Rugby’s governing body has warned clubs who use drones to record training sessions and matches they are breaking the law.

While an eye in the sky may give advantages for coaches looking to get a better view of the gain line, airborne cameras have been sent to the sinbin by the IRFU.

In news that may have reverberations for other codes, the authority that regulates the use of drones has backed the IRFU’s advice.

Clubs in Munster were this week informed that the use of the devices to record overhead videos for analysis runs foul of the Irish Aviation Authority (Small Unmanned Aircraft (Drones) and Rockets) Order, 2015.

“Recently there have been queries as to whether clubs can use drones to record matches/training,” Munster Branch honorary secretary Joe Murphy wrote to delegates.

“The IRFU Facilities Department has advised as follows: ‘A Government order prohibits the use of drones over an assembly of 12 persons or more.’ It is therefore not permitted to use drones either on match days or training nights to record rugby activities.”

Clubs may be surprised at the advice — given the high-profile precedent already set in the province. In 2015, Munster told this newspaper it was using drones to aid their matchday preparation.

“It gives us pretty much the perfect view for tracking manoeuvres on the pitch. You get a good enough spec quality from the camera, the actual physical spec of the camera gives you enough clarity from a distance,” Munster said at the time.

The regulation introduced since then states that drones cannot be flown “at a distance of less than 120 metres from an assembly of 12 or more persons not under the direct control of the operator”.

A spokesperson for the Irish Aviation Authority confirmed that the use of drones for recording training sessions and matches is prohibited.

The IAA told the Irish Examiner that the phrase “12 or more persons not under the direct control of the operator” does not afford a loophole for clubs who could argue that players are under their control.

However, the IAA’s website does advise drone operators that those who want to fly outside the limits prescribed in the regulations can apply for a Specific Operating Permission from the authority — if they undergo training with one of the IAA’s Registered Training Facilities.

In March of last year, a drone was photographed above the Division 1A hurling match between Clare and Waterford in Cusack Park. Neither countries claimed to have operated the device.


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