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Can You Fly a Drone in San Juan?

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San Juan is the largest city in Puerto Rico and its capital, so it already attracts a lot of attention. When you factor in the casinos, nightclubs, bars, and beaches, San Juan is simply irresistible. You’d love to explore its depths with your drone, but can you do so?

Can you fly a drone in San Juan?

**You can fly a drone in San Juan, but since it’s classified as Class C airspace, you will need prior LAANC authorization when operating a UAV in much of the city. Some of the best spots for drone flights include Playa Parchola, Mirador Gavillan, and Mar Chiquita Beach. **

In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to successfully plan a trip to San Juan with your drone.

You’ll learn where to fly, the areas to avoid, and all the pertinent drone laws. Let’s begin!

Can you fly a drone in San Juan? #

First, let’s talk more about whether you can fly a drone in San Juan.

Puerto Rico, being a United States territory, follows FAA guidelines. According to the FAA, you can bring your drone into Puerto Rico, including San Juan.

However, you can’t fly here as freely as you may have hoped. San Juan is a small city, only 77 square miles, and it’s also home of the San Juan Airport.

As such, it’s Class C airspace, as we mentioned in the intro.

Drones can enter Class C airspace only with prior authorization through the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability or LAANC.

If you don’t have authorization, you’re officially flying in San Juan illegally. The punishments can include fines, drone confiscation, and potential imprisonment, so don’t take the risk!

Puerto Rico drone laws to know before you fly #

Besides the aforementioned authorization, you must follow these FAA drone laws to use a drone in San Juan.

Recreational pilots need to keep it recreational #

In San Juan, the line in the sand between hobbyists and commercial pilots is clear and intended to stay clear. 

If you only have a recreational license, you shouldn’t use your drone to earn money in any capacity, whether that’s from a part-time or full-time gig.

You must always have the relevant drone license #

To use a drone in Puerto Rico, whether for fun or for work, you need a current, relevant drone license issued by the FAA.

Let’s start with commercial pilots. Your license is called the Remote Pilot Certificate or Part 107 license. 

It’s obtainable by passing the Part 107 exam, a rigorous test that calls upon the depths of your knowledge of FAA rules.

You’re eligible to take the Part 107 exam once you turn 16 years old. If you answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly, you’re issued the Remote Pilot Certificate. It expires within two years.

The FAA issues a free online exam to commercial pilots to keep their Part 107 licenses current.

You have to answer all the questions correctly, but any wrong answers show up while you take the exam. You can also go back and change those answers.

If you’re only flying your drone for fun, then as a hobbyist, you need a TRUST certificate from the FAA.

The TRUST certificate and exam are an acronym that stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test. 

This exam is less about understanding every last facet of FAA rules and more about generally grasping those rules.

You can take the TRUST exam online and change your answers as you go along. Your license never expires, but you should still stay current on FAA drone laws. 

You must register your drone #

Although pilots can optionally register their drones in most circumstances (such as UAV weight), when operating in Puerto Rico, you’re required to register.

You can go through the FAA to register your drone for only $5. The registration lasts for three years.

You can’t fly over moving vehicles or crowds #

The FAA’s Operations Over People and Operations Over Moving Vehicles laws are both in effect when using your drone in San Juan.

A few exceptions to these laws exist, so let’s briefly talk about them.

If you’re in a sparsely populated area, you can fly your drone over a moving vehicle. Pilots using a lightweight drone can also fly them over crowds.

Further, if you have active participants in your drone project, then you’re allowed to fly over them, but only the participants!

Avoid manned aircraft #

You’re forbidden from flying a drone within five statute miles of an airport, which should eliminate your risk of coming into contact with manned aircraft. 

That said, if it ever does happen, yield to the manned aircraft and try to get to a safer location immediately.

Don’t interrupt emergency response efforts #

Emergency responders such as firefighters, law enforcement, and ambulances are tasked with the very difficult job of saving lives.

Don’t make this high-stakes job even harder by getting in the way with your drone.

Fly at speeds under 100 mph #

Commercial and recreational pilots should fly no faster than 100 miles per hour throughout San Juan and greater Puerto Rico.

» MORE: Can You Fly a Drone in Old San Juan?

Don’t add payload over 55 pounds #

Before your drone takes to the skies, know how much it weights.

If the drone surpasses 55 pounds, either through payload additions or its base weight out of the box, then it’s illegal to fly it.

You can only use your drone until civil twilight #

Civil twilight begins when the sun rises and lasts until it sets six degrees beneath the horizon. You should not be out after dark still flying your drone.

Your drone must stay within your line of sight #

Finally, as a responsible drone pilot, you must keep eyes on your drone the entire time it’s in the sky.

You can have an observer with you to do the same if it’s not possible for you to watch your drone on your own.

The 5 best spots in San Juan to use your drone #

Although getting airspace authorization does add a complication to your drone flight plans, once you have that permission, there’s so much beauty around San Juan for you to enjoy with your drone.

Try visiting any of these five exceptional places, or maybe see them all!

1. Mar Chiquita Beach #

The round cove that is Mar Chiquita Beach stands out when taking aerial footage since it’s almost entirely enclosed.

Within this cove is a series of rocks and an oceanic pool where you’ll often find snorkelers and swimmers. 

The rather hidden location of the beach reduces the number of people who show up here, and with free parking, you can’t go wrong.

2. Balneario Punta Salinas #

On the west side of San Juan is Balneario Punta Salinas, a cove-like beach that’s about 30 minutes away from the mainland. Surfers gather here to take advantage of the sizable waves.

You will need LAANC authorization to fly over Balneario Punta Salinas, but the incredible sights make that extra step worth it!

3. Mirador Gavillan #

Capture some footage of metropolitan San Juan at Mirador Gavillan, a green space overlooking views of the entire city.

 Although hurricane damage has eroded its condition, natural beauty still shines through, especially if you’re willing to look for it.

4. Ria Bayamon Lineal Park #

You should also plan to spend an afternoon at the Ria Bayamon Lineal Park, which features dual tracks with linear walkways that divide bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

The two-mile park attracts bikers and runners.

Since it’s not a large park, it can get crowded quickly, so get there early. As an additional treat, you can also take some shots of the nearby Rio Hondo River. 

5. Playa Parchola #

The stunning Playa Parchola is a beach on the western side of San Juan. It’s quite sizable so you can navigate away from the crowds and still use your drone to capture the clear waters and white sands.

Conclusion #

San Juan in Puerto Rico is like paradise for drone pilots and vacationers alike. This tropical part of the US allows pilots to operate drones with LAANC permission given the city’s proximity to an airport.

You also have to follow FAA rules when flying across its beaches, parks, and vistas!


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