Wondering can you take a drone on a plane? Here’s a detailed guide on how to pack your drone when travelling. Check it out!
Traveling with your drone is a great idea for a vacation or a vlogging expedition. Here you will discover if it is OK to fly your drone with you on a plane. Also, find some practical tips on packing your drone and complying with drone regulations.
Drones are lovely gadgets for vacationers and vloggers. Since drones are great travel companions, you might wonder if it is fine to take one on your airborne voyage. Well, taking a drone on a plane requires considerable planning and homework as it is a tricky issue to approach from many angles. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to take a drone on a plane.
Drones carriage policies for air travel differ between countries and airlines. Since there are no standard norms that you can consult on this topic, advance planning is recommended to take a drone on international flights to avoid seizure and penalties during security check-in.
Get to know the drone regulations in the country you are travelling to. The official website of the aviation authority can help you with this.
Before you pack the drone, find out if it complies with TSA regulations, airline rules, FAA hazardous material guidelines and the drone laws in the country from where you board the plane and the destination country you are heading to.
Related: How Fast and High can Drones Fly?
In this article, you will learn some drone travel tips covering topics like how to take your drone on a plane legally, the right packing tips for drones and drone batteries as per TSA rules and FAA policies, and how to let your drone pass customs.
Can You Take A Drone On A Plane?
Drone travel policies differ between airlines and countries. Consult the drone regulations at the country of departure, the destination you are travelling to and the airline you are flying with. Get to know expert drone travel tips to protect your flying machine and travel with peace of mind.
Preparing To Get Your Drone On A Plane
Before you pack your drone, it is very useful to check with the airline you are flying with regarding if you must pack your drone in carry-on baggage or checked baggage. Some airlines mandate packing a drone in carry-on baggage since the DOT has banned transporting lithium-ion batteries in cargo cabins of passenger planes.
In the case of larger drones, probably, you must think of checking it in as the drone’s size may exceed the size that the carrier has permitted for carry-ons. If you are travelling with a compact model, bringing it on a plane is a viable idea.
In either case, never place your drone batteries inside a checked-in bag. This is because they do not get a pressurized environment and it is very unlikely that the temperature in the storage cabin fluctuates as it happens in the passenger cabin. Also, when tucked in an overhead compartment, your batteries will get some quick attention in case of an emergency, which the airline staff can quickly respond to.
How To Get Your Drone On A Plan
Whether you want to pack your drone inside the carry-on or the checked baggage, these practical packing tips can come in handy.
Ensure to turn off the drone and make sure that all the switches are protected from being activated accidentally.
If you are concerned about your drone’s safety, never mind spending on a special carrying case meant for a drone. Hardshell cases or bags are a good option in this case. However, some good sling bags and sturdy-built backpacks can also come as an alternative.
How To Get Your Drone Batteries On A Plane
The majority of drones are fitted with lithium-ion (LIPO) batteries. Therefore, it is important that you comply with the regulations governing FAA hazardous materials. LIPO batteries must be packed inside the carry-on baggage.
Under a few circumstances, the airlines might allow the travellers to pack the drone batteries inside the checked baggage. Nevertheless, the majority of expert advice on this recommends packing them inside carry-on baggage. While packing the drone batteries in your carry-on baggage, you must first know the batteries’ watt-hours (Wh).
If your LIPO batteries are of 100Wh or lesser, it is good to retain their original packaging. The other options to pack them are covering their terminals using tape, going for a battery case, using the battery sleeve similar to the one in a camera bag, or store the batteries inside a plastic box or a safety pouch.
The batteries you carry with you must be meant for your personal use, which can also include professional use. It is not permitted to pack batteries for resale purposes or sell it through a vendor. It is also a good idea to check if there are any specific policies governing the packing of L|IPO batteries to take them inside a carry-on bag.
If your LIPO batteries are marked anywhere between 100Wh and 160 Wh, there are a few options to pack them inside your carry-on baggage.
