Aintree Festival drone warning amid fears celebrities' helicopters could be grounded

Tom Morgan
Drones have blighted horse-racing in recent years - REUTERS

A specialist drone surveillance team has been recruited to keep watch over the Grand National tomorrow amid fears the flying gadgets are a safety risk to VIPs arriving by helicopter.

Drones have blighted horse-racing in recent years, with crime gangs piloting them over courses to give gambling punters an unfair advantage while placing bets before footage is screened to bookmakers.

The Jockey Club, owners of Aintree racecourse, is understood to have hired a team of spotters after fears were expressed that they are becoming an increasing safety risk.

As well a worry for jockeys and horses, concern has been expressed for helicopters ferrying trainers and wealthy racegoers to courses. Princess Anne and her daughter Zara Tindall are National regulars and many VIPs opt for a 90 minute helicopter flight from London directly into the racecourse landing pad.

The Telegraph understands specialist firm Crowded Space are working with Aintree to sport drones, while the Civil Aviation Authority has a restricted airspace in place this week. Crowded Space use technology to detect when the pilot of a drone has broken any regulations, like flying too low or too close to public exclusion zones.

Racecourse and a host of sporting venues have reviewed security operations after police and even the army failed to stop drones bringing Gatwick and

Heathrow airports to a standstill before and after Christmas. Last night the CAA told The Telegraph: "There is indeed an airspace restriction in place around Aintree that only applies to drones. The restriction will be in place 7.30am to 6.30pm each day f and prohibits the use of an unmanned aircraft/drones below 2,000ft. This does not apply to any drone that has permission from Aintree Racecourse."

An Aintree spokesman said: “As well as the police, we’re working with special drone surveillance team who will operate across the Festival with the aim to ensure there is no disruption to the Randox Health Grand National Festival.”

On the first day of Aintree today, wind and wet weather were so bad that the renowned Red Devils parachute team were forced to abandon plans to land on the famous course at mark the start of the festival.