How To Travel With A Drone – drone on a plane, drone laws and more

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We love to fly drones everywhere we travel. We may want to bring our drones along to take beautiful pictures and videos when we go somewhere. 

But, travelling with drones can be a minefield if not done correctly.

Drones can be sensitive and fragile electronic equipment. There may also be places that are hostile to them.

How should you travel with a drone? Should it be in your carry-on luggage or is taking a drone with the spare batteries an issue?

To travel with a drone, check with your airline and the authorities of the country you are going to. Next, pack your drone well using a camera backpack or a hardshell case. Always fly with your drone as carry-on baggage. You should also prepare your batteries properly before travelling.

I have travelled significantly with my DJI drone around Australia and internationally. I have never had an issue when carrying my grown in my hand luggage as long as the battery does not exceed 160 what hours and it is not in my checked luggage. Prior to travelling,

I like to check all of the international and regulatory requirements from the airline just to be sure. I also print off the rules if I feel like I’m going to be stopped from air travel.

In this article, we explore how you can travel with a drone and lithium-ion batteries and do so safely. We also look into where to check the rules and how to pack your drones properly so you can take your drone without any hassles.

He is everything you need to know.

Check The Rules for drone travel and drones on a plane

If you are to travel by land, there should not be many rules about how you should travel with your drone. However, you may want to do additional homework if you intend to travel by flight. 

As a start, ensure you check with the relevant regulatory bodies. See what rules they have about drones, and confirm the details if you are unsure. Depending on how you are traveling or where you are going, you may need to check with the following bodies:

Transportation Security Agency (TSA)

TSA regulates aviation security in the United States. You need to check with the TSA if you fly within the US. If you are flying into the US from a foreign destination, You also want to check with the TSA.

Generally, TSA does not prohibit you from carrying drones on flights. But they also mention that you need to check with your carrier. Taking the drone on an airplane simply means following some simple rules.  

Aside from the drone, you may be traveling with batteries and controllers. These items may be subject to TSA’s rules on batteries and more, which means you want to check on those too.

I find that if I want to bring my drone on an aeroplane, airlines require that you pack it in your carry on luggage and you ensure that the batteries cannot short. Consider packing your drone in an easy to grab part of the bag so you can take out if you are asked by security.

Your Carrier

Now, you may need to go ahead and check with your carriers about their drone policies. Different carriers may have different rules. Some may be more relaxed, while some are more stringent. 

If you fly different airlines during the trip, you must check with them all. 

In general, airlines usually allow you to carry drones. But the rules may change depending on if you can check them in as baggage or the types of batteries allowed.

Your Destination

Finally, you may want to check with your destination about their drone rules. This is especially so if you are traveling to a foreign destination. While you’re travelling it’s important that you keep up-to-date with the drone licensing and drone regulations in the country you are visiting. I often do not bring a drone if I suspect there is going to be an issue at the border.

Drones can be a sensitive device in some countries. In fact, some countries ban drones, such as Cuba, Egypt, and Kuwait. 

If you carry your drone into these countries, you may have to give it up at the immigration checkpoint. You will lose your drone. 

Pack Your Drone Well –  bringing your drone with you

Once you have checked the rules for carrying a drone, you can move on to the next step, which is to pack them. Packing your drone very much depends on the size of the drone and how much you can squeeze into your drone case.

Protect Your Drone

The first rule when packing your drone is to ensure you give it enough protection. You generally do not travel with the drone alone. In most cases, you will be carrying batteries, chargers, and controllers. 

This means your drone may be better off packed in separate compartments. Pack your drone in a camera backpack or a hardshell case with compartments.

A hard case may be the best since it provides the greatest protection against impacts and bumps. Some premium cases also protect against water, which may come in handy.

Make it Easy To For The Inspectors

Another thing you want to remember when packing your drone is to make them easy to inspect when needed. 

Your drone baggage may be inspected by security agents and immigration officers. You are, after all, carrying sensitive equipment with a bunch of batteries too. 

You can do this by not stacking things together. Instead, store them in a container with proper compartments. Unzip or open the bag or case to show the contents when these officers want to inspect your drone.

If you pack well, your backpack or case will also pass through X-ray checks easily. This also means you will not be requested to open your drone backpack and the case for inspection, making your travel easier.

Prepare Your Batteries For Travelling drone batteries and FAA rules

Next, while you pack your drone, ensure you prepare your batteries. This is because batteries are sensitive in planes since they can be a fire hazard. 

Start by disconnecting all removable batteries from your drone or controller. Aside from that, try to perform these before you pack your batteries too:

Tape Off All Terminals

One thing that makes TSA or carriers anxious about batteries is that they may start a fire. 

To ease their concern, use some electrical tapes, and tape away any exposed terminals. This prevents accidental contacts that may trigger a short circuit and fire. 

By doing this, you also give the security officers more confidence. This is because you seem to know the security precautions to take. 

Take Only Battery Under 100 Wh

If you check with the TSA, they have different rules for lithium batteries under or over 100 Wh (Watt Hours).

TSA mentions you can bring lithium batteries under 100Wh onto planes as carry-ons. If you want to check them in, there may be more inspections, which can be troublesome. 

For batteries over 100Wh, you can still carry them onto planes as carry-ons. But you can only carry two batteries with you at a time. You cannot carry them as check-in baggage.

If you are the kind that prefers to avoid the hassle, carry batteries under 100Wh. This is because the TSA and carriers seem to be more relaxed about them than bigger batteries. 

Fly With Your Drone As Carry-On Baggage

Finally, when you fly with your drone, ensure you bring them around as carry-on baggage. This is because drones are sensitive equipment. You do not want the baggage handlers to toss around. 

On top of that, drones are not cheap. This means you may want to always have it around you for peace of mind. The worst thing that can happen is you check in your drone only to lose it to baggage mishandling or, worse, theft.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton is a Drone pilot, Writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. His drone footage has been featured on TV (ABC Documentary) and he has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He has been a drone pilot for many years and has flown many types of drones.