NFL American football teams the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers are using drone and robot technology, respectively, to enhance stadium cleaning measures as they prepare to welcome fans back to their venues amid COVID-19.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium (MBS) has implemented drone technology as part of the holistic cleaning protocol for the home of the Falcons. MBS has partnered with Lucid Drone Technologies, a company that offers D1 disinfecting drones in order to sanitise key areas in a more efficient and effective manner. The technology has been tested as part of the sanitisation process and will be implemented as the stadium team welcomes fans back for the Falcons home game against the Panthers on October 11.

“The process of welcoming fans back involves actively listening and responding to their concerns and we understand that proper cleaning and sanitisation protocols are top of mind in the current environment,” said Dietmar Exler, chief operating officer of the team and stadium’s parent company, AMB Sports and Entertainment. “We have worked tirelessly to provide a safe environment for not only our associates, players and staff, but especially our fans.”

AMB said stadium operators were exploring the utilisation of drones prior to the pandemic, but accelerated the process, making MBS the first professional sports stadium to adopt this technology. The drones utilise electrostatic spraying nozzles for even distribution of medical-grade disinfecting chemicals including an inhibitor that prevents harmful bacteria and virus to adhere to surfaces without leaving a residue.

Due to COVID-19, stadium leadership worked with Lucid to implement its purpose-built drones that were designed specifically for disinfecting large facilities. This technology will be used for post-event disinfecting of the seating bowl, handrails, and glass partitions at the stadium. The drones allow for a 95% reduction in time spent cleaning the seating bowl and the ability to redeploy associates in other areas of the stadium, as well as 14 times more efficiency than regular backpack foggers.

“This stadium is incredibly large and as we begin to slowly welcome fans back, these drones allow us to maximise the time between games and private events to thoroughly sanitise,” said Jackie Poulakos, manager of building operations. “We are always challenged by leadership to continually innovate and this new technology is the ideal solution to effectively disinfect and sanitise our stadium in an efficient manner.”

Meanwhile, the Panthers have partnered with Xenex, which specialises in UV technology-based disinfection strategies and solutions, to help ensure Bank of America Stadium is a COVID-free environment.

The Panthers have deployed two LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots and two LightStrike Disinfection Pods to disinfect team facilities and equipment. Manufactured by Xenex Disinfection Services, LightStrike Germ-Zapping Robots use pulsed xenon to create intense bursts of broad spectrum UV light that quickly destroys viruses and bacteria on surfaces.

The robots are already in heavy rotation throughout the stadium to disinfect the facility. The team is using a LightStrike Disinfection Pod, a lightweight and portable containment unit that harnesses the tech of the LightStrike disinfection robot, to quickly disinfect high-touch player equipment such as pads, cleats and helmets in-between practices.

Eddie Levins, director of security and infection control officer for the Carolina Panthers and Bank of America Stadium, said: “It was clear in our evaluations that Xenex provided the best UV disinfecting solution for us and allowed us to quickly and effectively sanitise our football areas and other areas throughout the stadium.

“We have worked since March to develop a comprehensive health and safety plan so that everyone would feel safe and comfortable returning to Bank of America Stadium and Xenex has been an important part of those efforts.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper last week announced he will permit capacities of seven per cent from October 2 for venues with capacities greater than 10,000. Bank of America Stadium holds 74,867 people meaning that the Panthers could be watched by around 5,240 fans for their second home game of the season, versus the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Images: Mercedes-Benz Stadium & Xenex