Can You Bring a Drone to Cancun? (Read This First)

While Cancun is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, there are many other attractions in the area. Are you preparing for your next trip to Cancun? Are you hoping to bring your drone along? Then this article is for you since it covers drone laws in the beautiful Mexican city of Cancun. So keep reading. 

If you’re traveling to Cancun on vacation but you’re not a Mexican citizen, you will not be able to legally fly your drone. While you can travel with a drone to Cancun and other parts of Mexico, it is not legal to fly a drone anywhere in Mexico if you are not a Mexican citizen. 

Since only Mexican nationals are allowed to register and fly drones, there’s not a lot of sense in bringing a drone to Cancun or any other Mexican city. So even though you might be able to bring your drone into the country, what’s the use of a drone you can’t fly? 

Can you take a drone to Mexico?

As we said earlier, you can legally enter Mexico with a drone, especially if you know someone in the country that has a drone license and is registered with Mexico’s Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics. Otherwise, there isn’t much sense in taking a drone to Cancun or any other Mexican city. 

If you intend to take a drone to Mexico, you must follow the following steps:

  1. Bring proof of purchase that clearly proves you bought the drone more than six months ago. The reason for this is that Mexico has regulations regarding drone importation and you’ll be considered to be importing a drone you haven’t had it for six months. Specifically, you’ll be charged with 16% import tax if you can’t prove you bought the drone more than six months ago.
  2. Many airports have regulations regarding taking drones on planes and you have to follow these regulations. It’s common to see airports having drone battery limits that prohibit passengers from taking more than three lithium batteries on a flight depending on the energy of the battery. Be sure to follow these rules and any other drone-related policies your airport may have. If possible, research these policies before booking a flight.
  3. Print out the TSA drone policies to carry with you to the airport. Why? From experience, many TSA agents aren’t aware of TSA rules. Yes, it’s ridiculous but it’s true. Should any TSA agent get anything wrong as regards drone policies, politely show them the printout. That should clear any misunderstanding.
  4. Don’t wrap your drone even if it’s intended as a gift. The TSA would want to take a look at the drone and an agent would have to unwrap the drone so there’s no use in wrapping it. Also, a gift-wrapped drone is an invitation to be hit with the 16% import tax.

So even if you intend a drone as a gift, don’t wrap it until you touch down in Mexico. Surely, you can find some gift wrap in Cancun, right?

What are the risks when flying your drone in Mexico?

There’s no legal way you can fly a drone in Mexico if you are not a Mexican citizen. If you simply must have aerial shots of yourself or the scenic beaches of Cancun on your vacation, the only way you can work around this rule is if you have a Mexican friend that’s licensed to fly a drone. Get your friend to film and photograph all your memorable vacation moments.

It’s not uncommon to see people on forums talking about how they get away with flying drones in Mexico without a license or being a citizen. You hear about how they fly their drones in the morning as early as possible before everyone’s out and walking. Some say they fly in isolated places. 

You may be tempted to do the same when you are in Cancun or any other part of Mexico. However, we’d advise you to not do so as having your drone confiscated will be the least of your worries if you are caught. You could be sanctioned and required to pay a fine of up to $21,000, in addition to having your drone confiscated. And let’s break it to you, they aren’t going to go easy on you just because you are a foreigner. 

Common Mexico drone laws

If you have a Mexican buddy that has a drone license, then you have your ticket to getting an aerial documentary of your vacation in Mexico. Another potential avenue to pursue is looking for a drone rental location, although this could turn out to be somewhat shady if you’re caught flying a rented drone illegally (ie, you’re still a tourist and not legally allows to fly!). 

If you are flying a drone in Mexico (let’s assume you’re a Mexican citizen), below are the common drone laws in the country you should know about. 

  1. You can only fly drones in Mexico in daylight. Flying at night is not allowed for safety reasons.
  2. Your drone must always be in your line of sight. Also, your drone shouldn’t be more than 1,500 feet away from you.
  3. If you are flying near your hotel, ask the hotel about their drone policies and fly your drone only if they give you the green light.
  4. You must not cause any intentional damage to any people or property. This shouldn’t be a difficult one for you if you are not a terrorist or hoodlum.
  5. You must be at least 5 miles away from any airport or flight route. Also, you should refrain from flying close to busy beaches, residential areas, historical sites, monuments, and museums.
  6. You are not allowed to fly more than 400 feet above the ground.
  7. You are not allowed to fly drones that exceed 4.4 lbs (2 kg).
  8. You aren’t allowed to fly close to a group of 12 or more people. Also, you can’t fly closer than 984 yards (900 meters) to a helipad.
  9. You are not allowed to fly your drone in sensitive areas including government or military facilities. This is because the use of drones or camera drones in these areas is prohibited.
  10. Be on the lookout for any signs posted around many popular tourist attractions that notify you of “no-drone zones”.

How to register a drone in Cancun?

You can only register a drone in Cancun, and in Mexico in general, if you are a Mexican citizen. However, if you have a friend in Mexico that can register and be your ticket to flying legally and safely in the country, you can direct him/her on how to register with the Federal Civil Agency (AFAC), Mexico (link). 

All they have to do is complete a registration form with the AFAC and scan all relevant documents, such as a copy of their ID card, drone ownership documents, and so on. Any question or inquiry can be made to AFAC directly. 

How to know drone laws in different countries?

One of the things you should do when traveling to a foreign country is to learn about the laws in that country. This includes any activity or recreation you intend to participate in when you are in the country. 

While this article is about drone laws in Cancun, we’ll be publishing more articles about drone laws in other countries. And the idea is to prepare you for your trip and ensure you don’t get into any trouble with the authorities. 

So below are steps about what to do when intending to travel to another country with a drone.

1. Do your Research

We’ve said this before. Go online and search about current drone laws in the country you are going. Note that we said ‘current’ drone laws since drone laws are quickly evolving and it’s in your best interest to find the most recent laws. 

We’ll be updating this page should there be any changes to drone laws in Mexico and Cancun.

2. Drill Down

After learning about the general drone laws, dig deeper to find out if there are different drone laws in different regions or if different regulatory bodies have different regulations. 

3. Make an educated decision

The result of your research will determine your decision. In a country like Mexico where you can bring a drone into the country, but may end up having to pay 16% tax on it, and you can’t legally fly it anyway, you are better off leaving your drone at home. And you don’t want to end up with a $21,000 fine and other legal consequences if you’re caught flying illegally.

4. There are consequences to your actions

If you decide to travel with a drone to a country where drones aren’t allowed, you should be prepared to face the consequences. The best thing that can happen to you is having your drone confiscated as you may be fined for possessing an illegal or banned item. 

Chances are you wouldn’t even get the drone past the point of entry as there are many detectors at airports that will detect the presence of drones. Countries that ban drones are always on the lookout for drones at entry points so your drone will be detected and confiscated. 

Obedience, they say, is better than sacrifice so you are better off obeying the rules. 

Elizabeth Ciobanu

Editor-in-Chief. Elizabeth is a full-time (homeschooling!) mom of four, and serial entrepreneur in a variety of enterprises, one of which is producing content for Droneblog. If free time existed, she would love to spend more time on hobbies such as flying a drone.

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