Due to their size, scope, speed, and operability, the use of drones facilitates the realization of activities, currently being used for various purposes, from support for emergencies or natural disasters, security, cartography, research, recreation, advertising, and even in countries such as China and Iceland deliver products and food, as well as being operated by armies and police forces.
Drones are unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft capable of autonomously maintaining a controlled and sustained flight level, propelled by an explosion, electric, or jet engine.
In Mexico the use of this type of technology is relatively new, so its regulation is incipient. On July 25, 2017, the General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics published the Mandatory Circular that establishes the requirements for operating a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) in Mexican airspace, whose definition is the drones.
This joint Circular contains a series of guidelines for the safe, harmonized, and fluid conduct of RPAS operations comparable to those of manned aircraft operations, from which emanate various procedures that must be performed by operators and/or owners of RPAS such as the RPAS Registry, the Type Approval for RPAS and the Authorization for Operation, as well as the requirements that must be met by importers, Mexican manufacturers and traders of RPAS.
The Circular classifies SARS according to their weight and category into a) micro (2 kg or less), b) small (from 2.1 kg to 25 kg), and c) large (25 kg or more); and according to their use in a) Recreational Private, b) Non-commercial Private, and c) Commercial.
Some of the main requirements and limitations for the operation of RPAS, applicable for any of the categories and types of use, are detailed below:
It is not allowed to operate in prohibited, restricted, or dangerous zones established in Mexico's Publication of Aeronautical Information (PIA).
They may not be used to transport dangerous goods and/or substances prohibited by law, nor to use or transport weapons or explosives.
They may not be operated in open or closed places where more than 12 people meet.
They must be operated during the official hours between sunrise and sunset.
The pilot is responsible for their operation, use, and in case of incident or accident, damage, and/or injury caused by it.
The pilot must pilot the aircraft in the line of sight, so the pilot must be able to see the aircraft throughout the flight to know its location, attitude, altitude, and direction.
The pilot is responsible for complying with all federal and local laws, regulations, and rules related to national security, public safety, protection of privacy, and intellectual property, among others.
RPAS for private non-commercial use and commercial use must have a civil liability insurance policy for damages to third parties.
Owners of RPAS with a takeoff weight greater than 250 grams (0.55 pounds) are required to carry out the registration on the Internet portal of the General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics, regardless of its use. This obligation does not only apply to owners since RPAS dealers also must carry out such registration.
The registration of RPAS is done digitally in the Internet portal of the General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics, so it is necessary to have documentation that accredits the ownership of RPAS.
The RPAS of micro category for private recreational use, private non-commercial and commercial, as well as small and large categories for private recreational use, do not require an Operating Authorization. Small and large categories of RPAS for non-commercial and commercial use require Operating Authorization. RPAS in the large category for non-commercial and commercial use must have Type Approval for RPAS. Similarly, all large RPAS for commercial use must have a certificate of licensure.
The application for Type Approval of the RPAS is submitted to the Directorate of Engineering, Standards, and Certification of the SCT, accompanied by the approval plan, assurance of airworthiness, applicable manuals, and compliance with standards of seaworthiness, this procedure has indefinite validity. To be granted Type Approval must comply with the requested documentation and approve the corresponding verification visits.
The application for Operating Authorization is submitted to the Directorate of Engineering, Standards, and Certification of the SCT, accompanied by the operation manual, the aeronautical study of safety and risk management, civil liability insurance policy for damages to third parties, registration and identification, RPAS pilot license, type approval and certificate of airworthiness, the Authorization is valid for 2 years.
Finally, the General Directorate of Civil Aeronautics has a reporting system, which consists of any physical or moral person, or federal and/or local entity informing the command of the nearest airport, when a drone causes injury or death to persons or damage to the property of others, and if they are seen within 9.2 km (5 nautical miles) around airports, or within 0.900 km (0.5 nautical miles) around heliports.
As we can observe, for the operation of an RPAS in our country it is necessary to fulfill diverse requirements and to carry out procedures that allow its use and operation in the air space, which will be fastened according to the category and use of these. It should be noted that the RPAS used by the State to carry out military, police, border patrols, and maritime operations are adjusted to another type of regulation.
The owners, operators, traders, and manufacturers of RPAS must be subject to the obligations established in the Circular since the Directorate of Civil Aeronautics expects to establish fines in case of non-compliance with such regulation, which is expected to come into effect in the coming months.
The constant technological change and the emergence of new necessities of daily life will bring a consequence that the use of drones in our country will be more determinant in the coming years, so, together with aviation regulation, it will be necessary that civil and criminal laws have clear responsibilities in the case through the use of RPAS crimes are committed and/or affect third parties, as well as establish the obligations that have the operators and owners of RPAS that use cameras for the protection of personal data.