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Drone Flying in Mexico

Hoomi

Well-known member
#1
Before a recent trip to Cozumel, I looked up drone laws in Mexico. If I understood the laws, as of December, 2018, drones must be registered in Mexico before being flown, and only Mexican citizens can register drones.

This leaves foreign visitors grounded, if we are going to obey the local laws. While some commented in different forums that the laws weren't really enforced, when you consider the penalties can include confiscation of the drone and up to the equivalent of $22,000 US dollars in fines, it's a pretty big gamble to depend on local Government officials just looking the other way. It also ignores the very real possibility of some incident having occurred which foments a sudden step-up in enforcement.

I can't speak for the rest of you, but I, personally, don't want to bet even just my drone against a lax enforcement attitude, let alone over $20K in fines.

That said, I think there could be a revision to the policy that would address Mexico's concerns for safety and security, while offering a provision for foreign visitors to use our drones while in Mexico. I wrote to the Mexican Consulate here in Tucson, explaining my thoughts, and asking if there were a way to suggest to legislators in Mexico City an amendment to the policy allowing for visitors to apply for a temporary drone permit. My thoughts on this would be that we would submit our pilot information, drone information, and where we plan to fly, sufficiently ahead of a trip to receive said permit.

If I receive a response from the Consulate with suggest contact information, I'll share it here. Perhaps, if enough of us submit respectful requests, it might garner some action.
 

Hoomi

Well-known member
#3
That was a point I made in my letter to the Consul. Mexico has some awesome scenery which we'd love to record and share with others, but I don't want to break laws to do so.
 

Ryan O.

Well-known member
#4
That was a point I made in my letter to the Consul. Mexico has some awesome scenery which we'd love to record and share with others, but I don't want to break laws to do so.
I see quite a few documentaries with Drone footage, and they are likely not flown by citizens, so if you ask the local gov't for an exception there is a chance. Best of luck (y)
 

Hoomi

Well-known member
#5
More likely, they were either shot before Dec 2018, flown without knowledge of the laws, or flown by those confident that the laws aren't enforced.
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#6
Hiya Hoomi,

I've lived in Mexico since 2001. I'm also a legal expert as a generalist, and not specifically Mexican law. I offer the following observations:

1) I was completely unaware of any of these onerous restrictions. However, a cursory examination of the topical and superficial internet discussions also failed to reveal anything approaching a reliable source. I didn't see anyone that seemed to know what they were talking about. I did see a link to an official document in spanish. Although I speak decent spanish, there's no way I would trust myself to remain awake, much less come to any meaningful conclusions regarding a lengthy Mexican legal document. Besides the complexity, there is so much ambiguity inherent in the language that getting a straight answer is seriously in doubt. I would welcome citing to any sources that you have.

2) Having said that, it turns out that through a friend, I've become a casual drinking buddy of the Director of our local airport. I do recall him saying that the buffer zone around the airport was quite large and might encompass the place I've been flying. I need to try to discern the legal definition of a "drone" and pick his brain. I have flown only fixed wing, but I do have one mini-quad that I've been wanting to take out. Presumably he will know a good deal about this.

3) $22,000 USD in fines?? That sounds exorbitant. I'm pretty sure I could kill somebody for that price. 22,000 pesos would be about $1,188 USD. A pretty big fine in and of itself. But for what exactly? Based on what exactly? Interference with commercial traffic?

4) A single traveler entering by air (or sea possibly) is entitled to a "franquicia" of $300-$500. That is goods that you can import in your luggage without paying an import duty. And even that is open to interpretation. In addition to and apart from this franquicia, there is a whole long laundry list of things that you can bring in that don't count against the franquicia. Goods which include 12 "toys". Maybe your drone is a toy. And so, here is one problem with customs: if you don't declare these things, and it is determined that a duty is owed, the import duty can jump from 16% to 116%! Very costly. An expensive drone is going to earn a hefty price. And if you are deceitful, and the presumption will be that you are, they can confiscate your property. So all of this begs the question: with respect to your drone, what precisely is the supposed infraction?

5) Why Cozumel? Are you a diver? How long is your trip? This is me being a little judgmental but you can fly at home anytime. Take a look underwater while you're in the Caribbean.

Before a recent trip to Cozumel, I looked up drone laws in Mexico. If I understood the laws, as of December, 2018, drones must be registered in Mexico before being flown, and only Mexican citizens can register drones.

