Wanted: robot boats and cleaning drones

By Medha Basu

Singapore plans to replace its cleaning workforce.

Agencies across the Singapore Government are looking for cleaning robots to replace people, with a joint call for proposals released.

As the country faces an ageing population, the government wants to rely less on manpower and increase its productivity.

The call for proposal is open to all companies and research institutes, with local companies potentially getting support for 70% of the funding.

Here are six robots the government is looking for:

Self-navigating boat

The National Environment Agency (NEA) wants a boat that will navigate itself through Singapore’s waterways, picking up litter.

The boat will record and send live videos of the water surface for officials to track its progress on cleaning. It will also automatically alert officials if there are any blocks that need more intense work.

It should reduce the number of people and time needed to clean waterways, with one person operating a few of these machines at a time.

Cleaning drone

The Housing Development Board wants an autonomous drone or robot to identify which parts of public housing blocks need cleaning. The aim is to reduce the amount of water needed to clean by focusing only on the areas that are dirty.

The robot should be battery operated and reduce labour requirements by half, with a budget of S$1,000.

Automatic staircase sweeper

NEA is looking for a robot that can climb and clean staircases on its own. It will be used to sweep and mop steps, landings and handrails in office buildings at scheduled times.

It should reduce the number of hours needed by 20%, so that staff can do other cleaning tasks in the buildings.

The robot should be battery-powered and be able to clean tall buildings without having to be recharged.

Robotic vacuum cleaner

The Civil Aviation Authority is looking for a vacuum cleaning robot to clean carpeted floors and seats on airplanes. The agency wants to reduce the amount of time and number of people required to clean the planes.

The robots must be portable and light for elderly staff to work with. They should be small enough to fit in front of and under seats, and in aircraft toilets. It needs to last between two and half to three hours on full charge.

The agency’s budget for each robot is S$1,500.

Roadside drain cleaner

Another robot NEA has proposed will clean roadside drains. It should be operated by one person and be able to work throughout the day with few interruptions. It should take no longer than five minutes to clean each drain.

The solution can be something handheld or a buggy that can be manoeuvred through narrow lanes.

The agency’s budget is S$50,000 for each robot.

Hospital bed cleaner

The Institute of Mental Health wants to use robots to clean its hospital beds. The machine should be able to disinfect the beds and clean hard-to-reach parts without wasting too much water.

The robot should be able to lift the bed onto a trolley and move it to the cleaning area, so that staff don’t have to push the beds. It should be light, energy efficient, quiet and easy to use.