On 14 November 2019, the Ministry of Communications and Transport (Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes) (SCT) published in the Official Federal Gazette Mexican Official Standard NOM-107-SCT3-2019 (NOM-107) that establishes the requirements to operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems ("RPAS"), better known as drones, within Mexican airspace.
The SCT, through the recently created Federal Civil Aviation Agency (Agencia Federal de Aviación Civil) (AFAC), will be the agency in charge of establishing guidelines to operate RPAS safely, in a harmonized and comparable manner to piloted aircraft.
NOM-107 classifies RPAS into three different categories based on their maximum take-off weight, namely, (i) micro, weighing 2 Kg or less, (ii) small, over 2 Kg and up to 25 Kg, and (iii) large, weighing more than 25 Kg. All RPAS, regardless of their classification, may be operated for (a) recreational, (b) private non-commercial, and (c) commercial use.
Operators are required to comply with certain requirements depending on the classification and use of the RPAS. In general terms, all RPAS must be registered before the AFAC and those used for private non-commercial and commercial purposes must carry civil liability insurance. NOM-107 regulates RPAS for private non-commercial and commercial use differently from RPAS for recreational use. In this sense, NOM-107 provides that all RPAS must be operated in line of sight (known as VLOS); and only RPAS for private non-commercial and commercial use may fly beyond the line of sight (known as BVLOS) and/or perform night flights, which operations are subject to obtaining a one-time authorization from the AFAC.
Also, NOM-107 restricts the operation of RPAS registered abroad or operated by foreign operators in Mexico, unless the AFAC and the civil aviation authority of the state where the RPAS is registered have a bilateral agreement. As an exception, such obligation will not be applicable for RPAS used for scientific research. Likewise, NOM-107 imposes certain requirements for manufacturers and assemblers, and for those who intend to import and market RPAS in Mexico.
In accordance with the amendments made to the Civil Aviation Law ("CAL") in June 2018, owners and operators of unmanned aircraft may be sanctioned for failing to comply with any of the obligations or conditions established in the CAL or in any other applicable regulations. Fines may be imposed and, depending on the gravity of the breach, the AFAC may suspend any license, certificate or registration granted to the owner or operator of an unmanned aircraft.
As of 13 January 2020, date of entry into force of NOM-107, and together with the CAL, it will be possible to define, develop and apply a comprehensive regulatory framework for the operation of RPAS in Mexico.
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