This leaves foreign visitors grounded, if we are going to obey the local laws. While some commented in different forums that the laws weren't really enforced, when you consider the penalties can include confiscation of the drone and up to the equivalent of $22,000 US dollars in fines, it's a pretty big gamble to depend on local Government officials just looking the other way. It also ignores the very real possibility of some incident having occurred which foments a sudden step-up in enforcement.

I can't speak for the rest of you, but I, personally, don't want to bet even just my drone against a lax enforcement attitude, let alone over $20K in fines.

That said, I think there could be a revision to the policy that would address Mexico's concerns for safety and security, while offering a provision for foreign visitors to use our drones while in Mexico. I wrote to the Mexican Consulate here in Tucson, explaining my thoughts, and asking if there were a way to suggest to legislators in Mexico City an amendment to the policy allowing for visitors to apply for a temporary drone permit. My thoughts on this would be that we would submit our pilot information, drone information, and where we plan to fly, sufficiently ahead of a trip to receive said permit.

If I receive a response from the Consulate with suggest contact information, I'll share it here. Perhaps, if enough of us submit respectful requests, it might garner some action.
 
Last edited:

Hoomi

Well-known member
#7
I'll see if I can find the page that I researched. That is another reason for writing the Consul. If the pages I found were wrong in their interpretation of the laws, I'm hoping the Consul will clarify that, and give me an accurate summation of what the rules currently encompass. Unfortunately, the Congress of the United States has no monopoly on bureaucratic language that is nearly impossible to decipher, and other Governments are similarly mired in legislation that takes a law degree to even hope to understand. Factor in legislation originally written in another language, and the challenge of translating it accurately, and we add many more layers of potential misunderstanding.

As I understood it also, the new rules came in the wake of a mishap, when an airliner on approach to Tijuana, struck a drone and suffered damage to the nose radome. The damage was not catastrophic, and no one aboard the aircraft or on the ground was injured, but the close call apparently sparked the push for tighter restrictions.

I'm still not willing to bet my drone and the potential fine, though, on whether the pages I read were interpreting the law correctly or not. Even an $1100 US fine is a bit more than I'd like to pay.
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#8
As I understood it also, the new rules came in the wake of a mishap, when an airliner on approach to Tijuana, struck a drone and suffered damage to the nose radome. The damage was not catastrophic, and no one aboard the aircraft or on the ground was injured, but the close call apparently sparked the push for tighter restrictions.
That would tend to freak people out.
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#9
OK. Here's the official document. 55 pages of spanish legalese...enjoy! I perused it enough to determine that a) "drone" means UAS which would encompass fixed-wing aircraft as well; and b) "foreigners" (not yet defined by me) do indeed face restrictions.

Well, I won't be flying in town anymore, but I don't think the cows will be complaining much out in the country. It looks like the airport guy was correct on the big exclusion zone around the airport. Appears to be a 9 km zone :-(

I haven't gone through much of this, but is seems as though the actual regulations are to be forthcoming and have not yet been promulgated. Any authorities that one would come into contact are likely to be dangerous. Be they knowledgeable or ignorant. Definitely leave your "drone" at home.

Edited: Perhaps some useful info here.

Before a recent trip to Cozumel, I looked up drone laws in Mexico. If I understood the laws, as of December, 2018, drones must be registered in Mexico before being flown, and only Mexican citizens can register drones.

This leaves foreign visitors grounded, if we are going to obey the local laws. While some commented in different forums that the laws weren't really enforced, when you consider the penalties can include confiscation of the drone and up to the equivalent of $22,000 US dollars in fines, it's a pretty big gamble to depend on local Government officials just looking the other way. It also ignores the very real possibility of some incident having occurred which foments a sudden step-up in enforcement.

I can't speak for the rest of you, but I, personally, don't want to bet even just my drone against a lax enforcement attitude, let alone over $20K in fines.

That said, I think there could be a revision to the policy that would address Mexico's concerns for safety and security, while offering a provision for foreign visitors to use our drones while in Mexico. I wrote to the Mexican Consulate here in Tucson, explaining my thoughts, and asking if there were a way to suggest to legislators in Mexico City an amendment to the policy allowing for visitors to apply for a temporary drone permit. My thoughts on this would be that we would submit our pilot information, drone information, and where we plan to fly, sufficiently ahead of a trip to receive said permit.

If I receive a response from the Consulate with suggest contact information, I'll share it here. Perhaps, if enough of us submit respectful requests, it might garner some action.
 

