Pittsburgh-based AERAS sanitization drones make debut at Kentucky Derby

PITTSBURGH — A Pittsburgh-based company debuted new drone technology to help the 147th Kentucky Derby go as planned on Saturday.

AERAS, which was established in Pittsburgh in 2020, used its patented charged-electrostatic drone technology to sanitize Churchill Downs against COVID-19, allowing more than 50,000 spectators to enjoy the race safely.

“It’s awesome having a hand in bringing back massive in-person sporting events after a year of uncertainty,” said Eric Lloyd, CEO and co-founder of AERAS. “Seeing thousands of cheering fans enjoying the Kentucky Derby safely felt like a huge victory over COVID-19.”

The nearly 55-pound drone, which is the larges allowed to fly in the United States, is used to spray a disinfecting solution over the seating areas, the release states.

Justin Melanson, who co-founded the company with Lloyd, said the Derby was done in about 90 minutes, while a stadium the size of Heinz Field could be sprayed in about three hours.

“We can adjust the grid according to height, speed, we can adjust for wind conditions and then we just hit start and it will fully autonomously spray your entire area here,” Melanson said.

The company was the first and only recipient of the Federal Aviation Administration’s 137certification specifically for sanitization purposes, according to a news release.

The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes that electrostatic spray systems create the safest, and best, coverage when applying sanitization solutions. With its AER-Force technology, AERAS patented a way to integrate the EPA’s preferred spraying system with high-efficiency drones, thereby creating the only truly charged-electrostatic drone in the world and the only one specifically approved by the FAA to kill COVID-19 and other viral pathogens.

“Like the rest of America, we’re hungry for live concerts and sports,” said Jim Abel, global director of business development. “It feels great to see our technology make this type of impact on live events and to be helping to return America back to normalcy.”