Drones have become a popular addition at sporting events but they have now been indefinitely suspended from British racecourses.
The decision to ground the new technology came after Frankie Dettori was unseated before a maiden race at Newmarket.
According to the jockey the drone could be clearly heard above and was like “a swarm of bees”. His mount — a filly having her first ever run — was wearing blinkers and became startled by the noise of the drone.
“It is difficult to prove whether or not the drone had an impact on the horse during the incident, but when an issue is raised, the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) will always look into it,” BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey told H&H.
The drone was the responsibility of RaceTech and was being flown in compliance with British Horseracing Association (BHA) rules according to the RaceTech chief pilot.
“The concerns raised at Newmarket clearly needed to be taken seriously. While the testing procedures for the introduction of drones have been rigorous, it is still relatively new technology and we must show caution with its use if issues have been raised,” Mr Mounsey added.
“As such, we have made the decision to suspend using the drone on all British racecourses until the incident has been properly assessed. Welfare of horse and rider must always come first.”
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The RaceTech drone has been used regularly at racecourses across the country for the past 14 months. It must fly at a minimum height of 30 metres and the same distance laterally away from the track.
The drone must also follow the runners from the side and behind them — they may not be used in the closing stages of a race for the health and safety of racegoers.
In order for the green light to be given for a drone to be used at a racecourse, a risk and site assessment must be undertaken and a flight plan drawn up.
There also needs to be a signed agreement between the BHA and RaceTech.