On the west coast of South America is Ecuador, a country that’s home to the Galapagos Islands, Andean highlands, and Amazon jungle. No wonder Ecuador is such a major attraction for drone pilots.
Are you legally allowed to fly a drone in Ecuador?
Drones are allowed in Ecuador, but not on the Galapagos Islands. Outside travelers will have to pay a substantial tax if their drone is valued at over $500. On top of that, for commercial drone usage, you need drone insurance, so visiting can be quite expensive!
This article will break down just how much money you might pay to enter Ecuador with a drone and then delve into a detailed discussion of all the laws at play here.
If this is your first time visiting Ecuador, let alone with your drone, then you’re not going to want to miss it!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Do I have to pay to bring my drone into Ecuador?
Ecuador brings in millions of tourists each year. You’ve always longed to explore its jungles, beaches, and parks, but you’ll need more than your passport to do so if you plan on taking your drone along.
You might also have to pay an additional fee.
If your drone is valued at under $500, then you needn’t worry about shelling out.
For those pilots who are carrying a more expensive drone and want to get it past customs and into Ecuador, prepare to be taxed.
A drone that surpasses the allowed value of $500 will incur a tax at a rate of 35 percent of its assessed value. You will be expected to pay the tax upfront before you’re allowed into Ecuador.
In some instances, you may be refunded your tax payment when you leave Ecuador. To be eligible for that, you must have your drone with you, and ideally, the drone should still be in good condition.
However, refunds aren’t guaranteed, so we wouldn’t say to expect to get your money back. If you do, then it’s a nice bonus, but if you don’t, then so be it.
These rules are imposed by the General Directorate of Civil Aviation of Ecuador or GDCAE, so there’s very little wiggle room when flying (or seeking to fly).
The only way to get out of the tax is by proving that your drone will be used professionally when you land in Ecuador.
Here is an Embassy of Ecuador statement that elaborates further:
“If the person uses the drone as working equipment, they must prove that the equipment is also intended for it. Therefore this person has to carry a document with him, which shows which activities are planned. If the photographer is a photographer, he/she must have proof of qualification or a copy of the diploma indicating that he/she is dedicated to the profession.
It should be emphasized that the drone must leave the country as soon as the work is completed. If the person does not wish to use the drone for professional purposes, the drone will not be exempt from duty, and taxation will have to be continued.”
That’s for recreational pilots to keep in mind especially, as you have no other choice but to pay the tax unless you bring a cheaper toy drone into Ecuador.
Commercial pilots might be able to dodge the taxation fee.
Can I fly a drone in Ecuador?
Whew! Getting your drone into Ecuador was only half the battle. You’re wondering what you can do with it now that you’re here.
Fortunately, drones are allowed in Ecuador, and that goes for recreational and commercial pilots alike.
There is one exception, and that’s the Galapagos Islands. As cool as it would be to fly a drone there, the 127 islands that comprise the Galapagos have some of the most premier wildlife on the entire planet due to the isolation of the islands.
Some species of both animals and plants are exclusive to the Galapagos only and must be safeguarded, so the GDCAE does not permit recreational and commercial pilots to fly there.
Professionals who are doing scientific research on the Galapagos are allowed, so if you can prove that your commercial endeavors are scientific in nature, then you might be permitted to fly.
In all other parts of Ecuador that welcome drone pilots, you’re expected to follow the GDCAE’s rules and regulations, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
The flying freedoms you’ll enjoy once you finally get your drone into Ecuador makes it all worth it in the opinion of many drone pilots!
Ecuador drone rules to abide by when in the skies
So what exactly are the rules when operating a drone in Ecuador? We’re glad you asked! Let’s go over all the GDCAE laws.
Do not fly higher than 400 feet
Much of Ecuador is uncontrolled airspace, but even still, you’re limited on your drone altitude when operating. You should not fly higher than 400 feet.
Keep your drone away from sensitive areas
Throughout Ecuador, areas that are deemed as sensitive abound, such as military facilities and government buildings. At no point are you allowed to fly your UAV near or over these facilities.
Be respectful of other people’s privacy
No matter where in the world you operate your drone, all people are entitled to their privacy, and that goes for citizens and tourists alike.
You should not fly your drone too close to other people unless you know the people and they’ve agreed to be a part of your drone project.
Don’t fly close to airports
The closest you’re allowed to fly to an airport in Ecuador is nine kilometers, which is approximately 5.5 miles. The same rule applies to airfields.
The goal of this law is to keep your UAV away from manned aircraft such as commercial airliners.
Keep your drone within your visual line of sight
This drone rule should be very familiar to you, as most countries throughout the world require pilots to maintain a visual line of sight when flying their drones.
Your drone should always be perceivable to you with your naked eye (or with contacts or glasses if you need them). If you need binoculars to see your drone, then it’s already well outside of your visual line of sight.
Only fly your drone in good weather conditions
Optimal conditions for drone flight are required when taking to the skies in Ecuador. Avoid flying your drone in windy weather, rain, snow, or fog.
You don’t want to risk losing your drone, which is always a possibility in poor conditions.
Remember, if you don’t come back with your drone in tow after leaving Ecuador, then you’ll never have any chance of getting that tax payment refunded to you. It’s best to ground your drone until you have a clearer day on the horizon.
Do not fly your drone after dark
In daylight hours, you can fly your drone across Ecuador, but before the sun is up and after it sets, you should not be out with your drone. It’s too risky.
You should have liability insurance
Commercial pilots cannot forego liability insurance when operating their drones in Ecuador. Recreational pilots needn’t get insurance but might consider it anyway.
If your drone weighs between two and 25 kilograms, then you need at least $3,000 in insurance. For heavier drones that weigh more than 25 kilograms, make sure your policy includes at least $5,000.
That’s not too terribly expensive on its own, especially as far as drone insurance goes, where you sometimes have to be insured for up to a million dollars.
Considering all the other money you have to spend to get your drone into the country though, we can see where another expense would be inconvenient.
Ecuador is a beautiful South American country that is perhaps best known for the Galapagos Islands.
While drone pilots are barred from the islands, they’re free to fly throughout much of the rest of Ecuador while following the guidelines established by the GDCAE.
Just keep in mind that visiting Ecuador with your drone will be more expensive than most trips. You might have to pay a tax on your drone, and you definitely have to insure it if you’re flying commercially!