping workers on the ground
  • Increase efficiency by 80% by reducing setup time and a faster clean
  • Lower costs by 77%.

What might normally be a cleaning job requiring eight works and, say, a cost of $150,000, could be brought down to a job requiring just one person (plus a drone). The cost would amount to the roughly $35,000 drone plus one person’s salary for the day.

Sunbelt cleaning drone
Photo courtesy of Lucid.

How the Lucid drones clean building exteriors

Lucid’s industrial spraying drones wash building exteriors and windows using a soft wash method, which is generally considered safe for windows and surfaces and adjustable for different chemicals and jobs, ranging from residential to commercial to facility jobs.

The company claims its Lucid C1 drone can complete jobs 3-5x faster than a similar job done by a human. Plus, it’s generally seen as safer than human labor, considering humans don’t have to propel down the sides of buildings. And money is saved to as companies don’t need to set up scaffolding, lifts or repel systems.

When you rent through Sunbelt, you’ll receive the Lucid C1 Drone which use low pressure (less than 300 pounds per square inch) to clean exteriors, such as walls or windows.

This drone doesn’t fly free though. Instead, it operates by tethering to an on-ground, soft wash pump system on a trailer or in a truck bed.

The drone uses GPS and has safety features including an “avoid distance quick-select switch” which allows operators to choose options to keep the drone at a set distance from the building for safe use.

See the Lucid drone in action, washing a window, here:

How the Lucid cleaning drone rental process works

As far as renting the Lucid C1 drone goes, it’s actually fairly straightforward. To order, fill out the “request a quote” form on Sunbelt’s website. From there, the process is actually handled by Sunbelt Rentals.

Not only will you receive a drone, but you’ll also receive access to some training, but it’s pretty much a basic document with flight instruction.

That said, experienced drone pilots would likely be able to pick up handling a Lucid C1 drone, and Sunbelt said it considers this a “rent and go” situation. In fact, Lucid has claimed that its drones are super easy to fly, once running a promotional campaign titled, “Lucid Drones Are So Easy To Fly, Even Your Grandma Can Do It.”

That said, there are options for more extensive training offered (for an additional cost) through a partnership with online drone training company Drone U.

What requirements are needed to operate a drone?

If you’re flying outdoors in the U.S., you’ll of course need to comply with all Federal Aviation Administration rules, which include registering your drone, holding a Part 107 certification (required to operate a drone commercially in the U.S.) and flying only in areas where it’s legal to do so.

But Sunbelt did laid out some of their own specifics.

Holding a Part 107 license

Sunbelt does not actually require that the person renting the drone has a Part 107 license. Though, in line with FAA rules, Sunbelt does require that someone present during the drone’s operation has a Part 107. Before shipping the drone, Sunbelt will ask for proof of a license from the person who will be operating the drone.

Related read: The best Part 107 online test prep courses of 2022

Insurance

Sunbelt also requires you hold aviation insurance — something the FAA itself does not require (Sunbelt says it can help coordinate drone insurance options).

Though aviation insurance does come with an extra cost, there is an upside: using drones instead of humans on rigs or scaffolding might actually reduce your overall liability insurance. In fact, more than 500,000 people are injured and roughly 300 people die each year in the U.S. due to ladder-related injuries.

How much do the exterior building cleaning drone rentals cost?

Drone rentals typically cost $350 per day or $1,350 per week, plus shipping (which varies based on location). A spokesperson for Lucid also said the company would provide prices specific to order for longer rentals. Compare that to the $25,000 base price to buy the same drone outright.

Of course, it’s more beneficial to purchase rather than rent if you’re completing larger jobs regularly where you need a drone because it would be cheaper over time. But, renting can be more affordable option if it’s not being used as frequently, or if you don’t have the funds to make one lump sum purchase (though Lucid also offers financing options through QuickSpark).

Lucid Drone Technologies announced another big partnership earlier this year, when it landed a deal with telecommunications giant T-Mobile. Under the contract, T-Mobile for Business will serve as the company’s exclusive fleet management provider to power real-time sharing of flight data, battery utilization information, hardware diagnostics, and delivery of firmware and software updates. Additionally, T-Mobile Control Center will give Lucid Drone Technologies the ability to view and manage the connectivity of their industrial spraying drones, providing operators with near real-time visibility to all their industrial spraying drones via the T-Mobile Control Center.

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