Larger LIPO batteries of more than 100Wh will need the airline’s approval to be packed inside carry-on baggage. Packing more than 2 spare batteries is not allowed in case of batteries more than 100Wh. To prevent any short circuit, it is good to retain the batteries in their original packaging. Alternatively, you can use a separate pouch or pocket or a battery case.
Many airlines permit packing LIPO batteries inside checked baggage if they are 100Wh or lesser and if they are properly installed in their respective slots inside the drone. For packing LIPO batteries of more than 100Wh, you will need to get special permission from the airline.
Irrespective of the Wh of the LIPO battery you are carrying with you, airlines allow only those that are installed inside the drone in checked baggage. If you want to carry spare batteries with you, you must pack them in your carry-on and also make sure that they are properly secured inside their original packaging, a separate pouch, or a packet or pouch.
How To Find Out The Wh Of Your Drone Battery
Most drone batteries have Wh lesser than 100. To know the Wh of your drone battery, you can use the formula Wh = V (volts) x Ah (Ampere hours). For example, if the battery is marked 12 volts and 8 Amp-hours, the Wh of the battery is 12 X 8 = 96.
The list of items prohibited by TSA and the FAA guidelines regarding batteries the airline passengers carry will give you more ideas on packing your LIPO batteries.
How To Take Your Drone Through Customs
In most cases, the national or civil aviation authority of the country makes and administers the drone regulations. In the U.S.A., the Federal Aviation Authority sets and enforces the regulations governing drones. In understanding the drone laws of a given country, it is important to know the civil aviation authority in the country.
When you fly with your drone to countries in which flying a drone is legal, you must get to know the drone laws of the land. Also, it is good to check if there are any drone laws specific to foreigners. Some countries require foreigners to get special permission to fly drones inside their boundaries. In fact, there are also countries that have banned foreigners from getting drones inside their portals.
Understand if you need to register the drone with the civil or national aviation authority of the country. You must follow the country’s requirements for drone certification and license. The laws in some countries might require you to prove your flight proficiency or take a test to validate your aeronautical knowledge. This is most likely to happen in case you are flying your drone for commercial or professional purposes.
In case of travelling to countries where the local laws do not permit flying a drone, it is highly recommended that you do not take your drone. Violation of this rule might result in the confiscating of your flying machine at customs. In some cases, it may not be returned to you at the end of your trip.
When you travel to countries that have not established any drone laws, you must never go by the assumption that you are permitted to fly your drone in the country. Not having drone laws may not mean that the country is a drone-friendly destination. Such cases might mean that the authorities in those countries are against the use of drones by foreigners.
The same kind of cautionary guideline is applicable to getting a drone through customs. In countries where there are no drone-specific laws, the customs officials may prefer to confiscate the drone you are taking with you, while some might not do that. The underline here is that it is not possible to know the actual outcome until you actually pass your drone through the customs.
U.S. travellers may find this useful advice. Before travelling, check if you can register your drone with customs as a “Personal Effect Taken Abroad”. In this way, you can avoid any misunderstandings in future regarding if you have brought back the same drone with you during your return or if you are importing a new drone you have purchased abroad.
Drones can widen the exciting opportunities in front of you when it comes to photography or filming, especially in an exotic destination. However, taking a drone with you on air travel requires a bit of research and planning.
If you have done all the necessary groundwork, you can avoid the confiscation of your lovable companion. Also, when you follow the expert tips for packing, transporting and customs clearance of your drone, you will travel with enough peace of mind having secured your drone from any loss or damage.
Jon is a passionate photographer and videographer who has been flying DJI drones for over 5 years. He loves the freedom and creativity that comes with capturing aerial footage and the unique perspective it provides. Jon is always on the lookout for new locations to explore and capture with his DJI drones. His favorite DJI drone is the Mavic 2 Pro, which he uses to capture stunning 4K footage with its Hasselblad camera. Jon is always eager to share his knowledge and experience with other drone enthusiasts and is a member of several online drone communities. When he’s not flying his DJI drone, Jon enjoys hiking, camping, and spending time with his family.