Mexico is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes, vibrant cities, and a rich cultural heritage. Flying a drone, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), in Mexico can be great fun, offering stunning views otherwise virtually impossible to capture.
What is more, drone technology continues to improve dramatically, offering longer flight times, better tracking, and safety features like “return home” functionality.
However, it’s important to understand the rules and regulations surrounding drone use in Mexico to avoid legal complications. Before flying a drone in Mexico, there are several rules and regulations that must be understood and followed, though some of these only apply to certain types of drones. For example, flying a drone that weighs in at 250 grams (0.55 lbs) does not require registration with the Mexican government. Not that nothing is off-limits.
Locations to avoid
Most drones, other than the ones with very limited capabilities and which are basically kids’ toys come with GPS functionalities that automatically block off airspace over locations like prisons, military bases, and airports — which are off-limits for fairly obvious reasons. While it is possible to work around these restrictions, keep in mind that breaking these rules can result in severe consequences, including hefty fines and even prison time.
Other locations where flying drones is extremely tempting but forbidden are archaeological sites administered by Mexico’s INAH, or national institute of history and anthropology. Many of these historic sites have signs pointing this fact out, but In recent years, several people have been detained for ignoring these rules.
However, while flying the drone within the archaeological site is almost always forbidden, drones today can fly high enough to capture some stunning images from off-site. The photographer is likely to get scolded for doing this, but legally speaking this is more of a gray area.
Registering your drone
If your drone does not fall into the “extra light weight category,” the Mexican government has strict regulations to ensure the safety and privacy of its citizens. First and foremost, it’s important to register your drone (in Spanish only) with the Mexican Civil Aviation Authority (DGAC). Registration requires proof of ownership, proof of liability insurance, and a copy of the drone’s user manual.
The explosion of drones means that the government seems to have mostly thrown their hands up into the air unless users do something particularly egregious. But don’t take this as an excuse for not following the rules. Attitude and circumstances can always change without any notice.
Semi-restricted and controlled areas
Some locations, such as those near government buildings in capital cities, often have restrictions on altitude, or whether or not take-off is permitted at all. Most reputable brands of drones will notify you of this fact and perhaps make users click a waiver expressing liability. But sometimes it’s necessary to request permission to take off from a nearby control tower (usually via the drone’s app). While sometimes the clearance does come through, don’t count on it.
Oftentimes the greatest risk drones face in the air are other drones, so make sure to keep alert for other UAVs, which admittedly can be difficult.
Common sense and following the rules are the name of the game. In many ways, regulations around flying drones in Mexico are much more lax than in other countries (especially in their implementation) but that doesn’t mean it’s smart to just throw caution to the wind.