Rantizo drones spray Principal Park in Des Moines as part of a test run. (Courtesy Rantizo Inc.)

Several companies offering spraying services to stadiums and arenas

In the effort to help live event venues shuttered by the novel coronavirus move toward reopening, companies are floating a new weapon for the front lines: drones. 

Companies including Rantizo Inc. of Iowa City, Iowa; OMI Environmental Solutions of Belle Chasse, La.; and EagleHawk of Buffalo, N.Y., are offering amphitheaters, arenas, stadiums and other facilities the opportunity to have airborne sprayer drones disinfect and sanitize their facilities.  

Rantizo recently conducted tests at Principal Park, the Des Moines home of the Triple A Pacific Coast League’s Iowa Cubs, and EagleHawk has done the same at Sahlen Field, where the Buffalo Bisons of the Triple-A International League play. 

Each company comes at venue disinfection from its own area of expertise. Rantizo was first an agricultural spraying outfit. EagleHawk is in the business of aerial facility inspection, albeit with other applications. OMI, a unit of K-Solv Group, is mostly known as an oil spill response specialist.

All three use sprayed disinfectants and tout drones’ ability to sanitize seating areas and other spaces quickly and safely.

A company in Lenexa, Kan., Digital Aerolus, whose drones are used in high-risk areas like mines and nuclear facilities, employs high-energy ultraviolet light to disinfect.

Rantizo got into the field after being approached by a sports team, said the company’s president and CEO, Michael Ott. He declined to identify the team.

Some companies’ drones are tethered to a hose attached to a tank on the ground, but Ott said that Rantizo uses drones from Chinese technology company DJI that carry 2.7-gallon tanks.

Rantizo’s drones, which use GPS that enables autonomous flights after initial mapping and radar for collision avoidance, can fly in darkness and disinfect a 10,000-seat venue in about 90 minutes, a 40,000-seat stadium in five hours and a typical NFL-size stadium in a day, he said.

We can actually, if there was a pressing need to get something done faster … bring out two or three units and do it and cut the time in half or a third,” Ott said.

The advantages extend to crew safety, he said.

“We’re not having to have people get all kitted up and walk through and over every square inch of something because the drone does that, not the person,” Ott said. The no-contact disinfecting product that the company uses is safe enough that it can be applied inside food processing facilities and doesn’t leave a residue or stain or bleach surfaces.

Rantizo also hopes to add electrostatic capability to its drone sprayers, Ott said. 

The company is offering the drone service to leagues and teams and has gotten interest from racetracks, indoor arenas, college athletic facilities and at least one fairground.

Ott wouldn’t give specifics on pricing but said the cost was about two-thirds of what a traditional service performed by hand would run. Rantizo charges an initial fee, plus a fee for the service to be determined by the size of the facility and frequency of the spraying.

We’re looking at what groups are going to be starting up and what opportunities are out there. Sporting events still seem like they are a little bit away, but we want to get into public parks, we want to do warehouses … things that are getting people back to work and back to enjoying life. Car dealerships. School playgrounds. Those type of things,” he said. 

“It’s a target rich environment,” Ott said, “and we’re trying to figure what are some of the best near-term things that we can do.”