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Can You Fly a Drone in Cabo San Lucas?

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Right on the bottommost tip of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico is Cabo San Lucas, a resort city and vacation destination with thumping nightlife and picture-perfect beaches. It’s a city that attracts more than two million visitors annually.

You may be interested in visiting as well, but can you bring your drone to Cabo San Lucas?

Drones are allowed in Cabo San Lucas and Mexico as a whole. You’re required to have a license to fly (for commercial pilots only) and obtain a permit for video and photography. You also have to follow Mexico’s drone laws.

This guide will delve deeply into those drone laws so your luxurious vacation to Cabo San Lucas isn’t ruined by fines or even getting your drone confiscated.

Make sure you keep reading, as you won’t want to miss this.

What is the leading aviation authority in Cabo San Lucas? #

The fun part about traveling is learning about all the different aviation authorities that exist out there. Most countries have their own, and you need to know what it is before you plan to leave the country.

The Federal Aviation Administration has no jurisdiction over drone activities once you’re outside of the United States, so which authority regulates drone activity in Cabo San Lucas and Mexico as a whole?

That’s the Federal Civil Aviation Agency or Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil, which is abbreviated as AFAC.

The AFAC website is right here, but the entire site is in Spanish so you’re forewarned. You can always use an online translator to understand the information on the site.

Located in Mexico City, AFAC promotes sustainable growth in the air transport industry for “social welfare, regional development and job creation, supporting the formation of a better integrated and communicated society.” 

Is it legal to fly a drone in Cabo San Lucas? #

Cabo San Lucas does not have specific drone laws that we were able to find. Thus, if a drone is legal in Mexico as a whole, it should be legal in Cabo San Lucas too.

Fortunately, you can fly a drone in Mexico, which is awesome news for your upcoming Cabo San Lucas getaway.

Of course, keep in mind that you’re subject to all AFAC rules and guidelines, some of which may require you to do a bit of planning before you book your plane tickets and hotel reservations.

Drone rules and laws to know before flying in Cabo San Lucas #

Let’s talk a little further about the drone rules in Mexico that also apply to Cabo San Lucas, shall we?

Commercial pilots must have a license #

Since late 2018, AFAC has put forth new regulations that commercial drone pilots must be licensed to fly in Cabo San Lucas, Tulum and other parts of Mexico .

Here’s the complicated part, though. To even be eligible for a drone license in Mexico, you have to have been born in Mexico.  

That’s nothing you can change if you’re from any other part of the world, so it’s unclear if non-residents can apply for a commercial license. We’d recommend contacting AFAC and going over their licensure regulations with them before you apply.

You can also read through this PDF that goes over the Mexican legislation on drone licensure, but keep in mind the document is not in English and you can’t translate it easily.

For what it’s worth, the rest of the criteria for obtaining a drone license in Mexico is as follows: you have to be healthy, have at least a high school diploma, be 18 years or older, and be able to produce a military release card as applicable. 

Know your drone class #

Depending on which of the three classes your drone falls into, Mexican drone law treats the UAV differently.

The first class is micro drones, which are UAVs that weigh at least two kilograms or 4.4 pounds or under. You cannot fly a micro drone more than 1,500 feet from your visual line of sight or higher than 400 feet over ground level.

You must still have third-party liability insurance when traveling with and operating a micro drone, but you don’t need quite the same level of AFAC authorization as heavier drones do.

The next drone class is light drones, which are drones weighing between two and 25 kilograms, which is up to 55 pounds.

You have to register a light drone when using it commercially, and the drone must have the appropriate license plates. Recreational pilots using a light drone needn’t register it but can only fly it on the lands allowable for use by a model aircraft club.

The third drone class in Mexico is heavy drones, which weigh more than 25 kilograms or 55 pounds. You must have a license when flying a heavy drone.

You must register your drone #

All drones in Mexico require registration using AFAC’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems or RPAS registration.

The registration must include some form of official identification as well as any power of attorney you may possess.

Then you should email

Upon applying for your registration, it should be provided to you within 10 business days.

You need authorization to record or take photos with your drone in certain areas #

In Mexico, you can’t freely use your drone for photography and/or videography in some locations such as the National Institute of Anthropology and History Museum and other monuments and areas.

If you don’t have a permit and you use your drone for photography and/or videography purposes around INAH areas, then you could be fined $10,905 Mexican dollars for each day of the offense.

That’s approximately $554.66 USD!

You’ll have to reach out to the INAH to apply for authorization, including a dummy sketch, storyboard, or script for your drone project.

You must also attach INAH-01-001, the official application form, and a written document explaining your project. Address the letter to the National Coordination of Legal Affairs.

Here is a page from the Mexican government’s website about the permit, which includes the application page.

Follow your resort or hotel’s drone policies #

When staying at resorts and hotels throughout Mexico, and not just in Cabo San Lucas either, you’re required to follow their guidelines about using your drone.

More than likely, you’ll be prohibited from flying your drone in or outside of your room, using the drone to violate the privacy of other customers, or flying your drone too close to the building.

You cannot use your drone to drop items #

If your drone has the capability of carrying items, you’re never allowed to use the UAV to release those objects over property or people.

It doesn’t matter the nature of the item; it’s a crime!

Your drone must stay within your visual line of sight #

At all times when operating a drone in Cabo San Lucas, the drone has to stay within your visual line of sight. That means no binoculars for vision assistance, but glasses or contacts are fine.

Your drone cannot exceed speed limitations according to its takeoff weight #

The recommended speed limitations for your drone are dependent on its top takeoff weight. Whatever your max operating speed is, be sure to stick within that speed limit and don’t exceed it.

You cannot fly your drone closer than 9.2 kilometers from an aerodrome #

An aerodrome is another word for an airfield. Many countries regulate how close drones can get to airfields, and Mexico is no exception.

Should you encounter an aerodrome when flying through Cabo San Lucas, your drone cannot get any closer than 9.2 kilometers or five nautical miles.

Do not fly your drone near historical sites #

Mexico takes great care to preserve its historical sites, with Chichen Itza among them.

Cabo San Lucas has its fair share of historical sites too, which you’re prohibited from flying too close to.

You cannot fly your drone over animals or people #

Mexican drone law forbids pilots from flying over both animals and people. Although some countries allow pilots to use their drones near those involved in a drone project, you should err on the side of caution when flying in Cabo San Lucas.

Your drone must operate at an altitude of 400 feet #

The altitude limit on drones in Cabo San Lucas and Mexico as a whole is no different than in other parts of the world such as the US.

That is, you cannot exceed 400 feet of altitude when operating a UAV.

You can only fly your drone during daylight hours #

While witnessing the beauty of a sunrise or sunset in Cabo San Lucas is a truly special moment, you can only operate your UAV during daylight hours. ** **

Conclusion #

Drones are permitted in Cabo San Lucas if you have the right licensure, a registration, and you follow AFAC drone laws. Have fun out there and always be respectful when using your drone!

References:Forbes (link)


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