NRL 2020: drone solutions are being explored to have fans return

Michael Carayannis,

The Daily Telegraph

A drone spraying germ-destroyer is the latest left-field idea in a bid to have fans return to sporting venues as soon as July 1.

Trials have started at one of rugby league’s main stadium hubs — Bankwest Stadium — to test the effectiveness of drones spraying seats with a safe and effective sanitising solution.

A drone flew inside the venue yesterday spraying seats, walkways and handrails as the stadium prepares to host its comeback rugby league match between South Sydney and the Roosters on Friday night.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys has floated the prospect of some people attending matches as early as July despite reservations from the NSW government.

Bankwest Stadium chief executive Daryl Kerry said the stadium was working with the government and various sporting codes on a range of strategies that could help with the reintroduction of fans to the venue when legally allowed.

“It’s exciting to have the NRL footy returning this weekend and Bankwest Stadium will host five clubs for the foreseeable future, so we are doing all we can with the NRL to ensure a perfectly safe working environment for players, officials and our staff,” Kerry said.

“As we look ahead at the possibility of capped numbers of fans returning to the stadium some time in the future, we are looking at ways to effectively sanitise the seating bowl in an environmentally safe and cost-effective manner.

“The drones are an interesting, quick and efficient way of doing that, but at this stage we are only testing capabilities and exploring the potential of their use at the stadium.”

Bankwest Stadium will host Parramatta, South Sydney, Canterbury, the Roosters and Cronulla until at least the end of round nine. The NRL are hopeful a small number of sponsors and members will be allowed to watch their team play by July.

Only water was sprayed by the drones in yesterday’s practice run to test the effectiveness of the drone spraying in the seating bowl. The trials are being conducted in conjunction with Sydney-based company The Ripper Group – a provider of strategy, training and deployment services for drones and remotely piloted aircraft systems.

They have proposed to spray aqueous ozone – described as an environmentally safe solution which effectively destroys bacteria, viruses and other contaminants, resulting in deodorising and sanitation. The plan is to spray at the end of each event.

Ben Trollope, the CEO of The Ripper Group, said: The Westpac Little Ripper drones are renowned internationally for innovation in the drone space. The Westpac Little Ripper drones pioneered search and rescue on Australian beaches, in January this year took the technology to rescue wildlife injured in the bushfires and now we have adapted drones for the fight against COVID 19.” 

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