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Drone photo at Chichén Itzá goes viral, but begs questions about laws

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This bird’s eye photo of Kukulkan Temple at Chichén Itzá drew swift reaction after being posted on Reddit.


Social media lit up after a drone flew over the top of Kukulkán temple and took an unusual birds-eye photo, which was published online. Many Reddit users also praised the photographer for his work, while others condemned the photographer for taking it.

Drones are officially banned at the Chichén Itzá archaeological park, although tourists at times fly them there anyway.

The original photograph was shared on Reddit over the weekend and so far has 700 comments and 250 thousand views on that platform. César Mendiburu, who posted the photograph, wrote: “Took this aerial (and probably illegal?) picture of Chichen Itza Mexico last weekend.

A sign at Chichén Itza prohibits drones, although no federal law is on the books. Photo: Jauntingjen.com


“As far as I know, there are no laws on the use of drones in federal areas,” the author wrote in a comment on his photograph, contradicting a sign on the site prohibiting that very thing.

A blogger last year complained that drone noise interfered with her enjoyment at the site.

The intrepid photographer on Reddit reported that he scouted ahead from his hotel, which is near Chichén Itzá. Mendiburu launched his drone at 5 a.m. from the hotel’s roof. That would be three hours before the park opens.

Prohibitions against drones are for the safety of other visitors, but no people are seen in the aerial photo.

The Federal Aviation Administration FAA in the United States bans drones at its own heritage sites, such as the Statue of Liberty.

A drone review website lists these basic regulations:

  • Drone flights must be operated in daylight.
  • There are no laws on operating drones under two kg other than they cannot be used at night.
  • A permit is required for drones between two kg and 25 kg.
  • A permit and pilot license are required to operate drones weighing over 25 kg.

The authorities at the archaeological zone have not spoken publicly about the photo.

Sources: Diario de Yucatán, Drone Reviews and News

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