While officials in the aerospace industry were musing last week that it could be 20 years or more before Mexico is able to design, engineer and build a complete airplane, a smaller and simpler flying machine is already entering production.
Mexico’s first unmanned aircraft, a drone that was designed and assembled in Nuevo León, was presented at a meeting last week of the Mexican Federation of Aerospace Industries.
Unmanned Systems Technology International has invested US $5 million over the past five years to build an all-Mexican drone that can be used for surveillance and security purposes or for information gathering in the petroleum, agriculture, health and military sectors, among others.
Company president Mauricio Ramos Pons said the firm has United States certification for the import and use of aviation-grade carbon fiber used in the aircraft’s construction.
He said the drone can fly in a direct line for 30 to 100 kilometers and can reach an altitude of 3,600 meters, or 12,000 feet. It can fly for up to seven hours and burns premium gasoline.
The company’s plant is located in Apodaca, where it anticipates producing 20 drones per year. There was no mention of how much the aircraft might sell for.
For anyone considering buying one, it’s timely that Mexico’s first drone school opened in September in Guadalajara. Located in the Stratominds complex, an information technology training center, the school offers a training program that costs 5,000 pesos and totals 50 hours, eight hours of theory and 42 of practice.
Lightcone Investments is the firm behind both the school and drone manufacturer Helidroid. Lightcone’s José Luis González says drone users want to protect their investment — drones can cost up to 100,000 pesos, he said. Plus they want to learn how to fly one before buying.
Helidroid’s Firebird 1 drone can carry up to 20 kilograms, fly up to 60 km/h and operates on a battery that lasts up to 45 minutes.
Mexico’s aerospace industry has grown in recent years to more than 300 manufacturers producing a wide variety of aircraft parts.