The Carolina Panthers will use robotic technology to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus as the club prepares to allow fans back in its home stadium.
The team announced it's using a germ-killing robot made by San Antonio-based company Xenex. The firm specializes in disinfection for health-care services.
Two ultraviolet Xenex LightStrike robots purchased by the Panthers will be used in locker rooms, showers and other areas throughout Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte, the team said.
The Panthers will allow a limited number of spectators for the first time this season after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said large outdoor venues can have up to 7% capacity due to ongoing Covid-19 concerns. The rule is effective starting Friday.
According to Xenex, the robot can kill the virus that causes Covid-19 in minutes using "pulsed xenon, a noble gas, to create Full Spectrum, high-intensity UV light that quickly destroys infectious germs."
The robots cost approximately $125,000 each. Xenex said hospitals that use the robots disinfect up to 60 rooms per day with one unit. Xenex said its claims are backed by a study published by the University of Cambridge in England.
"The robots' broad-range spectrum of UV light wavelengths penetrate the cell walls of pathogens and destroys their molecular structure. This includes the deadly coronavirus," the company said.
"There are a lot of companies making claims about their newly introduced UV wands and other devices," Xenex CEO Morris Miller said in a statement. "We call that, 'the theater of disinfection.' The LightStrike robot is the only device that has been proven to kill SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, in two minutes."
The robots can kill viruses on surfaces, including countertops and computers, without "causing damage to equipment, furniture, clothing, and other items," the company said. However, it said, the robots are not safe for use on humans or animals.
"People are looking for a disease conscious lifestyle," said Miller. "They want to make sure when they go into a public space, that they're not going to get sick because of pathogens that have been left on the environment."
"The significance of an NFL team, in this case, the Carolina Panthers, using a LightStrike robot, shows that they're making a concrete commitment to player safety," Miller said.
Four of Xenex's robots have been used for two months at San Antonio International Airport. The company said sales have increased by 600% since the Covid-19 outbreak. Xenex will open a second manufacturing site outside Chicago to join its first site in Texas, it said.
According to Crunchbase.com, Xenex has raised roughly $91 million since 2012. Xenex's latest funding round was in October 2018 for $5 million. The website said Xenex had a 2017 valuation under $500 million.
The Panthers will host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.