With my industrial design project group we are in the early stages of developing a window cleaning robot for tall buildings.

We would like to have this robot map the facade of the building using SLAM. However, I don't know much about this yet and was wondering if this would be possible?

I have read that SLAM could have problems with capturing reflective surfaces and since the robot will come into contact with windows a lot, I wondered whether SLAM can still be used. In addition, SLAM will be applied outdoors instead of indoors, like robot vacuum cleaners.

For privacy reasons, we prefer not to use cameras on which people are clearly visible. Could this possibly be avoided by using infrared/ laser/ other type of sensors?

  • $\begingroup$ SLAM isn't what will have issues capturing reflective surfaces (SLAM is a class of algorithms), the sensors you use will. IR/laser/camera, being visual, can have the reflective surface problem you've identified. Audio based sensors (RADAR) are often used in these cases instead, because they do not have this issue. $\endgroup$
    – cst0
    Nov 16, 2023 at 14:40

1 Answer 1


As @cst0 mentioned, you might be misunderstanding SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). Without knowing more about the types of buildings you are considering, I will assume your robot is able to move between windows and that you want to 1. know which window bay your are in and 2. know how much of that window bay has been cleaned.

Solving point 2 is simple if you can sense edges of the bay with a laser rangefinder, as it's just x-y coordinates on the window plane. This wouldn't need a full-blown SLAM approach since you have a very simple environment and a way to get absolute orientation in that environment (gravity vector).

Point 1 can be solved by the robot on-line, but it's probably simpler to have an operator take a picture of the facade before starting the cleaning and using that as a map. Then you just have the localization part to solve, and this could be done by counting which window you are on because there is a discrete and countable number of windows.

Of course there are many other ways to solve the problem. But please put some sort of safety harness in your design.


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