Agencies Responsible for regulating drones in the Republic of Costa Rica
Costa Rica Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
UAS Laws – General rules for flying drones in Costa Rica
The Costa Rican agency responsible for drone safety, DGCA, has provided several internet-accessible details on flying for fun or work. The highlights are enumerated below. For more details go to the link above.
Are drones allowed in Costa Rica?
According to DGCA, drone use is allowed in Costa Rica, subject to DGCA regulations. Read on for more details.
Here are the most important rules for flying a drone in Costa Rica:
All Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAS) weighing less than 25 kg must have an identification plate attached to their structure, which must state, legibly at a glance, if possible and indelible, the identification of the aircraft. , which will consist of the serial number, the name of the operating company or owner, and the telephone number to contact.
The DGAC may allow the operation of aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of up to 150 kg for agricultural activities and other aerial work, where the interested party can demonstrate that the work is carried out in places with no populated areas and a conglomeration of people. They may be authorized case-by-case to define design and maintenance limitations. The applicant or holder of an operational certificate must register the RPAS on the official page of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation at this link: http://drones.dgac.go.cr/Presentacion/PaginaPrincipal.aspx, in which you will obtain the corresponding record.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAS) whose maximum take-off mass exceeds 50 kg does not have a type certificate or the corresponding standard airworthiness certificate but a special airworthiness certificate issued by an ICAO Member State; the DGAC may authorize its operation.
- Fly only during daylight hours and in clear weather.
- Never fly your drone above 400 feet above the ground.
- Maintain the drone within your visual field.
- Avoid flying in congested areas or prohibited zones.
- Avoid flying directly over buildings.
- Unless you have special permission from the DGAC, avoid flying over cities, communities, and crowds.
- Avoid flying within 30 meters (98 feet) of structures.
- Avoid flying within eight kilometers (miles) of airports or airfields.
- Avoid flying over designated no-fly zones, including the Arenal Volcano, the La Palma passage, the Zurqui Tunnel, the El Murcielago Police Training Center, the La Reforma Prison, the Presidental House, and the Ministerio de Seguridad Publica.
Communication Equipment Registration
All Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) weighing less than 25 kg and whose controls operate in the free-use bands in accordance with the provisions of the National Frequency Allocation Plan must comply with the “Procedure for approval of devices that operate in free use bands,” this homologation is carried out before the Superintendence of Telecommunications, the homologation certificate must be presented to the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) whose maximum takeoff mass exceeds 25 kg and whose controls operate in the free-use bands in accordance with the provisions of the National Plan for Frequency Allocation, must comply with the “Procedure of homologation of devices that operate in the free use bands,” this homologation is carried out before the Superintendence of Telecommunications, the homologation certificate must be presented to the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) whose maximum takeoff mass exceeds 25 kg and whose controls operate through a specific frequency assignment must carry out a process with the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Telecommunications, and the respective enabling title must be presented to the General Directorate of Civil Aviation.
Note for foreign operators.
Drones must be registered with the DGCA prior to being flown in Costa Rica. To register your drone, visit the government’s official website and complete the permit application. There are no fees, and the following are the only items you should bring with you when visiting the country:
- A copy of a valid remote pilot’s license
- A valid insurance certificate
- Registration of drones
- Proof of purchase
- Your contact information and other pertinent information
Notes for recreational drone pilots flying for fun in Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s new drone regulations apply only to commercial drone operators. Therefore, recreational pilots must not register their drones but follow the Direccion General de Aviacion Civil’s basic rules (DGAC).
Notes for operating Commercial Drone Services in Costa Rica
If you are a commercial operator, your drone must have a label that identifies you as the operator/owner, your contact information, and your DGAC drone registration number.
All commercial and non-commercial aerial fumigation companies with RPAS must be registered with the SFE-MAG as a company dedicated to agricultural aviation. All aerial spraying application equipment with RPAS must have the registration number issued by the SFE-MAG.
Certification Requirements for Flying a Drone in Costa Rica
Commercial drone pilots must obtain a certificate from the Technical Council of Civil Aviation and a DGAC operational certificate.
