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.

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

EagleHawks’ drones are tethered to a hose attached to a tank on the ground, so they don’t have to land for a refill of disinfectant, the company’s chief operating officer, Will Schulmeister, said.

Ott said that Rantizo uses drones from Chinese technology company DJI that carry 2.7-gallon tanks.

OMI did not respond to requests for information.

The drones typically use GPS that enables autonomous flights after initial mapping.

Rantizo uses 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.

EagleHawks’ drones are outfitted with compasses, altimeters and multiple sensors, including one that allows navigation in tight spaces, making them particularly useful indoors, Schulmeister said.

Multiple drones can be employed to speed the application process, which can be crucial during short turnaround times, Ott and Schulmeister said.

The advantages extend to crew safety.

“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.

Schulmeister said EagleHawks’ drones, which come from various manufacturers and are then modified for the company’s use, can apply a variety of disinfecting products, depending on the surfaces involved or client preference.

“If there is a product that a client already works with and likes… we can integrate that into our system,” he said.

Rantizo also hopes to add electrostatic capability to its drone sprayers, Ott said, adding that the company is offering the drone service to leagues and teams and has gotten interest from racetracks, arenas, college athletic facilities and at least one fairground.

EagleHawk has also received strong interest from prospective clients and the company expects to ink deals as venues and leagues move to more definitive reopening timeframes, Schulmeister said.

Neither Schulmeiser nor Ott would give specifics on pricing but both stressed their systems offer substantial cost benefits and require fewer human resources than traditional methods.

“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,” Ott 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.”