As drones continue to gain popularity, there are more questions regarding travel laws and safety concerns with respect to drones. I always wondered if I can bring my drone with me when I travel. Of course, it is a huge benefit for drone owners to be able to take their personal drone with them to capture amazing footage and images of their trip.
It is believed that traveling with a drone on a plane is difficult. But the truth is, if you plan ahead and take some time to prepare, the whole process becomes much easier.
In this post, I will cover some rules and regulations regarding traveling with your drone. Also cover some safety tips, drone packing tips, and some other great drone awesomeness to help you enjoy traveling with your drone.
Let’s answer the elephant in the room right off the bat.
Can I bring a drone through airport security and travel on a plane with a drone?
Yes, You sure can! I am just referencing airports in the U.S for now, but it is legally ok to carry a drone on board a plane. According to the TSA website, you can carry your drone onboard. You can click the link for more info on drones and other items you can carry on board.
It is very important that you check with your airline to confirm their rules and regulations first before bringing your drone. Also, it’s a good idea to inform the screening agent when going through security that you will be putting your drone through the scanner.
Important note: The TSA officer has the final say whether or not an item is allowed through the checkpoint.
Another very important thing to note, there are some restrictions on flying with batteries. You can only travel with 3 drone batteries per passenger. So, If you need to travel with four, give the spare ones to your travel buddy or partner to bring. Your batteries must also have to remain below 100 watt-hours per battery. If they exceed that, you must receive specific airline approval. Information on the FAA website about batteries carried by passengers can be found here.
Traveling with a drone on an international flight?
It’s important to note that the information above is valid for domestic U.S flights only. Flying internationally with a drone might be completely different. You will need to check with your destination’s laws and requirements for traveling with a drone. I have heard of so many horror stories of drones getting confiscated at the border and fines etc.. don’t let that happen to you. Make sure to do your research beforehand.
There’s a lot of information there regarding international drone laws on AV Coach’s website’s master list of drone laws. Highly recommend you check it out.
TSA drone policy
Before you even think about how to pack your drone and take it with you on a plane you should consider whether it will comply with TSA requirements, the airline’s policies, the drone laws in both take-offs and arrivals, as well as the FAA hazardous material regulations. Upon complying with all these requirements then understanding how to pack your drone should follow.
The Transport Security Administration is very clear on what is allowed to be carried on board the aircraft with you. This link is specific to drones, but they also have a what can I bring section, including liquids, travel tips and much more.
Normally, security measures begin long before you even get at the airport and the good thing about this is that TSA considers drones as portable electronic devices. However, the allowance is normally determined by the watt-hour rating of the drone’s batteries.
Battery rating allowance for carry on board:
- Up to 100wh, the batteries are allowed both as carry-on baggage and checked.
- Over 100Wh to 160Wh airline approval is required but generally accepted if the terminals are properly covered or insulated.
- Over 160Wh are forbidden to be carried on the airplane.
TSA advises travelers to check with the My-TSA App for any updates on the requirements since the app provides airline passengers with 24/7 access to the most frequently requested airport security information. Again, TSA recommends checking directly with the different airline’s drone rules and policies since they vary from one airline to the other.
United Airlines Drone Policy
From the United Airlines website regarding batteries:
Personal devices (except for e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers) installed with a lithium battery of fewer than 100-watt-hours are permitted in carry-on and checked baggage. Loose lithium batteries are not permitted in checked baggage on any United flight. Each spare lithium battery in carry-on baggage must be individually protected to prevent short circuits. To do this, you can place each battery in original retail packaging, place each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch, or insulate the batteries by taping over exposed terminals. Spare batteries must not come in contact with metal objects, such as coins, keys or jewelry, and you should take steps to prevent crushing, puncturing, or putting pressure on the battery.
In most cases, up to two larger lithium batteries (more than 100 watt-hours, but not exceeding 160 watt-hours) are permitted in carry-on baggage if the terminals are properly covered or insulated. If you are traveling with a battery-operated mobility device, please see our Special Travel Needs section.
If carry-on baggage is checked at the gate, any lithium batteries and power banks must be removed.
You should review the link here if traveling with United Airlines.
American Airlines Drone Policy
Airlines can vary in the way of their drone policies, and for American Airlines, you can bring a drone with you only if its less than 22*14*9 inches and 56*36*23 centimeters or alternatively you can carry your drone in a checked bag.
Additionally, the checked bag should not exceed a weight of 23kgs, and for first class, it should not exceed the weight of 32kgs. For the drones, American airlines require that you remove the batteries from the checked bags and place them in their own carry-on separately.
Here are some requirements for the batteries;
- Batteries of less than 100Wh can have unlimited quantity in carry-on baggage
- Batteries of between 100-160Wh should have only two spares in a carry-on baggage
- For batteries of between 160-200Wh, you should contact special assistance.
How to pack a drone for travel
We all know that packing for a trip can be stressful, and packing your drone is no different. You want to make sure the proper steps and gear are used to ensure a safe trip for you and your drone. Here are some great tips and ideas that you can use.
Invest in a portable travel drone. If you know you will be traveling, try to buy one that is easy to lug around. Get something that is lightweight, compact and not bulky. Those are the main things you should look for.
You should also look for a drone that is strong enough to handle the weather elements. Rain, wind, snow can all play a role in your travels. Ensure your drone has a strong battery life as well, this will be more important when dealing with the harsh weather.
How to pack a drone in a suitcase
Again I will refer you to the TSA website for rules and regulations regarding bringing a drone with you on board the aircraft. Certain sharp objects, sizes won’t be allowed. There are also guidelines that must be followed for putting a drone in your checked luggage.
I don’t recommend that you just pack your drone in a regular suitcase with your other items. There are proper drone packing cases that will keep your drone protected and safe. If you are investing in a drone, you should consider a proper case for transporting it safely.
But if you decide to pack your drone in a backpack or suitcase, here are some tips. Pack your radio transmitter, goggles, tools and spare parts in your checked luggage bag protected in bags wrapped in clothing. If you have space, you can pack your drone into a backpack using clothing for protection, then put the backpack into your checked luggage bag. This will work fine for most racing drones but for someone who uses expensive photography drones, I highly recommend using a proper drone case.
My favorite case for transporting a drone is the Pelican drone travel case. These are hardshell cases with removable foam inserts. This particular case will fit the DJI Phantom 4 and Phantom 3 drone. These are water and weatherproof providing the best protection.
You can check out this Pelican case here on Amazon.
If those don’t look like thy will fit your needs, there are many other options available for drone travel cases. Find the one that suits you the best on Amazon here.
If you are traveling with a mini-drone, including the DJI Mavic Pro, here is a great case. It’s very affordable, durable, lightweight, and provides excellent protection.
You can also use a waterproof drone travel backpack for transport.
More Drone Travel Tips:
✅ Check all the laws for the places you are visiting
✅ Give yourself extra time at the airports for screening with a drone
✅ Show off your drone to the locals – They will love it!
✅ Bring extra propellers
✅ Bring extra batteries
✅ Pack your lithium-ion batteries in your carry on luggage – use a fireproof bag if possible
✅ Watch out for animals and other wildlife
✅ Bring repair tools
So it’s great to know that you can travel safely with your drone. As long as you follow the rules and contact your airline beforehand, everything should be fine. To help things go a bit smoother, have a look at getting a proper travel case and ensure you have extra batteries, chargers and repair kits. There is nothing quite like traveling the world and taking amazing images and footage from your drone. Happy droning!
Thanks for reading!