Can I travel with my drone?
Summer is here, and with it, for many of us, holiday trips and journeys. But for drone amateurs, this fact raises an important issue:
What do I have to do in order to travel with my drone?
The main problem when you want to take a drone with you concerns the LiPo batteries; as it is widely known, they can easily catch fire if they are not properly packed. Therefore, if we travel by land or by air, we always have to take precautions – although depending on the case, not exactly the same precautions.
If we travel by land
When we are getting ready for a journey by train, car or coach, we will only have to use some common sense to protect the batteries carrying them in fireproof bags and padded cases, in order to prevent accidental bumps and, even more important, to prevent high temperatures in order to avoid potential fires. Also, to make our trip more comfortable, we can also carry all the accessories (propeller, camera, flight controller, etc.) in the same specially-equipped suitcase or backpack. Such as the one in the left.
In doing so, first, we will avoid possible losses, and second, foams will protect accessories from unexpected bumps or sudden brakings.
Whenever possible, we also recommend to keep the batteries in storage mode during the trip, and to charge them on our destination point.
If we travel by air
If we have to catch a plane, it gets a bit more complicated. Yes, it is possible to travel by plane carrying a drone with us, but we will have to meet some requirements, and follow the existing regulations, both international and particular policies of the airline company.
First of all, and most commonly, LiPo batteries will have to travel in the aircraft cabin as carry-on baggage, not on the aircraft hold with the rest of the checked baggage.
Secondly, depending on the power·hour (Wh) of the batteries, there are three slightly different possibilities.
- Low-power batteries (up to 100 Wh): namely, the ones for mp3 players, small laptops, etc. There should be no problem in flying with them if they are installed inside the device, or if we include spare batteries on our carry-on baggage in all cases, and as checked baggage at some airline companies. In this case, it is highly recommended to check the specific regulation of the company.
- Medium-power batteries (between 100 and 160 Wh): for instance, the ones for more powerful laptops, or for professional photo and video equipment. This case is similar as for small batteries, except for one thing: the limit of two spare batteries if they are included on carry-on baggage… and the interdiction of carrying spare batteries in your checked baggage, at all. Once more, the final approval will depend on the company, and it will be wise to contact them before arriving into the airport with our drone under the arms.
- Finally, high-power batteries (more than 160 Wh) should be presented and carried as cargo following the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulation.
In order to calculate our LiPo battery’s Wh, we will just have to multiply its Ah by its voltage. For example, for an 8000mAh and 4S (14.8v) battery, the calculation will be done as follows:
8000 mAh / 1000 = 8Ah
8Ah * 14.8v = 118.4Wh (which corresponds to a medium-power battery).
Besides, in all three cases, devices should be switched off, and the batteries’ connection terminals should be isolated in order to avoid the risk of short-circuits.
If we follow these procedures, we we will be able to carry our drone inside a plane without any major issues.
Have a good flight!
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