The British Horseracing Authority has suspended the use of drones at its races after a jockey claimed his horse had been spooked by the devices.
On Friday, the BHA announced that it had made the decision to suspend drone flights after Oh So Terrible reared up and collided with the rail at the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes on Thursday.
Oh So Terrible’s jockey Frankie Dettori, who’d been unseated by his nag’s reaction, reported that he’d heard the unmistakable sound of the drone at the time of the incident. Jockey Ryan Moore, who was astride Believable in the same race, said the noise of the drone was “very noticeable” during the race.
The drone was operated by RaceTech, a UK-based provider of technical and broadcast services to the racing industry. The company struck a deal with the BHA 14 months ago to provide overhead shots of races.
The ‘pilot’ operating the drone during Thursday’s incident said he’d complied with the BHA’s guidelines, which require drones to fly at a minimum height of 30 meters and 30 meters from the track laterally. The drones are also required to follow the race “from the side and behind the horses and not directly over the track.”
Friday’s announcement said the BHA had indefinitely suspended the use of drones at its races “until the incident has been properly assessed.” The BHA claimed to have undertaken “rigorous” testing procedures to ensure the proper use of its drones but acknowledged that it was a “still relatively new technology and we must show caution with its use if issues have been raised.”
Then again, perhaps the BHA is missing the point of Thursday’s incident, namely, that it’s time to replace horseracing with drone racing. Come back in several years and we’ll run a story about the British Droneracing Authority complaining that bookies aren’t paying a big enough levy.