Del Mar Fairgrounds restricts use of drones

By Joe Tash

Drones or other radio-controlled aircraft will not be allowed to fly over the Del Mar Fairgrounds without express permission of fairgrounds officials, under a policy approved Aug. 12 by directors of the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

The policy was needed to prevent potential security breaches at large events such as the San Diego County Fair and the annual horse racing meets held at the state-owned fairgrounds, said Tim Fennell, the fairgrounds’ general manager.

One or two drones buzzed the midway during this summer’s county fair, Fennell told members of the 22nd DAA Board at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 12. The 22nd DAA and its board oversee operations at the fairgrounds.

“This becomes a safety and security issue,” Fennell said.

The policy, approved unanimously by the board, requires written permission for drones or other unmanned, radio-controlled aircraft to fly over the fairgrounds. The prohibition includes the airspace over the property, up to a height of 500 feet. The airspace above that level is regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, officials said.

The policy would allow drones if approved by 22nd DAA staff. An example would be a radio-controlled aircraft used for aerial filming of an event at the fairgrounds.

The fairgrounds promotions department has its own drone, and Fennell said it could be used to film events for groups that rent out fairgrounds facilities for events.

Fennell said he was unable to find other facilities with similar policies regarding drones. “We may be the tip of the spear at this point.”