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Can You Fly a Drone in Cancun?

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Cancun is a resort city overlooking the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico with nightlife, high-rise hotels, restaurants, and shopping.

You’d love to get caught up in the fun and excitement of Cancun and capture some priceless memories on your drone.

Can you fly a drone in Cancun?

You can fly a drone in Cancun, but you must follow the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil’s drone laws. Mexico restricts its licenses to Mexican-born citizens, which can leave foreigners in a pickle.

This go-to guide will provide all the information you need on using a drone in Cancun, from how to bring your drone into Mexico and what to do with it when you get there.

Make sure you keep reading, as you won’t want to miss it!

Bringing a drone to Mexico #

You’re all packed up and ready to go on your tropical getaway to Cancun. The only thing you haven’t packed yet is your drone, as you’re not sure if you can take it with you to Mexico.

You shouldn’t have any trouble transporting your drone via plane to Mexico. You must register the UAV with the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics before you leave, so set out to do that maybe a month or two in advance of your trip.

That’s a lot of extra leeway, but it’s better to have more time and not need it than it is to have less time and not be able to make your trip to Mexico because you don’t have the right paperwork.

Speaking of paperwork, you’ll also need a proof of purchase. You must have purchased your drone within the last six months if you wish to take it to Mexico.

Why is that? Import taxes. If you’ve owned a drone for more than six months and bring it to Mexico, the country doesn’t consider it an import. However, that’s not the case for newer drones.

You’ll have to pay an import tax of at least 16 percent, not to mention the entire process of bringing your drone to Mexico could be slowed or halted until all the importation matters are sorted.

Pack your drone in a bag designed for UAVs rather than throw it in any ol’ piece of luggage and hope it survives the flight.

Here’s a spoiler: it won’t, at least not in one piece, and especially if you don’t pack your drone as a carry-on or checked luggage.

Review your airline’s size requirements for checked luggage and carry-ons, as you don’t want a bag that’s too big! Then you’ll have to relinquish your drone to the airline.

You can take lithium-ion batteries with you as checked luggage or a carry-on, but the batteries must be removable. 

Can you fly a drone in Cancun? #

Now that you’ve arrived in gorgeous Cancun, can you launch a drone here? The Federal Civil Aviation Agency, also known as the Agencia Federal de Aviacion Civil, establishes the rules for drone flight in Mexico.

According to AFAC, you can legally operate a drone in Mexico, including Cancun. However, you must follow AFAC rules for safe operation.

Mexican drone laws to remember #

What kind of rules does AFAC have for commercial and residential drone pilots? Let’s review.

Commercial pilots must have a license #

AFAC requires you to have a license if you’re interested in bringing your drone to Cancun to make a buck.

This law went into effect in late 2018. Under the regulations, you’re eligible for a license if:

  • You’re healthy
  • You have a GED (high school diploma)
  • You have a military release card
  • You were born in Mexico
  • You’re 18 years old

This is where things get tricky. Technically, you’re legally allowed to bring a drone into Mexico and fly it.

However, if you can’t obtain a license–and you can’t if you weren’t born in Mexico–you can’t operate your drone commercially.

» MORE: Can You Bring a Drone to the Dominican Republic?

You cannot fly a drone in or around hotels #

Cancun is known for its hotels and resorts on this stretch of picturesque sea.

As drones have grown increasingly popular, these hotels and resorts have seen more people bring drones into their hotel rooms or flying them on balconies.

From Aloft to Le Meridien, The Luxury Collection, Four Points, St. Regis, Westin, Sheraton, and more, these hotels have collectively prohibited drone use in, over, or around a resort.

More Cancun resorts have installed security staff in the entrances and just outside of the building to watch for errant drones in the sky.

You need a permit when recording on INAH property #

The National Institute of Anthropology and History or INAH requires all drone pilots to obtain permission when operating a drone commercially on museums, monuments, and areas the organization owns.

You must reach out to INAH before your flight, ideally several weeks, and send the completed INAH-01-001 application form, a project synopsis for the National Coordination of Legal Affairs, and a dummy sketch or storyboard.

You will not receive permission to fly or record with your drone on INAH property until you arrive in Mexico, as INAH requires you to visit its service offices to finish the application process.

You will pay a daily fee if approved and plan to use your drone for videography or filming in the above areas. The fee is $10,905 Mexican pesos per day ($605.50 USD).

No dropping objects with your drone #

Using your drone to carry and drop dangerous materials is illegal, but we wanted to reiterate that AFAC forbids the behavior.

Stay in public zones on the beaches #

One of the best parts of Cancun is its crystal-clear waters and glimmering white sands.

The first 10 meters from the waterline to the sand is public beach, which means anyone can be there. You’ll rub elbows with people hawking gifts and souvenirs, but you can legally fly your drone.

Our recommendation is to get to the beach early so you have a share to yourself.

Limit your distance from aerodromes #

An aerodrome is another word for an airport. Under AFAC law, you cannot operate your drone within 9.2 kilometers or 5 nautical miles from the nearest aerodrome.

Avoid operations near historic sites #

Don’t plan to fly your drone near Chichen Itza, Teotihuacan, Coba, and the litany of other historical sites in Mexico.

You’re outlawed from doing so, although how strongly this law is enforced does vary according to user accounts.

Nonetheless, you don’t want to get into legal hot water in Mexico nor have your drone confiscated, so follow the rules.

Don’t fly your drone over crowds #

A crowd constitutes more than 12 people in Mexico. You cannot operate your drone near groups of people, and the same law holds for flying near animals.

Limit your drone’s weight #

AFAC permits drones in the sky throughout Cancun that weigh under 2 kilograms or 4.4 pounds. Check your drone’s weight at launch and reduce payload so it can legally take off.

Maintain eyes on your drone at all times #

You must be able to see your drone when using it to prevent risks to people and infrastructure. AFAC does not allow pilots to operate their drones more than 1,500 feet away from them.

Do not fly more than 400 feet from the ground #

In Mexico, as in many parts of the world, you cannot operate your drone any higher than 400 feet from the ground to protect manned aircraft.

Only operate your drone by day #

You should also plan your daily itinerary to wrap up by sunset when enjoying drone use in Cancun. You’re not allowed to fly your drone after dark, as AFAC perceives it as a safety hazard.

You must be a citizen to use a drone #

You can fly your drone freely under AFAC regulations if you’re a Mexican citizen, but the country only allows those born here to fly.

Cancun is a popular vacation destination that gets especially crowded around spring break each year, as college kids from around the world visit Mexico to get a break from classrooms and studying.

AFAC allows drones in Cancun, but you must be a Mexican-born citizen to use them and obtain the proper licensing.

Follow all AFAC regulations when flying and you can make incredible memories with your drone in Cancun.


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