Hoomi

Well-known member
#10
So, it appears that the only current provision for Foreign Nationals to fly drones in Mexico, is for scientific purposes with a special permit.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#11
I'll see if I can find the page that I researched. That is another reason for writing the Consul. If the pages I found were wrong in their interpretation of the laws, I'm hoping the Consul will clarify that, and give me an accurate summation of what the rules currently encompass. Unfortunately, the Congress of the United States has no monopoly on bureaucratic language that is nearly impossible to decipher, and other Governments are similarly mired in legislation that takes a law degree to even hope to understand. Factor in legislation originally written in another language, and the challenge of translating it accurately, and we add many more layers of potential misunderstanding.

As I understood it also, the new rules came in the wake of a mishap, when an airliner on approach to Tijuana, struck a drone and suffered damage to the nose radome. The damage was not catastrophic, and no one aboard the aircraft or on the ground was injured, but the close call apparently sparked the push for tighter restrictions.

I'm still not willing to bet my drone and the potential fine, though, on whether the pages I read were interpreting the law correctly or not. Even an $1100 US fine is a bit more than I'd like to pay.
Interesting...That drone strike is probably what shut down the Chula Vista RC Flyers. I'd heard that they were flying too close to Brown Field and Tijuana International Airport; I wonder if that was the nail in the coffin for their flights there, in addition to being close (as in 150 feet close) to the border wall, and Border Patrol/Department of Homeland Security put their foot down...

But that said, you know there's drones being flown by Mexicans, over the border wall...they're delivering things like messages or worse.
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#13
No doubt, but you know, I'd be the one caught by an official determined to enforce the law.
More likely his/her vague interpretation of the law with an eye more towards receiving a "mordida". But as a practical matter, it would seem unwise to go flying willy nilly in a foreign country where presumably you don't even speak the language.

So, it appears that the only current provision for Foreign Nationals to fly drones in Mexico, is for scientific purposes with a special permit.
That's what a cursory examination reveals. I even saw where you could infer a $22,000 fine for infractions. However, I believe that sum represents the extent of the authority given to the Mexican FAA. That fine is probably for flying 737's drunk with passengers ;-)

More importantly for me, it appears that I have been shutdown. The language referring to "Mexican Nationals" as opposed to "residents" hits home and hits hard. But I have a loophole work around in mind using a buddy box. Additionally, out in the rural areas....
 

SlingShot

Maneuvering With Purpose
#14
Some good news. A look at the registry format, shows that it doesn't even encompass the idea of a DIY craft. These foamboard airplanes, assembled from parts should "fly under the radar" (pun intended). Insomuch as it's just a collection of parts until it's built, it appears not to be effected.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#16
No doubt, but you know, I'd be the one caught by an official determined to enforce the law.
LOL I know that story all too well. I'd be the guy who'd decide to drive 5 mph over the speed limit and get stopped, but the guy who flew past me and the police officer doing 90 mph wouldn't get stopped at all. :)
 

skymaster

Well-known member
#17
Well just like every where there are people that when they go visit other places think that they can do what ever and we pay the price. i was aslo looking into this. drone en mexico. if you go to you tube you see alot of screw up's doing their thing like this one. this guy is flaying in mexico city near skycaper and if you look their is a heli pad on two of them and you can keep on looking like people flying over maya ruin's. it's because of people like this that we are where we are.
 

sprzout

Knower of useless information
Mentor
#18
Well just like every where there are people that when they go visit other places think that they can do what ever and we pay the price. i was aslo looking into this. drone en mexico. if you go to you tube you see alot of screw up's doing their thing like this one. this guy is flaying in mexico city near skycaper and if you look their is a heli pad on two of them and you can keep on looking like people flying over maya ruin's. it's because of people like this that we are where we are.
Everyone wants "cool pictures" or "neat videos". Ok, but do you ever watch them? How much of that sits on a media card or hard drive somewhere? I wonder about that a LOT...
 

Hoomi

Well-known member
#20
Hiya Hoomi,

5) Why Cozumel? Are you a diver? How long is your trip? This is me being a little judgmental but you can fly at home anytime. Take a look underwater while you're in the Caribbean.
I missed this question somehow, but, yes, indeed, both my wife and I are divers, which is something we cannot do at home very easily.

I shot this video with my Spark during our dive trip to Roatan, Honduras, two years ago.