Arup has partnered with the University of Sydney through its Engineering Sydney Industry Placement Scholarship (ESIPS) program and NXTGEN Industries to develop an autonomous building façade inspection system currently being trialled in Australia.

The technology aims to streamline the way we manage assets and inspect building facades, making the process safer, faster, more cost effective, more reliable, and more traceable.

The technology involves an integrated hardware unit mounted to existing building maintenance infrastructure which surveys the façade using a range of sensors including visual, thermal, GPS and LiDAR. It is able to efficiently capture critical maintenance data, from changes in colour, to thermal fluctuations and other points unable to be assessed by the human eye.

The project was developed through Arup University’s research and innovation program, Invest in Arup, which allows our members to work in partnership with others to push the boundaries of our industry and to develop solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems.  

“The beauty of this technology is that you can run it during regular maintenance operations like window cleaning, and it will passively record and monitor the building façade. The permanently mounted device allows for wider scanning access, allowing for greater accuracy and quality of capture with no need for a specialist operator. The next step for us is to feed the data captured by the unit into an artificial intelligence (AI) program currently being developed to analyse the information and point out where maintenance teams need to focus,” said Szymon Stec, Associate Principal and Asset Services Leader, Arup.

Currently, the standard method for façade inspection involves an engineer physically descending the side of a building on a platform, or by abseiling, to visually assess the façade for signs of damage. 

“The development of an autonomous sensor system has the potential to transform this process, having a complete historical record of the entire façade condition opens up countless opportunities for preventative maintenance and data driven building management.” said Daniel Jiang, Façade Access Consultant and development team lead, Arup.

“The earlier that defects are identified, the easier and cheaper they are to repair. That’s why having an autonomous inspection system could change the game when it comes to building maintenance, reducing costs and potentially prolonging the life of facades.” said Christoph Gruenaug, Associate Principal and Façade Access Leader, Arup.