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Are Drones Headed to Broadway?



As theaters start to contemplate their eventual reopening, Broadway is reportedly taking a look at this start-up company whose employees are drones. Literally.

EagleHawk is a Buffalo-based business that, before COVID-19, was using their drones to detect roof leaks through thermal imaging. They often worked on commercial, government, and other large buildings, but lost the wind in their sails around mid-March when the ban on large gatherings was implemented. The EagleHawk team knew they had to get creative in order to stay afloat.

“As a team, we just kind of took a step back and said, ‘How can we help be part of the solution going forward with COVID-19,’” said CEO Patrick Walsh. Walsh and his team decided to take their drones from thermal imaging to cleaning duty.

While there are no official plans in place, Broadway is certainly weighing out myriad options to safely and effectively clean their theaters. Putting workers at risk is a big concern and getting access to proper P.P.E. equipment is still not an easy task.

In an interview with Forbes Magazine, co-founder Will Schulmeister said, “This technology reduces the need for human exposure, [minimizes the] costs of P.P.E., and can save a great deal of time and resources.”

Broadway’s Longacre Theatre

As far as efficiency goes, Schulmeister also stated, “A Broadway theater could be disinfected by a drone in less than an hour, and without putting people on the front line.” This means theaters could continue to efficiently disinfect everything even after they’ve reopened their doors. Drones could disinfect between matinee and evening performances with no disruption to their rigid schedules.

The drones would work in tandem to clean the entire theater with disinfectant that would be stored in a tank on the ground. One drone would be attached to a hose leading to the disinfectant, while a second drone would then follow and ensure the hose did not tangle or become caught on objects throughout the theater. 

Schulmeister also ensured their drones are capable of detecting objects as small as half an inch. This would be helpful when it comes to all the wiring, cables, lighting, or other delicate systems in theaters. This is something they’ve already tested with sports venues like KeyBank Center which is home to the Buffalo Sabres professional hockey team.

He also went on to talk about the seat fabric and how the concern for damaging seats might affect their procedures. He said, “Additionally, our drone system is chemical agnostic, so the notion is that we would be able to use an appropriate chemical that would not cause issue with those type of seats.” For a company that didn’t intend to be housekeepers, they’ve certainly adapted and covered all their bases. 

Interestingly enough, drones of a certain size have to be certified by the FAA. Yes, that FAA. The Federal Aviation Administration is the government-run entity that controls any and all aviation-related regulations. They’re the ones whose regulation it is to put away all laptops, tablets, and other large electronics to prepare for landing. 

In order for Broadway to return, theaters might be looking to air traffic control to give them the go ahead.

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