using drones in mexico

by jose luis escalante, baja properties

(Editor’s note: Lately, the newest crowds of purchasers are coming to BCS equipped with their own drones to survey the surroundings of their property prospects…so this is relevant info for all of you high flying buyers!)

So you are ready to pack everything for your trip to Los Cabos and suddenly a small cloudy white space pops up over your head featuring beautiful beaches but this time looking from birds-eye view in the weather-perfect blue sky and azure waters. After all you decide to bring your quad copter and have some fun at the beach and have another “selfie” to torture out of jealousy all your acquaintances, but this time from the air. But are you breaking any laws in Mexico by doing that? Are you aware of the legislation in this new arena in a foreign country? Certainly there are a few things to consider but if you have to drop the paper right now to jump into the water I can advance to you that you are likely to be in compliance.

All the regulations are just as new as anywhere else, but don’t let the image of the Mexican with the sombrero deceive you, we are catching up quickly. The federal entity in charge of regulating this is the SCT (Communications and Transport Secretary), more specifically the DGAC (General Directorate of Civil Aviation). They came up (since July 2010 and then an improved version on May 2016) with 3 classifications for the popular toy improperly called “Drone”, but for the purpose of this article we’ll stick to that term that everybody is familiar with:

Micro: up to 2 kilograms of weight (about 4.4 pounds)
Light: from 2 to 25 kilograms (up to 55 pounds)
Heavy: more than 25 kilos (you could ride your dog on this)

The last two (light and heavy) need an authorization to fly from the DGAC. The micro is pretty much every commercial drone out there for the amateur and the semi-professional. For instance, the popular DJI Phantom 4 weights 1.3 kg, not even close. But, if you consider the upscale professional version of the Inspire 2, it hits you with tremendous features along with its weight of 3.4 kg, right there you will have to report it (or don’t you?). At least that is what the law says. Although probably not every single one flying out there obeys it as the Law of Gravity, but being on vacation in a foreign country you want to have the least amount of trouble to achieve the goal of remarkable Los Cabos’ memories.

By law, all drones despite their weight need to adhere to some general guidelines: fly during the day, within areas not classified as dangerous, restricted nor forbidden (you have to be at least 9.2 km away from the airport), avoid transporting illegal substances (duh!), be in control of the drone as if something happens the pilot is held responsible for any damage caused by it (some can be preprogrammed with a route to follow), and the drones can’t be operated from vehicles in movement. You can’t fly beyond 122 meters of altitude (400 feet) and also can’t fly no more than 457 meters (1,500 feet) away from the pilot in horizontal distance.

Besides the laws of the Mexican air space, you will have to be aware of the resort-specific policies that each one may have. This is where it can get really awkward. Some upscale places are just cool about it and others less fancy feel like you are trying to get the latest shot for TMZ. You have to be kind to all of them. Remember at all times that, by flying your annoying buzzing toy, you have to be aware that you are the only one having fun, the rest just feel like under surveillance. Some might wave at you but that represent less than the 10% of the population. Some other might get close to you to ask some questions they always wanted to know. The rest will approach to you with a warrant in hand asking you for a written permission from the HOA or your mom.

Even though we are classified as third world, we are actually second, and we are used to many of the 1st world technological advances; you might think you are colonizing tech territory but don’t let the dusty lanes on the highway give you the wrong impression. Here is quite common to see drones flying in every event and they are now ubiquitous for the real estate industry.

If you have some hours on you flying a quad copter you are probably aware of general safety rules to avoid hurting someone or losing your thousand dollars’ worth of equipment. The rule of thumb (to mention some) is to never fly close to people or over a crowd, or be at least 46 meters from it (150 feet). Be sure you have enough battery and all systems are fine (updates and calibrations) before flying it.

I haven’t heard of any drone going down by someone playing duck hunt using rifles or even another drone (how is it that no one has built a Mad Max drone yet?).

By Jose Luis Escalante / Baja Properties’ Marketing Director and Pilot.

Contact Jose Luis at 624-147-7102.