Sunday 3 December 2023

Do you own a drone? If so, here’s what you need to know about flying it near an airport in Costa Rica.

Since 2017, 532 people have grabbed their license to fly these Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems.

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Q COSTA RICA – The popularity of the use of drones in Costa Rica has grown so that  AERIS, manager of the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), and the General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGAC) are working together to promote an info campaign for owners to make sure nothing goes wrong at the country’s main airport.

Drones operated by someone without a license are exposed to a penalty of between 1 and 20 minimum wages (currently (between US$600 and US$12,000) depending on the seriousness of the facts.

According to Ricardo Hernández, director of AERIS, being a responsible manager involves preventive work, and so far no incidents involving drones have been reported.

“Part of being a responsible manager lies in carrying out preventive, informative and awareness work; Although we are proud to guarantee that, largely due to the good service work of our pople, no incident with a drone that has had implications for operational safety has been reported, we are aware of the popularity that these devices have taken and that one’s flight near the air terminal can cause flight delays or cancellations, even accidents if they are not dealt with accurately”, stated Hernández.

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However, to fly drones near an airport, exceptions can only be granted to certified owners of drones that have coordinated with the DGAC, who analyze each case before giving the go-ahead.

The DGAC has published the AIC Aeronautical Circular (CC 06 15) to provide accurate info on the requirements, restricted areas, and operational procedures to ensure safety and reduce the risk of interference with manned aircraft. The goal is to promote awareness and responsibility among those involved.

Read more: Drones Flying Uncontrolled Over Costa Rica

Since the regulation of the Sistema de Aeronaves Pilotadas a Distancia (RPAS) – Remotely Piloted Aircraft System- began in 2017, to date 532 people have been reported with a license to pilot them.

Among the restrictions that these have to fly a drone in the vicinity of an airport, it stands out that it is prohibited to operate one within a radius of 8 km around an aerodrome, nor can it fly above 400 feet (120 meters) above ground level in uncontrolled airspace; this to prevent it from constituting an obstacle to another aircraft that is approaching or leaving a landing area or runway.

If you’re gonna fly a drone in Costa Rica, there are some serious rules you have to follow:

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  • In a prohibited, restricted area (published in the AIP of Costa Rica)
  • In controlled airspace
  • Close enough to another aircraft so that it can become a collision hazard
  • Crowded areas of buildings in cities, towns or inhabited places, gatherings of people outdoors, in uncontrolled airspace
  • Aerial activities with unmanned aircraft can be carried out only during the day and in visual meteorological conditions; Night flights are subject to the approval and conditions of the DGAC.

“As part of AERIS’s ongoing efforts to safeguard the safety of air operations at the terminal, we have an operational safety reporting system that is active and receptive to any notification of drone-related hazards or incidents. Both collaborators and external parties can use this system to report the presence of unauthorized drones or any other situation that represents a risk to aircraft,” explained Juan Belliard, AERIS Director of Operations.

If these rules are broken or a drone is flown illegally, for example, it is operated by someone without a license, they are exposed to a penalty of between 1 and 20 minimum wages (currently (between US$600 and US$12,000) depending on the seriousness of the facts.

AERIS also does regular checks at the airport limits to look out for unauthorized drones. They report any hazards or incidents they find to the control tower, which will then let any aircraft in the area know. They also encourage people to report any suspicious activity to the local Public Force and the Air Surveillance Service.

If it is determined that the presence of the drone poses an imminent danger, additional measures may be taken, such as confiscation of the drone.

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The most recent and unique case so far this year is from April when a pilot reported a drone flying near an aircraft. A tour of the sector in question was coordinated with the Air Surveillance Service, but neither the operator nor the indicated team was identified.


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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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