On April 1st, 2016 there are going to be several key changes regarding how Lithium Polymer batteries may be shipped via air:
- All international shipments of lithium batteries not in or with equipment (batteries by themselves) are prohibited as cargo on passenger aircraft. This means that many countries will not be able to receive batteries from long distance and we could see the price of batteries increase significantly.
- A 30% state of charge limit will be placed on batteries that will be traveling via air. We believe this is not only unsafe as the battery is not stable at 30% charge, but long periods at this charge dramatically increases the chance that a cell will go bad.
The people who have implemented these new regulation are the IATA (International Air Transport Association), after many in the Airline industry started to voice their concerns at the transport of volatile batteries
The safety concerns are not restricted to baggage and cargo. Mail is carried extensively onboard passenger aircraft, both internationally and on relatively short domestic flights. Lithium batteries, whether on their own or packed with equipment, are not permitted in airmail. Nevertheless, numerous web sites advertise lithium batteries for sale with delivery by airmail as an option. Couple this with the fact that a number of such batteries may not comply with the regulatory requirements, it is not surprising that there have been a number of incidents involving lithium batteries in airmail..
There remain however, a number of systemic problems with lithium batteries. Their ubiquitous nature means that people who are completely unaware of the dangerous goods regulations and the requirements for lithium batteries are shipping them as cargo and in mail. Worse still, unscrupulous individuals are prepared to flout the requirements and put passengers and crew at risk. Many passengers are similarly oblivious to the potential hazards of lithium batteries. The result is that there are safety risks from lithium batteries in baggage, cargo and mail. This guide has been produced to assist operators in deter mining their strategies for mitigating these risks.
We at Drone Insider Support this change in regulation, we didnt even realise that they were on commercial aircraft until we read the report and wrote this article. We Love RC but even we would be a little worried if were sitting above some dodgy Hobby king LIHV batteries at 30,000ft.
After Lockerbie, they designed a bomb proof cargo box/holder, which is in use on almost all commercial airlines, And UPS are developing something similar for Cargo planes:
UPS said it has already developed fire-containment covers for cargo, adopted full-face oxygen masks that are easy to put on and enhanced emergency training. The company said it has ordered 1,821 fiber-reinforced plastic shipping containers to withstand intense fires
It is a much bigger problem then people think, there was the UPS plane we pictured on the article: a UPS cargo plane at Philadelphia International Airport in 2006 which caught fire on the runway, most likely caused by a battery fire. As well as UPS Flight 6 which had 2 fatalities when flying back from Dubai in 2010. Even back in 1987 there was South African airways flight 295, there was a battery fire on a half cargo, half passenger plane. All 159 passengers and crew were lost. There are at least 3 other cargo fires we know of in the past 5 years, most of them probably caused by Lithium batteries, not to mention all the issues the 787 Dreamliner had with onborad lithium battieres.
If you read the report for the 2010 UPS cargo plane it makes for pretty grim reading:
The crew in Dubai reported a fire about 22 minutes into the flight and tried to return to the airport to land. But smoke obscured the pilot’s view of flight-control instruments and radios. The captain’s oxygen supply stopped working five minutes after the initial fire warning, at about 21,000 feet in the air, leaving him incapacitated for the rest of the flight.
“I got no oxygen I can’t breathe,” the captain said, according to a transcript of the cockpit-voice recorder. “You fly.”
With the first officer unable to see outside the cockpit or the controls within it, the plane flew past the airport and crashed while trying to circle the airport.
Its pretty dire stuff so I can see why they have implemented it, and in all honesty it probably should have been done earlier!
Please tell use your thoughts in the comments below.