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Problem Solved: Pinpointing Leaks on the Cheap

New York City

Leak scans, robots, radar images.

Scanning the Empire State Building for leaks (left) and a sample radar scan (images courtesy of aRobotics).

Aug. 9, 2022

As part of our ongoing Problem Solved series, Habitat spoke with Akaash Kancharla, chief executive at aRobotics Company.

Robots to the rescue. We use a system of two robotic machines in tandem, which basically scan roofs and building exteriors using thermal imaging arrays as well as ultrasound and radar. It allows us to see where water is lingering or getting in, and we can see insulation leaks as well. We can direct where the repairs need to happen.

Our equipment is unique in that it’s extremely lightweight compared to traditional methods, such as thermography or radar-based study. This equipment weighs less than 50 pounds. We use very lightweight rigging that's temporary. It takes less than 20 minutes to set up, and it takes less than one day for us to get the permits that are required to use this in New York City.

Our final report is based on the client’s preference. Most people like to keep things simple, so we just tell them, "This is where the leak is, and this is how you fix it." That's what most people want.

Up on the roof. For roofs, we have stationary platforms that allow us to scan the entire roof for multiple days at a time. These remote monitoring platforms are extremely unique and pretty much at the forefront of leak detection right now. So this lets us collect a lot more data at a fraction of the cost, and these scans identify where exactly the ingress point is for the water.

No one else has these sorts of remote monitoring platforms that we deploy. We have the patent for at least 10 years. The algorithmic combination of proprietary code, coupled with our expertise, lets us comb through mountains of data. We need specialized computers to do this, in tandem with human expertise, which gives a lot more accuracy than anyone else in industry right now.

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Costs and inside jobs. For the most typical leaks, we’re deploying units for a couple weeks and going through the results, and we're usually able to identify leaks within the price range of $5,000 to $10,000. For extremely complicated leaks involving multiple points of ingress, sometimes the bill has gone as high as $50,000. You’re looking at a solid 40% to 55% savings relative to what other human-intensive operators would require.

We can also detect interior leaks in a multifamily building. There are special considerations, obviously. We take a lot of pride in delivering these remote monitoring systems, which are highly encrypted. They don't record anything more than they need to, so that even in legal offices and highly confidential environments, people have been comfortable letting us solve their problems.

Because we are collecting such vast quantities of data, about 89% of the time we are able to visualize that trace as water enters the building. By rewinding our data capture and running it through some algorithms, we can actually trace that water back to its source, even if it's behind other materials.

High-end job. We did a very complicated lobby job in a building where a lot of expense went into the interior, so they weren't in a position to rip out the walls or do any kind of destructive probes. So we deployed these remote monitors to cover that entire lobby. These units are extremely small and non-intrusive, they don't make any noise, so no one noticed them and we left them there for about a month. And over the course of that month, we were starting to visualize the traces of water, and it turned out to be fairly simple. They just needed to caulk a specific seam that the contractor forgot about. I think the repair bill ended up being a few hundred bucks.

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