Mexico is a spectacular country to go on vacation. It has an infinity of beautiful places and landscapes that are well worth the drone flight. Mexico is full of historical sites and monuments that are icons of humanity. Popular destinations include the Mayan ruins, the Pyramid of the Sun, and many more. If you think of taking your next vacation and taking your drone to a tropical and exotic place like Mexico, it is best to take it slow. The last thing you want when traveling abroad is to break the laws. For that reason, it is vital to be informed and prepared before making a decision. If this is the first time you will visit Mexico with your drone, it would be beneficial to ask yourself a question. Is it legal for an American citizen to operate a drone in Mexico?
The answer is no. No foreigners, including Americans, can fly drones in Mexico. Registration in the DGAC is a mandatory requirement for people to fly a drone. Unfortunately, only Mexican citizens can submit this registration. Foreigners could fly drones until 2018, but the law changed.
We know that this topic can be a bit complex. For this reason, we ask you to continue reading, and you will learn more information of interest about flying drones in Mexico.
What Is The Classification Of Drones According To Mexican Law?
Mexican law establishes that there are three main groups of drones.
Drones in this category weigh 0.55 pounds or less. These drones may fly without authorization or registration. In case it is used for commercial purposes, it must have civil liability insurance. The maximum height allowed for this type of drone is 400 feet in altitude. Additionally, you must be at least 1500 feet away from the drone to ensure line of sight.
Lightweight drones weigh up to a maximum of 55 pounds. When these drones are for recreational purposes, you can fly them in model airplane clubs. People must register all drones in this category with the General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC). In addition, if the drone's purpose is commercial, the authorities must previously authorize each flight.
These are all drones that exceed a weight of 55 pounds. Heavy drones must comply with all the regulations applied to light drones. Individuals operating heavy drones must have a pilot's license.
Can A U.S. Citizen Fly A Drone In Mexico?
The best thing to do is get straight to the point; if you are a US citizen, you will not fly drones in Mexico. The only legal way to fly drones in Mexico is to be Mexican. Before 2018 foreigners or tourists could fly their drones under certain conditions, but the law changed. Today, it is not a real possibility.
For this reason, if against all recommendations you insist on flying a drone on Mexican soil, you should know that you will be breaking the law and risk severe sanctions. Depending on specific bilateral agreements between countries, there may be some exceptions, but that only applies in exceptional cases, and recreational flights are not part of these exceptions.
Can A U.S. Citizen Legally Bring His Drone Into Mexico?
You can bring your drone to Mexico only if it weighs less than 0.55 pounds, and even then, there will always be a latent risk of confiscation. In this regard, you should evaluate the following aspects:
- In case of loss or damage, the airline reimbursement covers a maximum value of $1000.
- Experts recommend carrying the drone and accessories as carry-on baggage.
- You cannot carry batteries as checked baggage. High temperatures will likely damage them.
- Purchase special fireproof battery bags.
- Carry with you the drone's purchase receipt showing that it is at least six months old. If you cannot prove this, the authorities will charge you the current import tax (16%).
- Check the rules for batteries at airports. Many airports only allow three lithium batteries.
What Happens If Authorities Confiscate Your Drone In Mexico?
In case your drone is confiscated in Mexico, you must follow some steps to try to recover your drone:
- You must have the identification of the drone on a sticker attached to the drone's casing.
- You must have the serial number of the drone.
- Pay the fine indicated by the corresponding authority. The amount may vary depending on the municipality.
What Are The General Rules For Flying Drones In Mexico If You Are A Mexican Citizen?
According to Mexican law, Mexicans have to respect the following rules to fly a drone in the Aztec country legally.
- People must register all drones weighing more than 0.55 pounds with the DGAC before they can fly.
- People must only fly in daylight.
- People must maintain the drone in line of sight. In other words, the drone cannot be more than 1,500 feet away from the operator.
- The drone cannot fly higher than 400 feet above ground level.
- People cannot fly drones over people or animals.
- It is prohibited to fly over historical sites such as Chichen Itza.
- Drones must be far from airports. At least five nautical miles away.
- You cannot exceed the maximum operating speed based on the drone's maximum take-off weight.
- A drone is not allowed to drop objects that cause damage to people or their property.
- People should check what the drone policies of the hotel or place of accommodation are.
- Aside from airports, flying near heliports, historical sites, monuments, museums, beaches with a high volume of people, residential areas, and hotels or resorts should be avoided.
Other Aspects To Take Into Consideration For Flying A Drone In Mexico
Mexican regulations require drones to fly in optimal weather conditions. If you decide to fly a drone in the middle of rain or when there is extreme wind, you expose yourself to damage your drone and cause harm to third parties.
Unfortunately, you will not have the chance to capture spectacular views of Mexico at night. Mexico does not allow the use of drones at night. This prohibition is due to safety reasons. Flying drones at night is very dangerous because it is easy to lose a direct line of sight of the drone.
As it happens in many countries, you cannot fly drones in restricted airspace. This fact means that you cannot even attempt to fly your drone near airports, military bases, or government buildings. Before flying to a foreign country, it's best to take a map and check the different routes to make sure you don't get into trouble.
Don’t Fly Near The U.S. Border
We all know that the U.S. border is a complicated point of activity between the two countries. Security agencies use state-of-the-art technology to detect any irregularities in the area. For this reason, you should rule out the use of a drone in that area.
Get Limited Liability Insurance
Even if you fly a drone under 0.55 pounds, you never know what can happen. Drones are mechanical objects that can fail at any time, and we don't want them to fall on people or public or private property. Insurance protects us in the event of an accident and, at the same time, can save us thousands of dollars in fines.
Always Carry Your Documents With You
Be prepared before things happen. For this reason, we should always carry our documents and owner identification with us every time we fly a drone. Never attempt to fly a drone in Mexico without having these with you.
A Final Thought On Flying Drones In Mexico As A North American
At the moment, it is not a real possibility, but you can expect that Mexico's future regarding the use of drones will be bright. With any luck, we could expect that this country will open drones to foreign tourists someday. This technology is improving rapidly, with more and more applications becoming available. So, you can think that it is not unreasonable to expect that U.S. citizens will have more flexibility to use this equipment on Aztec soil in the upcoming years.
But while these events occur, it is best to be aware of Mexican laws. Knowing the regulations before traveling and taking our drone with us will allow us to do things correctly.
Shawn Manaher loves to play with new toys and dive into new hobbies. As a serial entrepreneur, work definitely comes first but there is always room for hobbies.