Drone enthusiasts are often found asking whether they can travel with a drone on an airplane and if they can do so, then what is the safest possible way to accomplish it? Typically, there are only a bunch of rules and regulations that drone pilots need to abide by.
Having said that, if you adhere to certain rules, you can ensure safety on the deck and you can demonstrate to the security personnel that you are aware of what you are doing.
There are no legal implications of this post. Rather, it is merely an advice based on publications, rules, personal experiences and regulations framed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
General rules regarding the transport of LiPo batteries on airplanes
- Lithium ion batteries with less than 100Wh capacity and in uninstalled shape, have to be kept inside the aircraft cabin and stowed in a safe manner. No permission is typically required from the carrier in such a case.
- Lithium ion batteries with more than 100Wh of capacity and in uninstalled shape, have to be kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin and stowed in a safe manner. No permission is typically required from the carrier in such a case as well.
- Passengers are not allowed to carry pointed or sharp objects such as carbon fiber propellers in their hand luggage since they could be used as a potential weapon on the deck.
To check if your batteries are more or less than 100Wh, here is a simple formula:
Volt x Amp hours = Wh
All information is available on batteries. For example, 12V x 8h = 96Wh
How to prepare your drone or batteries
- Due to a heightened risk of fire, the batteries should neither be fully charged nor discharged as they can comfortably get damaged. They should be charged to a level between 35% and 50% ideally.
- The battery terminals should be protected from short circuiting with adhesive strips or films.
- LiPo safe bags can be used to keep them safe. These fireproof bags are not mandatory but we strongly recommend them as it will help you avoid any problems at the security checkpoints if they are stowed in a safe manner.
Suitcase, backpack or hardshell?
- Drones larger in size, such as the DIJ Inspire 2 are larger in size for the hand luggage so they need to be transported as checked luggage (without the batteries). You should paste a label on the suitcase marking it as “Fragile”.
- There is no difference whether it’s a backpack or suitcase in case of hand luggage, however, a backpack can be easier to carry.
Here are some of the recommended transport alternatives for varying drone models:
- DJI Phantom Series Backpack
- DJI Mavic Pro Bag
- DJI Inspire Case
- Batteries should be placed in a separate box
- Tech gizmos such as laptop, smartphone or tablet should also be placed in a separate box
- Let the security personnel know that you are carrying a drone with you
- Luggage containing batteries and camera gear are typically inspected for the risk of explosives. But that is normal and should not be a cause for concern. And even if one of those tests turns out to be positive, do not fret since many drugs, for instance asthma inhalers, are also positive in the tests for explosives.
The personnel are aware that they will rummage through your backpack again and then you will be asked to sign a document. And that’s it!
On the flight deck
- You must adhere to the rules relevant to the flight deck
- Cooperate with the aircraft crew and you will have a nice time travelling with your drone.
Have a nice trip!