As plane battery regulations are getting stricter, there are few things you should consider before heading to the airport with your drone these days; customs, airport security, bag, destination,... The good news is that most airlines and airports are quite straightforward and your drone will be welcomed. However, over our travels, we've experienced a few bumps along our way and wanted to share some of our experience back with you today.
So what's to consider before taking your drone on a plane?
1/ Your Destination
The essential first step is to understand your destination's drone regulation. Can you even bring your drone in the place you're going to? We've studied 150+ countries and turns out that not all countries will accept your drone. Click on the below map to find out if you can bring your drone there.
2/ Your Flight
Ok, so you've identified you can take your drone there, "great". Now you will need to figure out which airline you're taking and how to pack your drone according to their bag and battery policies.
What's your airline's battery policy?
Here again we've made the hard work easy for you and went to find the top 100 airlines in the world and listed their battery policies for you. Just enter the name of your airline company and find out if you can take your drone on-board or not and what are the maximum battery size you can take with you.
Do you have a connecting flight?
Ask if you will need to get out of the international zone or pick up your luggage before heading to your connecting flight. If the connection is from another airline ticket purchased separately, the answer is most probably yes meaning you will need to comply to at least two destination's drone regulations.
3/ Your luggage
How much bag allowance do you have?
Carry on luggage: this is our favourite option as it is the only way for you to be 100% certain your drone will not be mistreated during your flight or worse...
Luggage: a must for some airlines, if you can avoid it, you should. Do not pack the batteries of your drone in your luggage, these must be with you at all times.
💡 Find our discussion about best plane packing tips for your drone.. Heads up, you want to pack your drone last.
How heavy is your drone?
Drone above 2 kg: depending on what else you’re carrying on with you, it might be hard to fit in the carry on and most probably will end in the checked in luggage for your trip.
Is your drone foldable?
Foldable drones are an absolute advantage when it comes to travel with your drone (not only via airlines). It simply diminishes the size of your drone and so the space it takes in your luggage or the back of your car.
Can I carry my drone's propellers?
If they are in soft plastic, you shouldn't have any troubles. For any more resistant material, we highly recommend you to take them off and pack them into your luggage to avoid complications at the security checks.
4/ Your drone's batteries
Are your drone's batteries removable?
higher priced drones usually come with removable batteries so you can fly longer. However, for smaller ones it might not always be the case. Remember, if you can’t separate your drone from your battery, it has to be part of your carry on luggage.
Is there a maximum size for my drone batteries to be carried on a plane?
Generally speaking, most airlines will follow the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidance & rules. They identify 3 main categories based on your drone battery's power:
Up to 100-watt-hour = usually allowed (up to 20 items).
From 100 to 160-watt-hour = usually airline approval is required (up to 2 items).
From 160-watt-hour = usually forbidden.
This is exactly what most airlines will apply, such as the example below from KLM.
How to calculate my drone battery from milliamp hour to voltage?
If your drone battery power is written in milliamp hour (mAh) & voltage (V); then the formula to convert is (mAh)*(V)/1000 = Watt-hour (Wh). For example, if you have a 500mAh battery rated at 5V, the power is 500mAh * 5V / 1000 = 2.5Wh.
Anything else to consider?
Your batteries should be switched off at all times during your flight. If your battery does not respond or remains on, inform the local crew who should be able to keep an eye on it or at least provide some extra precaution tools in case needed. In every case, airlines recommend to place spare batteries in a fireproof bag while travelling and to always keep them with your carry on bag.
5/ Airport Customs
Do I have to pay any import tax?
Some countries will charge an import tax on your drone (usually when new). We've shared this information in our country per country destination guides. However, some countries will also clearly tax second hand drone imports such as:
Mexico where you will be taxed if its value is over the tax free importation limit of 400€.
Peru which established a tax safety process to avoid smugglers importing drones without declaring them (you will essentially need to pay an 18% Tax deposit that you will get back once departing Peru).
Airport security checks:
At each airport prior departure, you will have to go through the traditional bag scan. If you purchased or imported your drone in full rights, there should be no problems what so ever. When landing, depending on the country you land, you might have a second scan where you could have to declare your drone prior. This is the case in Singapore, Morocco & Vietnam but we’re sure many others as well.
💡 Some noteworthy airports:
Da Nang Airport, Vietnam tends to cease drones upon arrivals (June 2019)
Budapest Airport does not allow anyone to carry a drone in cabin regardless of your airline (June 2019)
If you know any other noteworthy airports, please aware the community here.
6/ Drone Insurance
Is your drone insured?
Travel insurance: check with your travel insurance if your drone is covered, it might always be the case. It might just be a matter of an extra ticks on this contract.
Civil insurance: some destinations will require you to have a civil insurance to fly your drone there, so make sure you read well our Destination Guides.
We hope this post has been helpful to you as it is the result of many flight experiences and we will keep adding as we go. In a nutshell you should be fine in most places but always check your destination's drone regulation, your airline's drone/battery policy and make sure to be as open as possible with customs and airport security staff members.
Have a safe flight and bring us back some stunning aerial photos of your trip to share and have a chance to be featured on our social media network.