Drones welcomed back to UK racetracks

british-horseracing-authority-dronesThe British Horseracing Authority (BHA) says drones will be permitted to cover most live racing events despite causing an incident earlier this year.

In July, the BHA suspended the use of drones at its UK racecourses following an incident in which a drone reportedly got too close to the action. The sound of the drone’s engine spooked Oh So Terrible, which reared up and collided with the rail at the British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, sending jockey Frankie Dettori to the turf.

On Friday, the BHA posted a notice saying that a consultation with the Racecourse Association, Professional Jockeys Association and National Trainers Foundation had produced an agreement on new guidelines for “safe and controlled” drone use.

The guidelines prohibit the use of drones in maiden class races or races confined to two-year-old nags. Drones must maintain a minimum altitude of 50m from the ground at the start of races, while a minimum altitude of 30m must be maintained when drones are following the action from the side or the rear.

Drone operators not previously approved by the BHA must apply to the BHA Raceday Operations Department four weeks in advance of races. Approved operators must submit requests to operate 10 days in advance. Approved operators must also provide a ‘Spotter’ who will have direct communications with the starter and drone pilot.

Drones could soon go from covering race betting action to being the subject of racing bets. American sports broadcaster ESPN covered its first Drone Sports Association (DSA) race in August, but relegated coverage to its streaming platforms, ESPN3 and WatchEPSN.

The more established ESPN2 channel aired its first DSA event in September and is following this up with a 10-episode run of the Drone Racing League (DRL) that began on Sept. 15. The introductory episode focused on educating viewers on drone racing basics but Oct. 23 will bring the first live DRL race coverage.

There’s yet to be a racing sport that some sportsbook wouldn’t accept wagers on and drone racing appears poised to follow eSports as the next millennial betting craze, assuming bookies figure out how to price it. But just wait until the first drone tests positive for suspiciously high levels of lithium ions or something. Shame!