New bill is submitted to regulate Drones in Mexico

On February 2, 2023, a bill was submitted to the House of Deputies to reform the Mexican Aviation Act to further regulate Remotely Piloted Aircraft.

Bill purpose:

The bill aims to regulate the use of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (“RPA or Drone”) given that these aircraft might put at risk people’s privacy and fundamental rights. Even RPA may be used to attack and harm people, thus Drones’ control becomes necessary.

The bill seeks to prevent RPA from being used to interfere manned aircraft flights. In addition, consideration should be made to the risks associated with the use of Drones for people and property on the ground in case that a RPA crashes.

The document acknowledges that Drones have experienced failures and software errors causing people harm or even death. Spies use drones to keep track of people unlawfully breaching privacy rights.

Although the bill refers to an instrument of the Mexican regulatory framework of Remotely Piloted Aircraft System, that is the Official Standard NOM-17-SCT3-2019 (the “Official Standard”), it also contemplates in its purpose the need to include in the Aviation Act all the provisions to establish measures for the use of Drones.

The reason for this is that the Mexican airspace is regarded by the law as means and mode of transport, therefore Mexico should keep it under control to guarantee national sovereignty.

Bill content:

Article 2 of the Aviation Act is proposed to be amended to define Unmanned Aircraft as “aircraft meant to fly with no pilot aboard” and Remotely Piloted Aircraft or Drone as “aircraft operated by a remote control”.

In addition, the bill proposed to add a new chapter and article to regulate RPA or Drones. The new article 37 Bis intends to develop requirements and obligations for owners of Drones which main ones are listed as follows:

a)     Have the proper certification and authorization issued by the Mexican aviation authority.
b)    Have an insurance policy.
c)     Do not invade people’s privacy.
d)    Have an airworthiness certificate.
e)    No simultaneous operation of two or more Drones will be allowed.
f)      Have a permit for night flights issued in accordance with the law and the Official Standard.
g)     Do not interfere or overfly the controlled airspace.
h)    Avoid launching or discharge objects unless prior obtaining an authorization.
i)      Have authorization to overfly massive events.
j)      No flight will exceed 60 minutes long and the operator shall always keep in sight the Drone.

Finally, the bill intends to reform article 47 of the Aviation Act to include that all documents by which legal title or possession on Drones is acquired, transferred, modified, encumbered, or cancelled, shall also be registered with the Mexican Aeronautic Registry.

My comments:

The purpose of the bill is positive because consideration is taken for the first time to the potential risks of privacy rights violation resulting from the misuse of drones.

On the other hand, the current legal framework already contemplates some of the points that the bill aims to develop, such as:

* Remotely Piloted Aircraft (System) is a term already defined.

* Pilots of RPA must refrain from using them to carry weapons or explosives.

* Pilots of RPA must refrain from dropping objects that might harm people or property on the ground.

*Drones registration with the Aeronautic Registry.

*Obligation for RPA operators to have in place a civil liability insurance policy.

*Obligation for RPA operators to fly the drones within the controlled airspace and so on.

It seems to me that instead of developing aspects already covered by the existing aviation laws and regulations, the bill would have rather elaborated on:

(i) the RPA actions or activities that constitute an infringement to the Mexican personal data protection law.

(ii) the sanctions to be imposed to RPA owners and operators that violate privacy rights; because it remains unclear how the bill would be harmonized with the Mexican persona data protection law.

Meanwhile the bill was sent to the Communications and Transports Commission for its discussion.

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