Drones continue to find new ways to be helpful amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Their latest job is sanitation. The NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC are using a team of drones to clean Mercedes-Benz Stadium between events.
The hovering drones are custom-designed by Lucid Drone Technologies and use spray nozzles to dispense disinfectant over the stadium’s many seats, railings, and aisles. Those behind the maintenance of Mercedes-Benz stadium say that the drones decrease the time it takes to clean by 95 percent, freeing staff to perform other duties.
It will be a long time before going to large venues like a football stadium is back to normal. In fact, things may never return to what we once viewed as the status quo. Regular cleanings with disinfectant spray may be the new normal. Honestly, that probably wouldn’t be a bad thing—especially for indoor venues with high turnover.
That being said, manually disinfecting every surface takes a lot of time and labor. Using drones makes the process much more efficient.
The drones developed by Lucid will make their debut at Mercedes-Benz stadium following the Atlanta Falcons’ game on October 11. This appears to be the first time a professional stadium has turned to drones to clean the facility. Currently, the stadium crew plans to use two drones to complete each cleaning and will have a third unit on standby should something go wrong.
In a statement, the venue’s manager, Jackie Poulakos, said, “This stadium is incredibly large and as we begin to slowly welcome fans back, these drones allow us to maximize the time between games and private events to thoroughly sanitize.”
In recent months, the sight of backpack-style fog machines that spray disinfectant has become common. The stadium claims that its new drone-based approach is 14 times more efficient than those systems. That’s likely because the disinfectant spray is being dispersed from the air and can be spread more evenly over a greater distance.
The idea of using drones to sanitize a stadium is certainly unique. It’s also a great way to quickly cover 71,000 seats. That being said, experts have raised concerns about widespread disinfecting and whether or not it is really necessary.
According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surface transmission “isn’t thought to be the main way the virus spreads.”
Rather, COVID-19 is more concerning with person-to-person transmission. That’s why things like social distancing and masks are so important.
Many experts fear that disinfecting surfaces excessively can be seen as “hygiene theater.” In other words, it looks good but isn’t really accomplishing anything. Some also warn that it may lead to a false sense of security, making people more likely to engage in risky behaviors like crowding and not washing their hands frequently.
Of course, there’s nothing inherently wrong about disinfecting surfaces. It doesn’t hurt to take those extra precautions so long as things like mask mandates and social distancing are also being enforced. Perhaps Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s new drone cleaning approach will give employees more time to design and enforce other safety protocols.