Mexico is a beautiful country with such must-see tourist attractions as the Teotihuacan, the Chichen Itza, the beaches of Tulum, and the Copper Canyon. You’d love nothing more than to bring your drone with you on your trip to Mexico to capture photos and videos of these sights. But are drones allowed?
As of 2021, drones of any size are not allowed to travel into Mexico. You also cannot use a drone in Mexico if you are not a citizen. Trying to smuggle a drone in could lead to financial penalties and even legal ramifications.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about taking and operating a drone in Mexico, including the legalities and regulations for doing so. Whether you want to fly your drone here for business or pleasure, this is one article you cannot miss.
Can you bring a drone to Mexico?
You’re passionate about flying your UAV in new and exciting places, and that has led to you traveling lots of places with your drone. Through experience, you know to turn your drone off before a flight and to put it in its own carrying case so it doesn’t get damaged.
You’ve already packed your drone for your upcoming flight to Mexico, but you decided to do a quick search on the rules for bringing a drone into the country. Are you allowed to bring a drone with you?
As of this writing, no, you cannot take your drone with you to Mexico. This doesn’t matter whether yours is a small, compact drone or a large one, nor does it matter whether it’s a toy drone or an expensive DJI model. The drone is not allowed.
Trying to hide or obscure your drone will not end well. According to the TSA, if you’re caught with an item not approved for flight, you could be fined or even arrested. Granted, the TSA is an American institution, but the same penalties would likely apply if you were on a Mexican airline with a drone.
It’s simply not worthwhile to chance it. You would hate to start your Mexican vacation with a hefty fine or even by getting arrested. Being put under arrest in a country that’s not your own is certainly not the type of adventure you want when you’re on vacation.
Besides, if you’re determined to fly a drone in Mexico, there is a workaround. You can always buy a drone in Mexico. We couldn’t find any information on whether you could leave Mexico with a drone though. Since you might not be able to take it home, I recommend purchasing a cheap drone that you won’t mind parting with at the end of your vacation should it come to that.
Are you allowed to fly a drone in Mexico?
In the United States, we have the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA that oversees drone flight rules. In Mexico, it’s the Centre for Aviation or CAPA. It was once the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics or DGCA.
CAPA mandates, much like the FAA does, that in most cases you must be registered to use your drone.
But more specifically, you must be a Mexican citizen to legally fly a drone in that country. This could be to reduce the number of drones flying in the sky at any one time, but those are the rules.
That said, like any set of rules, you should know that there are certain exceptions.
For example, if you strike a bilateral agreement with a Mexican agency, you might be allowed to use your drone even without citizenship. Without prior approval though, you should never fly your drone in Mexico.
Let’s say you did receive approval to use your drone on Mexican soil. As we said before, you’d need to register it. Bypassing this part of the process and flying your drone illegally in Mexico is a very poor decision. Your drone could very likely be taken from you, and you’ll probably never see it again.
Much worse is the high fines you’ll incur, which can be around $21,000 in some cases.
Drones that weigh 250 grams or less are the only ones that don’t require registration. Converting grams to pounds means your drone would have to weigh 0.55 pounds, so most drones must be registered in Mexico. This doesn’t mean, however, that you can fly these lightweight drones if you’re not a Mexican citizen.
Can you fly a commercial drone in Mexico?
What if a business opportunity takes you to Mexico? Your boss has asked you to capture footage of Uxmal or the Basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe. Yet reading everything you have to this point makes you nervous that you won’t be able to complete the assignment. If you’re not a Mexican citizen, you might have some bad news to share with your boss.
You won’t be able to bring a drone into Mexico, commercial or otherwise, as we talked about before. You’d also have to obtain a license to fly a UAV commercially. This rule has been in place in Mexico since December 1st, 2018.
Those who are eligible for a commercial drone license are 18 and older with a high school diploma. You also must be a Mexican citizen.
If you want to film or photograph any National Institute of Anthropology or INAH museums and monuments for commercial purposes, you must obtain permission. This doesn’t mean you can just ask whether you can use your drone there. There’s a formal process.
You’d have to fill out an application INAH-01-001, which should be available to view and download here. You’d also have to describe your project in a document that goes to the National Coordination of Legal Affairs and includes a dummy sketch, a storyboard, or a script.
Drone operation rules and restrictions in Mexico
If you check all the boxes and are legally allowed to fly a drone in Mexico (that is, you’re a Mexican citizen, and have registered your drone), it helps to know the country’s rules on doing so. This will ensure you fly in safe airspace and won’t get your drone confiscated or end up with a huge fine!
Don’t drop what you’re carrying
Drones these days come with all sorts of fun accessories for bringing items such as your smartphone or even a spare battery. Yet in Mexico–as with most other places in the world, really–rules exist on carrying these objects via your UAV.
You’re not supposed to drop the items where they could damage nearby property or hurt people.
Double-check that your accessories are secure before you begin flying your drone. We’d also caution against performing erratic movements that can cause your accessories to shift.
Maintain the recommended speed
The speed of your drone is also a paramount concern when flying it in Mexico. The rule is that your max speed should be dictated by the UAV’s takeoff weight. Moreover, if you see a sign in parks or a tourist attraction with a stated drone speed limits, be sure to follow those speed limits. We’d suggest flying under the speed limit to be on the safe side.
In the US, you can’t fly your drone too close to an airport per FAA rules. In Mexico, the same rule applies, except in this part of the world, an airport is known as an aerodrome. Your drone cannot be closer than five nautical miles to all aerodromes in the area.
A nautical mile, by the way, is longer than a statute mile, as the latter is 1.1508 miles for every one nautical mile. You can check a drone app such as AirMap to see where restricted areas are.
Do not fly at historical sites
We talked earlier about Chichen Itza and other historical sites like it throughout Mexico. If you want to see these, you’ll have to appreciate them with your own two eyes. Should you want to photograph or record these sites, use your camera or your smartphone (if you’re allowed). Drones are prohibited from historical sites throughout Mexico unless with express prior permission.
Watch your drone height
In Mexico, your drone must always remain under 400 feet above ground level. If you take your UAV higher than that, you’re in violation of the rules, which means you could be fined, or your drone could be taken away from you.
Stay away from living creatures
You’re not allowed to fly your drone near other living creatures. Yes, that includes all nature of animals, but also us people as well. If you’re flying in a populated area, then choose a less busy spot and operate your drone there.
You don’t want your drone to crash into a horse or an unsuspecting person. This can cause injuries, not to mention cause damage to your drone. Even if you’re skilled at navigating out of tight situations, fly in empty areas only.
Always know where your drone is
Your drone must be within 1,500 feet of where you’re standing and ideally within your line of sight. If you lose track of your drone, you won’t be able to control it. Now it’s an injury risk to anyone around, not to mention you could cause property damage.
Do not fly at night
Flying at night reduces your visibility too much, so it’s dangerous. Even though the night sky can be very inviting, limit drone flight to only daylight hours.
Mexico has a lot of rules about transporting and operating a drone in their country. You cannot travel with a drone into Mexico, nor can you use one without being a Mexican citizen. You usually have to register your drone as well.
We hope this article has cleared up your questions on flying a drone in Mexico, and that it hasn’t frustrated your hoped-for travel expectations too much. Have fun and be safe out there!