Heading off somewhere to do survey sensing? Undoubtedly, your drone is your best companion as you do the task. However, a lot of people (i.e. Drone pilots) are confused about whether they are allowed to carry drones on an airplane, and if yes, what are the precautionary measures that they need to take into consideration to avoid any violations and/or penalties in any case.
In the rapid increase in numbers of companies using drones for effective and efficient field work, this guide aims to help our professionals to travel safely with their equipment.
So, before you get excited about your destination, here is the practical guide or checklist you can use before flying with your drones.
(Note: This is for educational purposes only and is not meant to take the place of legal counsel. If we missed something or if you have further questions, please send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll try to assist you immediately.)
Check Legal Compliance
It may seem tedious, but this is the number one thing you need to secure before you even pack your things for travel. Make sure that your drones comply with the TSA requirements, FAA hazardous material regulations, airline policies, and drone laws in both your take off location and destination. By doing so, you save yourself from possible consequences which may arise that may cost you time and/or money.
Correct Packing of Drones
- Make sure the drone is turned off and any other switches are protected from any accidental activation.
- Consider getting a special drone carrying case to protect your drone from damage. (See sample picture below)
Check with your specific airline about whether to pack your drone in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.
Some airlines require drones to be packed in carry-on baggage only due to the DOT’s ban on transporting lithium-ion batteries in cargo compartments of passenger airplanes.
Check your Battery Compliance
Most drones are powered by lithium-ion (LIPO) batteries, therefore you need to follow FAA hazardous materials regulations. LIPO batteries should be stored in your carry-on baggage.
In some circumstances, you may be permitted to pack them in your checked baggage; however, we find that the rules around traveling with lithium-ion batteries are clearer and easier to follow for carry-on baggage. We will go over how to travel with LIPO batteries using both methods below.
LIPO Batteries in Carry-On Baggage
When packing LIPO batteries in your carry-on baggage, you’ll need to know the watt hours (Wh) of your battery. If not explicitly written on battery, determine the watt hours by multiplying the volts by the ampere hours (Wh = V x Ah).
- Example: A 12-volt battery rated to 8 Amp hours is rated at 96 watt hours (12 x 8 = 96).
When packing LIPO batteries with 100 Wh or less in your carry-on baggage, follow these procedures:
- To protect LIPO batteries in your carry-on baggage from short circuits, you must pack them using any of the following methods:
- Leave the batteries in their retail packaging
- Cover the battery terminals with tape
- Use a battery case
- Put them in a LiPo battery bag
- The batteries you bring must be for personal use (includes professional use)
- Do not pack batteries for resale or for distribution by a vendor
- Check for any airline-specific requirements for bringing LIPO batteries onboard in your carry-on bag
When packing LIPO batteries with more than 100 Wh but less than 160 Wh in your carry-on baggage, follow these procedures:
- To bring a larger LIPO battery (more than 100 Wh) onboard in your carry-on baggage, you’ll need to obtain approval from the airline
- Do not pack more than two spare batteries with more than 100 Wh
- Store batteries in their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket to protect them from a short circuit
LIPO Batteries in Checked Baggage
LIPO batteries with 100 Wh or less can be packed inside checked baggage only if they’re securely installed inside the drone. LIPO batteries with more than 100 Wh packed in checked baggage require approval from the airline.
You cannot pack spare LIPO batteries of any Wh in your checked baggage. Only the battery inside your drone is allowed in checked baggage. Pack spare batteries in your carry-on instead, and make sure they are inside their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket.
For more information on how to pack your LIPO batteries, view this list of TSA prohibited items and the FAA’s guidelines for batteries carried by airline passengers.