A council is taking action after professional drone pilots stepped up their operation to film horse racing from the air.
Streaming live footage of races to gamblers has become a big business and now residents in Oadby who live near Leicester Racecourse are being offered £50 a time to let their property be used for launches.
Drones over the racecourse in Oadby have been a regular occurrence for about three years and Oadby & Wigston Borough Council set up a drone policy to deal with drone flights from its land.
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That has resulted in some drone pilots being approached by anti-social behaviour officers and issued warning notices while flying from council land in Oadby in recent weeks.
But now the pilots, who stream races so people can bet on them as they happen, are delivering flyers to private properties to find new bases to take off from.
The drone pilots make money because gamblers pay for the real-time footage which, according to recent media reports from around the UK, often bring the “live” images with less delay that the footage viewed in betting shops and also offer better angles to see how the horses are doing against one another.
While there still questions about whether people broadcasting races could be sued by race organisers over broadcasting rights, the drone pilots usually manage to avoid breaking the criminal laws by getting property certified and flying within the rules.
A 75-year-old Oadby resident who lives with his wife near the racecourse said he had seen up to five drones operating at the same time on one recent race day.
His main worry was people’s privacy.
He said: “It’s been going on for a few months now. Initially we just noticed the drones being flown from Ellis Park.
“We’re not happy that they’re up there with cameras, making us feel like we’re being spied on when we sit outside. Quite a few people feel the same way around here.
“Now these drone pilots are coming from all over the place, setting up in the car park near here and elsewhere. They bring little tents like fishermen have and sit out filming the races.
“Some ladies around here worry they’re being spied on and when another person was burgled there was a worry the drones might be used to see who wasn’t home.
“Now these fliers have started coming through our doors offering us £50 to let them fly from our back gardens. They seem to have gone to all the houses with large back gardens.
“And it’s obvious how they know which houses have the big gardens – they’ve been looking at them all from the sky.”
The flyers being delivered around Oadby state: “We need your help! We are looking for a base to fly a commercial drone for footage of the Leicester Racecourse.
“We would be looking to fly for approximately four hours, two to four times a month from private land and can offer a financial incentive of £50 for each visit.
“As a CAA qualified and fully insured drone pilot, we take responsibility and every precaution to ensure complete safety to all persons and properties.”
Under the rules, a drone must be flown below 400 foot and stay 150ft from people and properties.
If a drone is going to be used near people or built up areas – or if it will be used for profit – then the pilot needs a CAA drone licence.
But thousands of people around the UK have licences for their drones, which are available by taking a course.
Reports in the press in recent years suggest that when police have intervened or confiscated drones being used to film horse racing, no prosecution has usually resulted.
Oadby & Wigston Borough Council is looking into what can be done to tackle the problem.
Councillor Bill Boulter, chairman of service delivery committee at Oadby & Wigston Borough Council, said: “A robust solution is needed to prevent these anti-social drone flying incidents that have been on the rise around Leicester Racecourse in recent times.
“We’re taking advice from the Civil Aviation Authority and working with Leicestershire Police to tackle the problem – an issue which is now plaguing racecourses across the country.
“The borough council does have a drone policy and as a result we’ve issued two Community Protection Warning Notices and one Community Protection Notice in Ellis Park in recent weeks.
“We acknowledge that more needs to be done which is why we’re engaging our partners to look at all the options that might be available to us and in the meantime, we thank local residents for their patience.”
LeicestershireLive approached Leicester Racecourse for a comment.
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