Belize is a Central American travel destination that attracts half a million a year visitors. You were already planning to take a trip to Belize, and you’d love to bring your drone to commemorate the occasion.
Are you legally allowed to fly your drone in Belize?
Drones are permitted in Belize, but nonresidents must have a permit to fly. You must also be commissioned for business purposes to use your drone here, so recreational pilots will be unable to fly their drones.
Flying in a country outside of your own is always a bit tricky. We’ll help you navigate all the rules for using a drone in Belize ahead, so make sure you check it out!
What is the leading drone authority in Belize, anyway?
If you’ve read our other posts about piloting a drone in countries outside of the United States, then you’ll recall that once you leave the country’s borders, you’re no longer under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration.
So what federal body oversees drone rules in Belize? That would be the Belize Department of Civil Aviation or BDCA.
The goal of the BDCA is “to promote a safe, efficient and expeditious movement of domestic and international air transportation in Belize through the provisions of proper regulatory procedures in accordance with the air navigation regulations in force and the Standards and Recommended practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
In other words, the BDCA operates in much the same capacity as the FAA in the US but in Belize instead. What they say goes!
Is it legal to fly a drone in Belize?
Drones are indeed permitted to be flown in Belize, but whether you personally can fly depends on what type of pilot you are.
Allow us to elaborate.
Can you fly a drone recreationally in Belize?
While any drone pilot can apply for a permit to fly in Belize, as of this writing, Belize only accepts permit applications from commercial pilots, not recreational pilots.
Why is that? From what we were able to find, Belize’s government is still as of current establishing recreational drone guidelines and has yet to finalize this process.
Until that happens, there’s a hold on recreational flights. When the guidelines are released, if you have a permit and follow flight rules, then you should be able to fly your drone recreationally.
Can you fly a drone commercially in Belize?
If you’re a commercial pilot, you can fly your drone in Belize with a permit.
You also must have been commissioned for services or works from an organization or a local business in Belize, according to the Belize Department of Civil Aviation.
How do you get a permit? It’s a bit of a process for nonresidents, so let’s go over all the steps.
First, you must get in touch with the Belize Film Commission and request their approval for a drone flight. The approval has to be in the form of a letter.
Next, you have to send a letter of intent or request to the Director of Civil Aviation, who you can contact by email at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com says the BDCA.
In your letter, you must include the types of services you’ll provide with your drone when in Belize and the purpose of the drone flight. You also have to include your arrival date and the proposed area(s) of flight.
You have to make a copy of your passport or government-issued ID to act as your identification card and add that to your materials. The application must include your completed application form and a copy of your Belize Film Commission letter of approval too.
From there, the Department of Civil Aviation will look over your request and choose to approve or deny it.
If your request is approved, then you next need to schedule a trip to the Aeronautical Information Service or AIS office, which is located in Belize’s Philip Goldson International Airport on the first floor.
When you get there, you have to pay for your drone permit. That costs $30 Belize dollars, which is only $14.90 USD.
You’ll get a receipt for your permit, which you have to take to the Department of Civil Aviation. At that point, you’ll receive your Authorization Letter and Permit.
What if you already live in Belize? Can you fly your drone commercially or recreationally?
For those who have relocated to Belize or have lived here their entire lives, the same rules as above apply.
As of right now, recreational pilots are still forbidden from flying, and commercial pilots need a permit for drone flight.
You too will need to fill out the Drone Application Form and provide a copy of your government ID such as a driver’s license, social security card, or passport.
Next, you’ll have to visit the AIS office to pay for your permit. Then your flight permit is issued to you.
The process is a lot shorter for residents than nonresidents, as you can see!
Rules and tips for flying a drone in Belize
Should you be permitted to fly a drone in Belize, it’s always important to follow the rules. Here’s what you need to know ahead of your flight.
You can’t fly within three miles of airstrips
This rule is easy enough to abide by, as the Department of Civil Aviation will never issue you a commercial drone permit if you plan on flying too close to an aerodrome or airstrip anyway.
That said, you must stay at least three miles from airstrips such as North of San Pedro, Cay Caulker, Placencia, and Ladyville.
You cannot fly your drone without proper authorization
This is another rule that’s a given but we must mention it anyway.
You cannot legally operate a drone in Belize if you skipped the permitting process. You must have approval by the Department of Civil Aviation in the form of a permit.
We couldn’t find any information on what would constitute a punishment for illegal drone use, but we’d imagine you would be fined and possibly put in jail. You could even have your drone confiscated.
Considering you’re in another country where the legal system is likely unfamiliar to you, it’s especially important that you don’t get into hot water when flying a drone in Belize if you can help it!
You cannot fly a drone or use a camera in sensitive areas
In Belize, sensitive areas include military and government facilities. You’re prohibited from using your drone there, including UAVs capable of taking photos and/or videos.
This rule was established to protect confidential information.
You can only fly in clear weather
As is the case in the US, Belize drone rules restrict pilots from flying in poor weather conditions.
Since there is no clearer elaboration than that, we’d recommend erring on the side of caution. If it’s an overly windy day or there’s a light drizzle outside, it’s better not to chance it.
Besides, even if you were legally allowed to operate your drone in these conditions, why would you want to? Strong winds can make drone flight erratic and rain can damage your drone, possibly breaking it.
You can only use your drone during daylight hours
This isn’t a gentle suggestion but a rule. Belize drone law prohibits pilots from operating a drone after sunset, including at night.
Again, this is for your own safety as well as the longevity of your drone!
Don’t invade others’ privacy when using your drone
The Belize government requests that drone pilots have basic respect for others when operating a UAV.
Avoid getting too close to other people, don’t try to fly your drone near windows, and don’t use your drone’s photography or videography capabilities in any kind of stalking or harassing manner.
Stay within 400 feet
The FAA requires pilots to only fly within 400 feet in the US, and Belize’s BDCA does the same.
The verbiage in Belize might be expressed as 120 meters, but that’s still 400 feet.
Don’t fly over crowds or people
You also cannot whiz your drone over other people’s heads, and you’re barred from flying during large gatherings.
Belize is a beautiful Central American country near the Caribbean Sea with jungles, beaches, caves, and ruins.
Naturally, you’ll want to explore Belize with your drone, and you can if you’re a commercial pilot who is going to Belize on business.
You need to be commissioned by a company in Belize to fly your drone, and then you still have to go through the Department of Civil Aviation to obtain a permit.
Don’t forget to follow Belize’s drone laws. The BDCA is the governing drone agency in Belize and strictly enforces flight rules just as the FAA does in the US!