Travel with a drone can be a tricky proposition, especially when you introduce TSA restrictions and the larger batteries with certain models. This is especially true for high end video drones and other specialty drones which need larger batteries to support the extra functionality. While there’s no restrictions on bringing a drone aboard an aircraft, there are multiple rules for batteries. Understanding these rules is key to making your next trip with your drone a breeze.
When flying, the best place to start with is the FAA website. They clearly lay out the rules for what is acceptable to bring on plane, as well as any of the restrictions you might encounter. In the article, it mentions that all batteries must be carried with the passenger in their carry on bag. You won’t be allowed to have any LiPo batteries in your checked luggage.
It’s also important to keep in mind that while the FAA sets out their guidelines each airline is also free to impose their own rules that may be more strict. It’s always a good idea to check with the airline before flying and become familiar with any additional restrictions they might impose. When in doubt, give the particular airline a call to get their stance on carry-on batteries and any sorts of additional limits they impose.
In terms of quantity, the regulations allow unlimited personal use batteries that are rated up to 100 watt hours, and up to two spares of 101-160 watt hours. These larger batteries are typically the ones used for video equipment and video equipped drones or for long range drones. It’s also important to note that batteries over 160 watt hours are not allowed on airplanes. Keep these restrictions in mind when traveling with your drone, especially if you’re the type of person who likes to bring backup and extra batteries.
Another requirement is that the batteries need to be protected from short circuiting. This is serious safety concern as a shorted lithium battery can explode or catch on fire. There are multiple special carrying bags that are meant to protect against this, but properly packaged batteries will work in most containers. Putting a piece of tape over the terminals is also a good way to prevent any sort of accidental discharge.
In terms of the drones itself, there is nothing keeping you from taking it on a plane with you. In most cases, you’ll want to carry on the bag as you’ll be able to keep an eye on your valuable equipment and not risk you checked bag being tossed around. There’s many horror stories of people’s drones ending up broken after checking their bags, so do so at your own risk. Security may give extra attention to your drone, but you’re unlikely to run into any issues if abiding by the above battery laws.
With all this in mind, take note of the carry on rules for size and weight on the airline you’re flying. Every airline has different rules for how much you can carry on, and some even have different restrictions depending on ticket class. You also want to be mindful that in many cases overhead bin space will run out, and passengers will be forced to check their bags. You’ll want to make sure you pack your drone in a way that if it is check it’s least likely to be stolen or damaged.
It’s also important to note that certain countries have bans or restrictions on drone usage. You’ll want to be familiar with the laws if you’re traveling internationally, or risk having your drone confiscated by security. Check out this list for a full breakdown of the various drone laws around world.
Travelling with Drones & Lipo Batteries
While it may be a bit confusing at first, traveling with drones and their associated batteries is not difficult. Simply understanding the battery limits is key to make travel as easy as possible. Outside of that, it’s very rare to experience any problems when traveling with your drone.