Airline Travel With Drones Made Easy

Are you planning on travelling overseas with a drone, but you’re not sure how to do it? Here’s a guide on travelling with your drone on a plane that may help ensure the safety of your drone, and minimise being held up at the gates.

Like many other gadgets and electronics, bringing a drone with you on your flight is subject to certain regulations and restrictions, and they may vary depending on which airline you are flying with, which city or town you are going to, or even the type of drone you are bringing with you.  This may all seem complicated, but being informed with these regulations can help you travel with your drone safe and hassle-free, and save you a lot of time and effort.

So before you book a flight, here are some helpful and practical drone travel tips to keep in mind:

Airline Policies on Drones

Prior to booking your flight at your chosen airline, it is recommended that you contact them to find out whether they have any specific policies on boarding a drone. Remember, each airline (and even airports) may have their own drone policy and may differ from others. It is vital that you find out if they have certain requirements, procedures and other relevant information to save you time and keep you from being held at the gate.

Use a Drone Bag or Case

Now that you’ve booked a flight and have gathered the relevant information and policies from your chosen airline, it’s time to pack! Generally, your drone should be secured and protected in a drone bag or case to minimize the risk of any bumps and mishandling it may sustain during transport.

Whether you are planning on having your drone as a carry-on or as check-in luggage, if you have the budget to spare, investing in a drone hardshell case is recommended. They’re built rugged and tough enough to withstand potential harsh handling during the trip, and most of them are designed inconspicuously without branding whatsoever, to lessen the risk of having it stolen.

Some drones may either come with their own bags and cases that fit best for the model or are sold separately. If you’re interested to invest in more security when travelling with your drone, here’s a quick list of brands we recommend that may cater to your specific drone model:

  1. Pelican (Best fits DJI Mavic, Mavic Pro)
  2. GPC (Go Professional Cases) (Best fits DJI Mavic Pro)
  3. Case Club (Best fits DJI Phantom 4)
  4. Manfrotto (Best fits DJI Phantom Drones)
  5. Lowepro (Fits most drones)
  6. DJI (DJI drones)

Drone Batteries

Prior to booking your flight at your chosen airline, it is recommended that you contact them to find out whether they have any specific policies on boarding a drone. Remember, each airline (and even airports) may have their own drone policy and may differ from others. It is vital that you find out if they have certain requirements, procedures and other relevant information to save you time and keep you from being held at the gate.

Batteries generally should be packed as carry-on luggage

Spare batteries in checked-in baggage are generally prohibited. Batteries must be packed as part of your carry-on luggage. This is to prevent any risk of fire that may occur, as commercial airplanes have a more controlled internal environment in the cabin compared to where they store checked-in luggage, where it may experience sudden changes in temperature or air pressure. This is for all batteries, both standard and any spares you plan on taking with you.

Pack your batteries properly

You must keep your batteries protected from crushing, puncturing, added pressure, or short circuit, and must not come in contact with other metal objects, such as coins, keys, or jewellery. It is recommended that you secure your batteries inside a LiPo Guard battery bag, cover the battery’s terminals using electrical tape, or by using a proper battery case, as long as they are placed snugly in your carry-on bag or case.

Deplete your batteries’ charge

Drone owners who frequent travelling suggest that you deplete your batteries’ power before flying down to 30% if possible. This may be an added precaution to lessen the chances of it causing fires, as it will be much less volatile compared to when it is fully charged.

Stay below the watt-hour limit

Drone batteries are considered as large type consumer electronic batteries and have special regulations. Your drone battery must be under 100-watt-hours (Wh) for it to be allowed on board. Fortunately, most consumer drone batteries are under 100Wh, but if you have a drone with a battery that is above 100Wh up to 160Wh, it is recommended that you inform the airline prior to booking for approval, as restrictions may differ from each airline. Standard regulations limit passengers to only two lithium-ion batteries over 100Wh. There is no limit for most batteries under 100Wh.

Here’s a list of some of the well-known consumer drones and their Wh:

 

  1. Mavic Pro  43.6 Wh
  2. Phantom 3  68 Wh
  3. Typhoon H 79.9 Wh
  4. Phantom 4 81.3 Wh
  5. Inspire 2 97.58 Wh
  6. Inspire 1 129.96 Wh

Check-In or Carry-On?

The size of your drone is the biggest deciding factor on whether you should check-in your drone as luggage or carry-on and must abide by the drone laws for the countries you are travelling in. Here is an article breaking down the drone laws in New Zealand (link to drone laws article?).

If your drone is small enough, you can check it as a carry-on. Gadgets, cameras, and other electrical items including your drone and its accessories must be presented, so pack them efficiently so that they are easily accessible for when you pass through security. You can use a separate tray for your batteries so it is easily presented to security for checking.

However, if your drone is too large to bring as carry-on luggage, it’s best to have it packed in a sturdy hard case shell to check to luggage transport. Make sure to take the batteries with you to the cabin.

Check Local Drone Laws

When travelling with a drone you should check local drone laws prior to booking your flight. In New Zealand, all drone users must follow the laws laid out by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Here is an article we have written on New Zealand’s done laws.

The information we have laid out in this article is based only on our research on airline policies for travelling with a drone, and can only serve as a basic guide. Some policies may have been updated, so for the best safety measure, contact your airline, airport you are travelling to and from,  as well as the local government of the areas you plan on flying in.