Travelling with a drone is easier than you think. It just requires good planning.
If you are travelling by air, don’t let the lithium ion batteries stop you from bringing it on to a plane. As long as you follow all the rules, you’ll have an easy time getting through airport security.
You also need to think about securing your expensive drone against theft and damage. And if you are travelling to another country or even state, take note of the local drone regulations to avoid getting into trouble.
Here are the best tips for travelling with a drone.
Plan Your Plane Travel
If possible, do not check-in your drone. It’s sensitive and can be easily damaged by rough handling. It’s also much safer to have the batteries with you in the cabin where temperatures are fairly constant and any fire incident can be dealt with quickly.
But this only applies to compact drones such as the DJI Spark, the new Mavic Air and small racing or beginner drones.
If you have a larger model like the DJI Inspire 2 or a Freefly ALTA UAV, you might have to check it in. In that case, use a hard shell bag to minimize the risk of damage. You might also want to take out the most sensitive components like the gimbal, batteries and propellers and carry them separately in a carry-on bag.
Note that some airlines such as Emirates do not allow drones as carry-on baggage. You have to check it in regardless of size.
Lithium ion batteries are a fire risk so airlines and the FAA are very cautious about them.
When going through security, you’ll be asked about the drone and batteries. Be open and offer to show them the drone.
Different airlines have varying rules regarding lithium batteries so check your airline’s policy ahead of time. As for the FAA, they categorize lithium ion batteries into two groups. Those below 100Wh and those between 101 and 160Wh.
If your batteries are in the first group (less than 100Wh), you can bring as many as you want in your carry-on baggage. If they are in the second category (101-160Wh), you are limited to only two.
Most ordinary drones use batteries that are 100Wh or lower so you should have no problem. But to be sure, check the label on the battery or look at the manufacturer specifications in the manual.
Tip: For carry-on luggage, remove the batteries and put them in a separate compartment in the bag. They will be inspected more quickly and you’ll experience fewer delays.
Note that these regulations won’t apply to every airline. Always check airline regulations before booking a flight.
Pack it Right
When choosing a carry bag for your drone, consider how well it will protect your drone and how comfortable it will be to carry.
While hard shell bags are usually the automatic recommendation for drones, they are not always the best. They are too rigid to be comfortable especially if you are going to be walking long distances with the drone on your back.
Use a hard shell bag if you have to check in your drone either because of its size or airline regulations.
If the drone will be a carry-one, pack it into its own case (if it came with one) and then put it in a semi-rigid backpack. A semi-rigid bag will usually have a protective shell on the front and bottom but will be softer on the rear where it is in contact with your shoulders and back.
It will protect your drone while also going easy on your shoulders. You can carry the drone for hours without feeling the strain.
One other thing I recommend is a dedicated battery bag. Battery bags are designed to contain a fire in case the batteries ignite. Put the batteries in a battery bag, which you should then place in an easily accessible compartment in your travel bag.
Carry Extra Drone Accessories
Don’t be caught flat-footed when you can find propeller replacements at your destination or you have to suspend your flight because the battery is dead.
Carry enough drone accessories when you travel. These include propellers, extra batteries, a car inverter for charging in your car, memory cards and lens filters.
Consider Drone Insurance
If you already have drone insurance, check whether they will cover you when travelling and when you are abroad. If they don’t or you don’t have any drone insurance, consider getting a special travelling package.
I recommend an on-demand drone insurance service such as Verifly. If you travel often, get a comprehensive drone insurance package that will cover all kinds of situations including theft, accident when in transit, flyaway incidents etc.
Check Local Drone Rules
Always look up drone rules of a particular country or state before going there. In some countries like Egypt, you could land in jail for flying a UAV. That is if you even manage to get it through the airport where you risk having it confiscated.
In others like Finland and Rwanda, they are pretty much the same common sense rules we have in the US.