Guest post from AirVuz —
For drone enthusiasts, sometimes majestic scenery such as a sunset or a storm cloud comes to you.
But most of the time, a drone and its pilot have to travel to the majestic scenery to capture truly breath-taking views of mountains, beaches, torrential rivers or alluring cityscapes.
“Getting to these views might be just a quick drive down the road, but more often than not, the views are destinations away from home, even away from your home country,” says Tyler Mason, Director of Digital Media at AirVuz.com, a popular website devoted to drone videos. “To produce high quality, attractive videos like those on AirVūz — which features tens of thousands of drone videos shot by professional and amateur drone enthusiasts — a drone videographer must take to the skies for the chance to capture and experience such beauty for themselves.”
With drone technology still relatively new, especially to airlines, traveling with a drone may seem particularly daunting. International travel is already stressful without the added tension caused by equipment that may not be acceptable according to wary airlines.
Proper planning is a must to ensure unwelcome surprises pop up along the way. Here are a few tips from Mason on how to pack and travel with your drone anywhere in the world.
- Do your homework. It’s imperative to do some homework before taking off with a drone. Review TSA guidelines as well as airline policies to determine if you can bring your drone with you.
According to TSA regulations, drones will be allowed through the security checkpoint of U.S. airports, but this does not mean that every airline will allow drones or drone accessories on an airplane.
Investigate not only airline policies on drones, but also the national and local policies of your desired destination and any countries in between where you have a layover or connection. Like national parks, cities, and monuments in the United States, locations and countries abroad may have laws prohibiting the use of drones, or even possessing a drone. Drone enthusiast websites, such as knowbeforeyoufly.org, can tell you where you can fly, both domestically and internationally. It’s also important to determine if you need special licensing.
For example, in Ireland, all drones over 1 kg (2 pounds) must be registered with the Irish Aviation Authority as a Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) according to IAA Order, S.I. No. 563. The online registration requires that operators have completed and passed a safety course recognized by the IAA. In Ireland, a drone operator must be at least 18 years old, or accompanied by a registered adult. It’s best to view your destination’s air authority policies and contact the necessary officials to be sure your recreational or commercial flying is legal. Do so very far in advance, as you may need to obtain particular registration or take a safety course.
The reality remains that you may not be allowed to bring your drone on a plane, and even if on the plane, may not be allowed to bring it or fly it where you would like in accordance with laws and regulations. Be sure to know beforehand or ask express permission to fly at a location, otherwise you might get yourself into some hot water with a foreign police force.
- Know what you can check. If you have a larger drone that won’t meet the requirements for overhead bins in the cabin, it’s best to pack your drone in a hard shell case. However, once checked, be prepared for airline missteps. Misplaced, damaged, or lost drones will likely go uncompensated by airlines.
To avoid risk of damage or misplacement by an airline, it’s best to travel with your drone in a carry-on soft pack. To an extent, you’ll have more control over how your drone is handled in the airport and on the plane, and in the end avoid extraneous damage.
Soft packs are advantageous when on location and you need to trek through a city or the outdoors. Hard cases are much more bulky and require more effort to carry in hand when traversing to a film spot.
- Battery safety. While aircraft authorities may not mind that you bring the hull of your drone along with you, airlines are concerned about the battery used to power your drone. Flyers who intend to travel with uninstalled (spare) lithium ion batteries must pack them in carry-on luggage. U.S. airline safety forbids lithium batteries in the cargo hold of an airplane because these batteries may spontaneously combust by short-circuiting.
To avoid problems at check in, security, or at the gate, make sure your lithium batteries (either in your carry-on or in your drone) do not exceed 160 watts. Additionally, some regulations state that flyers can carry on no more than 2 lithium batteries exceeding 100 watts, but do not exceed 160 watts.
Though lithium batteries are a concern for all airlines, air travel providers have varying policies regarding how passengers can travel with lithium batteries. Some do not even allow spare or installed batteries on planes. Be sure your lithium batteries are packed in fire resistant bags and are uncharged or discharged to at least 50% or lower.
