The Preakness Stakes is an American Thoroughbred horse race, the second jewel of the world-renowned horse races known as the Triple Crown Series, and one of the largest sporting events in the United States. First run in 1873, the Preakness Stakes has been held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, MD. In 2019, over 131,000 spectators watched the Preakness live at Pimlico. In 2020, the Preakness Stakes was held without spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Preakness 146 returned on May 15 with a standardized COVID-19 protocols in place to welcome back a limited, socially-distant attendance of 10,000 fans and stakeholders, with a key exception – that aerial intruders and unauthorized drone activity would not be tolerated.
Unauthorized drone sightings have been increasing in horse racing communities. Drones are used for illegal surveillance and often threaten the physical safety of horses, riders, and fans in attendance. Low-flying drones may startle horses, disrupt operations, and provide live feed of racetrack activity that may violate broadcast or intellectual property rights and potentially impact the outcome of the races.
As a result of installing Dedrone, Pimlico security team and local law enforcement developed and launched response protocols in the event of drone incursions. Dedrone’s automated alerts provided actionable information, including drone and pilot location, to Pimlico security. Dedrone’s solution, including integrated cameras, was able to visually identify multiple pilots, providing Pimlico security the necessary intelligence to track aerial trespassers down, and halt the unauthorized flights. Pimlico’s partnership with Dedrone allowed them to implement and execute a successful drone response program and there were zero drone disruptions on race day.
“The Preakness Stakes is a premier event for our company and the health and safety of horses, riders, stakeholders, guests, employees and the community is our highest priority. Prioritizing safety includes how we address airspace security to protect against drone threats,” said Rob D’Amico, Chief Security Officer, 1/ST. “As the Chief Security Officer for 1/ST, owners of the Preakness Stakes, and as former Chief of Operations for the FBI’s Counter UAS Unit, I knew Dedrone was the ideal airspace security partner to provide detection, analytics and protection for our event. Dedrone allowed our team to focus on executing the safe, stellar race day operations that 1/ST is known for.”
Preakness Stakes and Pimlico Race Course wanted to prevent drones from interrupting operations and/or taking illegal footage. Drones posed a physical threat to the horses, riders, and fans in attendance. Perimeter security needed to be extended into the airspace, to ensure race day operations were drone-free.
Dedrone worked with Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness Stakes, and security teams from Maryland Jockey Club in the weeks leading up to the event for a pre-event installation and threat assessment. The threat assessment revealed likely takeoff and landing locations and provided pre-event intelligence to predict airspace activity and develop data-driven standard operating procedures in the event of a race day incursion. A fully integrated Dedrone solution provided airspace situational awareness. Data from the multi-sensor setup was automatically fused and analyzed by DedroneTracker, to provide complete view of airspace activity.
As a result of the pre-event threat assessment, DedroneTracker provided security personnel with predictive analytics, identifying hotspots and likely positions of unauthorized drone pilots. On multiple occasions before race day, unauthorized drone pilots were detected and located using Dedrone, and enabling security teams to respond to the threat in real-time. By race day, Pimlico Race Course experienced zero drone disruptions, broadcasters were able to film the event without any interruptions, and the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) was won handily by Rombauer.