Racecourses work towards tackling drone use

The Racecourse Association (RCA) is working with authorities to tackle unauthorised drones being flown over racecourses.

Reports suggest drones are being used to film races, with the footage delivered several seconds ahead of TV coverage. These faster feeds are thought to give an advantage to punters betting in-running on online platforms.

The RCA, which represents all 59 UK courses, said it is taking a “proactive lead” in addressing the problem and was “providing guidance” around drone use.

“This involves best practice from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and other relevant authorities as well as taking into account how other venues have handled similar situations,” said racecourse services director Caroline Davies.

“The safety and enjoyment of all racegoers is of the utmost priority. In addition, racecourses work alongside the emergency services and security providers should any issues be encountered with unwanted drones.”

She said although the situation is “frustrating”, if the operator is not breaking the law, “limited further action” can be taken.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) does not ban drone flights, but those flying the craft above racecourses have to ask permission and agree to adhere to safety guidelines.

In the recently reported instances, most of the drones are being flown just off-site.

BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said the responsibility for policing this activity is down to racecourses themselves.

“If required or appropriate racecourses might wish to call on the support of local law enforcement to deal with an issue around unregulated drones,” he said.

“The BHA stewards would become involved if they are asked by the racecourse executive to either delay, or abandon a race or races because drones were on site and causing a risk to horses, participants or the general public.”

The drones are threatening the revenue at some courses, where the ability to receive faster on-course visual feeds is sold to punters for a fee.

The Arena Racing Company (ARC) which owns 16 courses, including Southwell where drones have been seen, said it considers the action to be “theft”.

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“We, along with a number of other racecourses around the country, have seen an increase in unauthorised drones and similar remote controlled aircraft being used to capture and broadcast live pictures of our racing,” a spokesman said.

“The broadcast rights of our live action are a key part of our business, as with any sporting venue, so we consider this unauthorised filming and broadcast as theft.

“The use of drones for commercial purposes is rightly very heavily controlled by the Civil Aviation Authority and their unauthorised use in this instance potentially has further safety and regulatory implications also.”

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