Listed here are the policies from popular airlines. However, we advise that you contact your airline to confirm that they allow drones and lithium batteries.
|Air Canada||Only 2 lithium batteries per person in carry-on. Battery terminals must be taped or encased in nonconductive packaging. No batteries over 160 watts.|
|Air France||Batteries do not need to be uninstalled from device. The drone can be checked but spare batteries must be protected in carry-on. No batteries over 160 watts.|
|Alaska||Lithium spares in carry-on. No spare lithium batteries whatsoever in checked baggage.|
|American||A maximum of 2 spare lithium batteries not exceeding 160 watts can be carried onto the plane. The drone in its box must be smaller than 22x14x19 in.|
|Allegiant||2 maximum spare batteries must be carried on and the terminals protected. No batteries exceeding 160 watts.|
|British Airways||4 maximum spare batteries for batteries under 100 watts. Must receive approval to check a battery installed in a device.|
|Delta||2 maximum spare batteries in carry-on. Must not exceed 160 watts.|
|Hawaiian||2 maximum spare lithium batteries must be packed in carry-on.|
|Jet Blue||Device must be completely powered off, maximum of 2 spare lithium batteries in carry-on.|
|Qantas||Lithium batteries can be packed in carry-on or hand luggage.|
|Southwest||All spare lithium batteries must be in carry-on luggage.|
|United||No loose/spare batteries in checked luggage. Maximum 2 100-160-watt batteries in carry-on, properly protected.|
- Spare parts. Whether you pack your drone in a backpack or in a hard case, don’t forget to bring a set of extra propellers in case of damage during transit. Also bring along any tools you’ll need for repairs to avoid the hassle of buying any tools while traveling.
- Back up footage. As you’re taking footage while traveling, take out your drone’s memory card and transfer the data onto a computer or hard drive where it can be accessed later. Do this at the end of each day you film with your drone to ensure your hard work is saved on various devices in case of trouble.
- Be prepared for a little extra attention at security. Arrive well before boarding. Though not illegal to bring your drone with you throughout the United States, you are carrying somewhat dangerous batteries and equipment that might require additional inspection. It’s important to be honest with the TSA officers about the contents of your bag and the batteries you’re lugging around.
The goal is to avoid damage, loss or confiscation of your drone during travel. Arguing with the officers or disrupting a routine search can do just the opposite of that goal. As the English say: “Keep calm and carry on.”
- Train and boat travel. According to Amtrak, “fragile and/or valuable items” such as drones are best transported as carry-on luggage. However, it is best to contact a rail station to be sure that they know you’ll be traveling with an unmanned aerial device.
On Amtrak trains, passengers are allowed two personal items and two carry-on items each without additional fees. Make sure the rest of your items are so arranged to fit meet these guidelines.
Major cruise lines, such as Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruise Lines, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Disney Cruises, and Holland America, are unanimous in prohibiting drones onboard. However, Carnival Cruise policy specifies that drones may be used when at port, but never onboard (both at port or at sea).
- Shipping. If you require as much luggage room as necessary for other travel items, or don’t want to carry your drone with you through the airport, you can ship your drone ahead of you through UPS or FedEx to your destination.
According to both company’s shipping policies, lithium batteries are just as much a concern with shipping as they are in flying. FedEx requires a declaration of dangerous goods and IATA training to be able ship lithium batteries.
Similarly, UPS requires pre-approval for lithium batteries.
While you can pack your batteries with drones and ship them, it’s admittedly quite the hassle. An alternative is to ship the hull of your drone without batteries, which requires no pre-approval. Pack your spares with you when you head to the airport, given you follow the airline’s policies.
- Fees may apply. At some destinations, such as in Mexico, drones are not considered duty-free photographic equipment. If you’re flying with your drone, it counts as part of either your checked or carry-on allowance. You may have to pay a fee for additional luggage or pay customs to bring your drone into another country.
The Bottom Line
Remember too that all trips, when drones are concerned, are unique. Always do research to be sure you’re complying with regulations every time you plan to travel with your drone. Even if you’ve been to a country abroad a few times and successfully carried your drone, laws are subject to change as drone flying becomes more commonplace.
Planning an excursion with a drone may at first appear tiresome, but the effort will be greatly repaid with stunning footage like what is showcased on AirVūz. Scenes of faraway places, vibrant colors, and a myriad of cultures and lifestyles are within your reach.
Your travel bug is certainly drone-adaptable.
For more tips on how to create drone videos, visit airvuz.com.