Attack of the drones: spring cleaning 2013

Karl Fendelander | Improvement Center Columnist | August 20, 2013

Just like computers before them, robots are sneaking into every facet of modern life. From robotic medical assistants and unmanned robo-mini-subs to the packing robots that helped out at the Fukushima nuclear reactor, high-tech robotic tools are helping humans do all sorts of amazing things--even clean up around the house for spring. If you've been dreaming of doing your spring cleaning by pushing a button since the first time you watched the Jetsons, you're in luck: the future is now. Check out what these cleaning robots can do for you.


Outdoor clean-up

  • Mowing the lawn: The days of push-mowing the lawn wearing your Sunday best behind a white picket fence are long gone. An army of lawn-cutting robots are on the market today. For most, you simply stake a perimeter wire around the area you want mowed, and these mower drones mow (and trim), dock themselves, recharge and mow again all on their own. Most all models come with bump sensors to get around objects and tilt sensors to know when the blade is exposed and shut it down. There are two main camps of robotics mowers: some roam around, grazing on your lawn for hours and hours, keeping it roughly the same length all the time, and others perform more of a traditional, once-a-week, one-off complete cutting of the grass.
  • Cleaning out the rain gutter: This staple of spring cleaning can be dangerously awkward, and it's nearly always a dirty job -- which is exactly why the folks over at iRobot have come out with the Looj 330. This gutter-cleaning robot is small enough to fit right in the gutter, sliding under most gutter stays. It pushes itself along on treads like a little tank. Armed with spinning rubber blades and brushes, the Looj senses the amount of debris in the gutter and adapts for maximum efficiency and minimum snags.
  • Pool cleaning by hand is an onerous task. Thankfully, robots have been around to scrub, vacuum and skim for years. The new Mirra 530 from iRobot does all of these tasks in style. It filters at 70 gallons a minute, has sensors to approximate the dimensions of your pool and is designed to handle slick tile and angles on stairs.

Indoor spring cleaning

robot with vacuum

  • Cleaning up the floor: Floors collect dirt, dust bunnies and smudges. The Mint is a small, square, floor-cleaning sentinel that takes care of hardwood, tile, vinyl flooring and any other level, fairly smooth flooring. It uses Swiffer pads (or similar products) to get the job done and has wet and dry modes -- the former uses a zig-zagging pattern to really mop things up. The device uses an infrared beacon that projects on the ceiling of the room you want cleaned, allowing it to navigate better than most other floor cleaning bots.
  • Vacuuming: Robots that vacuum for you come in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and they employ a few different methods for getting the job done. Some go across the room in an orderly, back-and-forth pattern, while others go around randomly. iRobot's Roomba was the forerunner of mainstream vacuuming robots. The original Roomba uses the random pattern, while the newer, more advanced model uses the back-and-forth method. Like the mower bots mentioned above, many of these vacu-drones can charge up, vacuum, return for a recharge and head out again automatically, with some newer models also emptying themselves at the charging base. Other nifty features include dirt sensors, brushes for corners, edge and stair sensors -- and some even dance to music.
  • Window washing: Until recently, window-washing robots have used a magnet on the other side of the glass to stay attached. The new Winbot from ECOVACS uses suction to stay on vertical glass, making it a piece of cake to transfer from one window to the next. It senses the size of your window and then follows a path for quick, efficient cleaning. The power cord can be attached as a leash and is recommended for above-ground use (just in case the suction fails). This awesome little window drone uses cleaning solution, cleaning pads and a built-in squeegee.
  • Air scrubbing: Roaming air filters chase down pollutants, allergens, dust and anything else fouling up your air. ECOVACS makes the Atmobot A330, which can stretch its neck to siphon more effectively, and it has a color-changing light and pleasant voice to let you know how clean the air is in the area. This handy dandy air cleaner even whistles while it works, playing tunes and dancing while it cleans.

From bed-bug-eating bed cleaners to robots that check up on your other robots, there are many more cleaning drones where these came from. Take your spring cleaning into the future with these digital helpers, and enjoy their antics while they do the work for you.

About the Author

Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.