Want to travel with a drone to far away lands and capture the memories with beautiful aerial footage? Great idea! However, we recommend you read this short post before you head to the airport with your drone.
Keep updated with the regulations and print them out
Before you travel with a drone, know the rules and regulations! While every airline will have their own regulations as to what you can or cannot carry, when it comes to drones and LiPo batteries, keeping yourself updated with the FAA website page for changes in regulations is the first thing you need to do.
Here is their illustrated guide.
Here is another page you should be taking note of, which is the list of prohibited goods.
Note : If you are outside of the US, you may want to check out the guidelines of the local regulation authority in your country before you travel with a drone there. FAA has no authority outside of the US! For example, Canada has the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority. If you cannot find a specific recommendation by a regulatory body, then you must follow the rules of the airline you will be boarding.
We recommend you take a print out and take them to the airport with you if you ever plan on a travel with a drone. That way, in case you are questioned, you have something to show them to let them know you know what you are doing.
We recommend you also check out the airline’s website to see if you need special permission to travel with a drone and/or LiPo batteries. Make sure you absolutely do this before getting to the airport.
Here are some of the policy pages of the most popular airlines:
- American Airlines
- Air Canada
- British Airways
- Qantas Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Etihad Airways
Use the following Google search query : "Your airline" + drone policy
Do note that each airline may have it's own unique drone carry policy. Some might allow drones only in the cabin baggage while others allow them only as checked-in. Others may not allow them at all!
We also recommend that you take a print out of the airline's regulation page too, along with the FAA pages. Some of the employees may not have a clue and you don't want to end up like this guy:
Travelling with the LiPo batteries
As far as taking a drone and it’s controller to a plane is concerned, it shouldn’t be much of a problem as most drone models aren’t really under the prohibited list. Again, make sure you keep yourself updated. Rules are subject to change and certain models may get exclusively banned from flight.
For example, as of October 15, 2016 Samsung Note 7 devices are banned from flight! Its wouldn't be surprising then, for any particular drone model to get banned depending on the potential danger.
The main concern and regulations apply to the drone LiPo batteries. We recommend you take out all your batteries from your drone and transmitter and keep them in a separate bag that you’ll check in. In this section, we’ll discuss how to be hassle free with your batteries.
Carry-on bags only
LiPo batteries are subject to hazard from pressure changes and hence, it must be always kept under a pressure controlled environment. Make sure you keep your LiPo batteries with you, in your carry-on bags. Do not put them with luggage that you’ll check in!
You are allowed in most cases, to carry batteries that are 100 watt hours (Wh). Most drone batteries fall under this category. With special permission, you may be allowed to carry batteries up to 160 (Wh) but in terms of quantity, you can only carry 2 spare additional of these. Above that size rating, don’t even bother carrying them.
Remember, if your batteries do not show the watt hour ratings – Voltage (V) * Current (I) = Watt hours.
As long as it is believable that you are carrying the drone batteries for yourself and not for commercial purposes (further sale or distribution), there are no quantity limits for batteries of sizes under 100 Wh.
Discharge the batteries
Make sure you discharge the batteries below to 30 – 20%. We recommend doing this for additional safety.
Avoid taking damaged/puffed batteries
If the batteries are damaged or puffed, let alone carry them, it is time to dispose them!
Protect the battery terminals and package separately
Make sure you protect the battery terminals from shorting. You can do this by covering the battery terminals with a tape. For additional safety, put each battery separately in individual pouches or battery cases.
LiPo safe containers
After you have protected the battery terminals from shorting and then putting them separately in individual pouches/cases, we recommend you put all of the batteries in a LiPo safe container. That way, if anything goes haywire with the batteries, it’ll be contained within the container!
Travel with a drone : The drone itself
Like we mentioned before, travelling with a drone shouldn’t be a problem unless your particular model is in the forbidden goods list! However we like to make two key suggestions:
If you do not have a drone carrying case, get one right now if you are serious about travelling with a drone! Make sure you get a small one that would easily fit in an overhead compartment of the plane.
Unlike loose batteries, you are allowed to check in your drone in most cases. However, we recommend carrying the drone with you as a carry on luggage if possible. Checked in luggage are subject to inspection and you do not want the TSA guys to haphazardly unpack/pack your drone back in, potentially damaging any of the components.
Don’t make a big deal out of your drone
What is the best way to get yourself stranded by airport security? Answer – Standing out too much! Even if you are following the rules 100%, if you flaunt your drone and show it off in the airport, the security personnel will most likely take note of you. There is a chance that they’ll have more questions to ask you than if you didn’t make a big deal out of your drone.
As long as you are abiding by the rules, are following the guidelines and have a copy of the rules printed out, you don’t have to worry or specifically mention anything. Low key is the way to go!
Local rules and regulations
Make sure you are aware of the local rules and regulations of where you are headed to before you travel with a drone to the said location – both for flying the drone there and also for bringing the drone in. This holds true especially if you are travelling internationally.
For some countries like the Bahamas, you will need a special permission to bring your drone into the country.
Check the customs regulations of the country you are flying to before attempting to carry your drone there. Again, it would help to take a print out!
Here is a list of local rules and regulations for some countries:
Use the following search query : "Country" + drone regulations.
Other things to consider
- Carry extra spare parts - propellers, for instance. It is a waste to carry a drone around if your prop gets damaged during your travels.
- Remove any storage card from your drone before checking in.
Remember, always keep yourself updated with the rules and regulations – both for travelling with a drone and the local rules and regulations. Don’t fret over it too much or try to flaunt your drone and you should be good to go in most cases. Travelling with a drone as your memory capture companion is certainly worth it!