A RaceTech was blamed for Frankie Dettori being unshipped on Thursday
PICTURE: RP Graphics
By Lee Mottershead 4:51PM 8 JUL 2016
DRONES have been indefinitely suspended from British racecourses following the Newmarket incident that on Thursday led to Frankie Dettori being unshipped prior to a maiden with his mount then running loose for some time.
RaceTech, which had responsibility for the drone, on Friday declined to comment pending a BHA investigation that will determine the immediate future of the flying devices that, in theory, have the potential to provide exciting overhead pictures.
Dettori was joined by Ryan Moore and the official race starter in saying the noise of the drone could clearly be heard before the first fillies’ maiden, whereas it had not been noticeable audibly when used earlier in the afternoon.
RaceTech’s chief pilot and head of engineering both told the racecourse inquiry the drone – which provided live shots of the Newmarket Town Plate’s early stages – had been flown in compliance with BHA guidelines.
Speaking on Friday, Dettori said: “The noise it made was like a swarm of bees but the thing to stress is this was an accident.
“Nine times out of ten it wouldn’t have been a problem but my filly was running for the first time and was wearing blinkers. She heard the noise and couldn’t see anything, so she was spooked.”
BHA spokesman Robin Mounsey said: “The concerns raised at Newmarket clearly needed to be taken seriously.
“While the testing procedures for the introduction of drones have been rigorous, and have received NTF and PJA sign off, it is still relatively new technology and we must show caution with its use if issues have been raised.
“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.”
Mounsey added: “The RaceTech drone has been used regularly over the past 14 months. Before it can be used a signed agreement is reached between the BHA and RaceTech which includes a risk assessment, site assessment and flight plan.
“The requirements for the drone are that is must fly at a minimum height of 30 metres and 30 metres away from the track laterally, then to follow the field from the side and behind the horses and not directly over the track”
Channel 4 created history when employing a drone for the first time at a British sporting event during last year’s Royal Ascot.
However, enthusiasm for the device waned, in part due to costs but also because drones cannot be used in the closing stages of a race as they are not allowed to be flown over people for health and safety reasons