The following are the requirements for obtaining an operational certificate:
- Successful completion of theoretical and practical courses
- Over ten hours of flight experience
- Must be at least 18 years old and possess a high school diploma
Useful published information on flying drones in Costa Rica
Here is a sample of what you might expect if you follow the drone laws and fly in Costa Rica…
NOTE: Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (SUAS), Small UAS, Remote Piloted Aerial Systems (RPAS), unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aerial System (UAS), and drone are interchangeable terms unless specified. Model Aircraft, toy, remote-controlled, and RC aircraft may be covered by the same regulations unless specified.
Find out why we think you must use a Drone Preflight Checklist and a Drone Post-flight checklist
Free Drone Flight Checklist PDF
This Drone Flight Checklists is better than others.
It includes both the preflight checklist and post-flight checklist
It’s an easy to use printable pdf that covers all your bases.
Traveling with a Drone?
Click here to read our Comprehensive Guide For Traveling With A Drone.
NOW ITS YOUR TURN
5 thoughts on “Drone Laws in Costa Rica”
You have a note for foreign operators that the following is required:
“A copy of a valid remote pilot’s license
A valid insurance certificate
Registration of drones
Proof of purchase
Your contact information and other pertinent information”
but immediately following that it says :
“Costa Rica’s new drone regulations apply only to commercial drone operators. Therefore, recreational pilots are not required to register their drones but must follow the Direccion General de Aviacion Civil’s basic rules (DGAC).”
Does this mean the requirements for foreign operators don’t apply if you are only flying for fun?
John, we are not sure if the exemptions for fun apply to foreigners. To be safe, we recommend you contact the regulators.
Hi John, you’re probably to Costa Rica and back already, but I’ve been researching this too as I’m planning a short trip to Costa Rica in a month and wanted to make sure I understood the regulations.
The DGAC website doesn’t translate automatically into English and I was having trouble translating the text manually, so I figured I’d just register my drone anyway. But the form requires a “cédula”, which I believe is their version of an ID #, which the form required.
So I took Merlin’s advice last night and emailed them.
I sent the email after hours Costa Rica time (even finding the email address was somewhat challenging, so here it is: email@example.com) and had a response waiting for me first thing in the morning.
The response, which was sent in English, was from the Offic of the Comptroller of Services, and included a message in English in the body of the email, as well as a ‘cheat sheet’ of guidelines, a PDF in Spanish, and a Word Doc in English, which appears to be a translation of the Spanish file.
The requirements provided by DGAC appears to support the content on this webpage. The key takeaway being: registration is not required for recreational use.
The message body reads:
Greetings in Costa Rica there are limitations for the use of Drones (Attachments), it is prohibited to fly over people, Cities or Towns and near Airports, you only have to comply with these limitations and you will not have problems. Note: for recreational use, the registration of the DRON is not necessary.
Here’s the text from the document:
RESTRICTIONS AND LIMITATIONS OF OPERATION UNMANNED AIRCRAFT
The General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC), communicates to all users of unmanned aircraft Systems (UAS/UAV), Remote Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS), the operating limitations and airspace restrictions for the use of these aircraft.
A person must NOT operate an unmanned aircraft under the following conditions:
1. In a restricted area (published in the AIP of Costa Rica), except with the permission and the conditions established by the DGAC.
2. Within a controlled airspace, except with the permission and conditions established by the DGAC.
3. Within a radius of 8 km around an aerodrome, except with permission and conditions established by the DGAC, in such a way that it could represent an obstacle to aircraft approaching or departing the landing area or runway of the aerodrome.
4. No person may operate an unmanned aircraft close to another aircraft, it signifies a hazard and the risk on collision is higher.
5. Prohibited to operate above 400 feet (120 m) above the ground level in an uncontrolled airspace, except with the permission and the conditions established by the DGAC.
6. Flight activities can only be carried out only during daytime and with visual meteorological conditions. For night flights, they will be subject to the approval and conditions of the DGAC.
7. Unmanned aircraft may ONLY operate in areas outside agglomerations of buildings in cities, towns or inhabited places, outdoor activities, in uncontrolled airspace, except with the permission and the conditions established by the DGAC.
Hope this helps!
Thanks for the update James