How to travel with your drone

We recently covered general travel tips for filmmakers in a two part series. We got a lot of questions about flying with drones, as it gets complicated with battery rules and regulations!

Carry it with you

The treatment of checked baggage at airports is notoriously rough. Bags get thrown around all over the place by baggage handlers in a rush.

Protect your drone

Your drone is pretty expensive right? Moving around an airport, to say nothing of the travel needed on either side, can be a pretty rough experience. Getting a suitable bag for your drone can save you a lot of exasperation and headaches.

This is particularly important if you are flying with budget airlines where there is a risk your carry on bag could be put in the hold – you can try your best to convince staff that your bag should go in with you (see our main travel tips article for ideas about how to do this), but there is always a chance that you will not win. DJI’s official bags are pretty good, but there lower cost and better options out there if you look.

Flying with Lipo batteries

Flying with lithium batteries is the main area that people get confused about. There are a whole load of rules and regulations from aviation authorities, as well as individual airlines having their own rules. There is also a lot of misinformation out there from people that do not fully understand the rules and regulations!

Lipos always need to be in your hand luggage – that is a universal requirement. This is because of the energy density of the batteries – if it all comes out at once it can be a huge problem!

In addition, most airlines have in their rules that the batteries need to be discharged, and have their terminals covered to prevent short circuits and/or be in a fire resistant lipo bag. We have never faced any issues flying without lipo bags, but it is something to bear in mind.

The other key factor for travelling with lipos is how much capacity they have. Under IATA (International Air Transport Association) regulations, lipos are categorised by their energy capacity in Watt Hours (Wh):

  • <100 Wh – must be taken on carry on, with a limit of 20 spare batteries per person. This does not require prior approval from the airline.
  • >100 Wh to <160 Wh – must be taken on carry on, with a limit of 2 spare batteries. This requires prior approval from the airline.
  • >160 Wh – can only be carried as dangerous goods freight.

Just to add to the confusion, airlines then have their own rules that can often be tighter than the IATA ones. If you are in any doubt, check with your airline before flying!

Interested in getting pro drone filming done abroad? Here at DGTL we have experience in arranging commercial permissions for other countries – check out our drones page for our capabilities, or get in touch for more information.

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