How to Travel With A Drone On A Plane

Can you bring a drone on a plane?

The short answer is yes you can..

This is a question that might have been nonsensical a few years ago, as the use of drones was not widespread, to say the least. Today, however, you're not only asking the question -- you need to know, specifically, the ins and outs of how to take a drone on a plane. Fortunately, it's not only possible, but quite easy to do so -- all you need is a little bit of advance preparation to have a great trip.

Of course, it makes no sense to take a drone on a plane if you don't know how to operate it in the first place, so a tutorial is recommended. You should check out this link that has some good information on learning to fly a drone. Once you know how to safely and efficiently operate the equipment, you're ready to plan your trip.

Should your drone be packed in checked luggage, or as  carry-on luggage?

 Answer: Either is fine, as long as you follow the rules for each option. If your drone is a larger model, such as an Inspire or a Typhoon, it won't fit into a carry-on size bag and will have to be checked. If your drone is smaller -- from the Phantom series, for example -- it's small enough to be taken on the plane with you. 

If you haven't yet purchased the drone, it might be a good idea to shop for a smaller model to begin with, so you won't have to worry about the airline losing your expensive drone. Tips on which size drone might best fit your needs can be found here. Whether you purchase a small model or a larger one, however, be sure to carry on your spare batteries -- the low pressure in the storage cabin can cause batteries to catch fire, a risk you'll certainly want to eliminate. If your rechargeable battery is installed in the drone when you check your luggage, however, you won't have to remove it.

How to carry drone batteries on a plane

While we're on the subject of batteries, be forewarned that it's important to drain them as much as possible before your flight -- again to reduce the risk of fire. The battery should be at about 10 percent, or have no more than one bar showing. One way of doing this is to fly your drone around at low power mode until the energy lowers to the appropriate level. You can also leave it powered on, but unmoving, to sufficiently drain the battery. Also, before packing, you should cover the battery terminal with electrical tape, otherwise the battery might short-circuit -- another fire risk.

There is a limit to how many batteries you can bring along, depending on the maximum watt hours allowed. If the battery has a capacity of more than 100 watt hours, no more than two are allowed per flight. (Bear in mind that some individual airlines do not allow any batteries with a capacity exceeding 100 watt hours; check the airline's website to be certain you aren't in violation of their regulations). For anything with a lesser capacity, you can bring along as many as will fit in your luggage -- in other words, whatever will suit your needs. The watt hours should be displayed on the side of the battery case; if not, simply multiply the volts by the amps in order to get the correct number.

Going through airport security with your drone

The TSA has regulations in place regarding how to take a drone on a plane. First, you have to register your drone on the FAA's website, and print out a certificate proving that it's been registered. The batteries also must be sent through the scanning machines in a separate bin. Remember that spare batteries must be carried on, and not stored in checked baggage. The importance of this cannot be overstated, as the consequences of fire onboard an aircraft are potentially catastrophic. If you're checking your drone and it's possible to carry on every one of your drained batteries -- leaving none stored in the drone itself -- this would be the preferable approach.

While this isn't a regulation per se, it's a good idea to be open about the fact that you're carrying a drone. Being secretive and coy about it may send up red flags, which is never a good idea in an airport. If a TSA agent or airline representative asks you questions regarding your drone, be sure to answer them truthfully and completely. Likewise, any fellow traveler who asks about your equipment is likely doing so out of curiosity, not fear, so an upfront approach is best.

Before getting on the plane, you should check and double-check to ensure that you have all the drone's parts and batteries with you. It would be a real pain to get all the way to your destination only to find that you've left the propeller behind. Worse still would be to forget the registration; it's a good idea to keep this in your purse or wallet at all times once it's printed, just in case. Check all of your luggage when you've gotten into the car, when you arrive at the airport, and again before getting on the plane. Also ensure that your batteries have been drained before passing through the security checkpoint.

If you're not checking the drone, it's important to be certain ahead of time that your carry-on fits the size requirements. An Internet search will tell you which models fit in which backpacks, and whether they're suitable for carry-on. The following website provides strong guidance for what's available:

Flying outside the US with your drone?

This should all be sufficient for preparation if you're taking your drone to a destination within the United States. If you're planning an international excursion, however, can you travel with a drone on a plane? The answer is a definitive yes, at least as far as airline travel is concerned. The airline regulations regarding drone transportation are the same, no matter what the travel destination; individual countries, however, may have different rules regarding the device itself. Familiarize yourself with the rules for whatever countries you'll be visiting.

I hope we have covered all the bases when it comes to your questions regarding how to take a drone on a plane. If you follow the guidelines, all the pieces are in place for you to have an amazing and unforgettable trip. Wishing you happy trails and clear skies!

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In the comments below, tell us about your experiences traveling on a plane with your drone!