Research the Laws where You are Visiting
First Things First make sure you look up the rules of your Airline, some smaller carriers don’t like batteries or LiPo’s. But most flag carriers will accept them.
Secondly research the country you are visiting, you can find pretty much all the information you need on the internet, more information is becoming available for regulations you need to follow for any county. For example, in Thailand it is illegal throughout the country to fly a drone. Meanwhile in Cambodia, it is apparently illegal only to fly in select locations, including the capitol city (rumor has it the queen was spooked when a drone flew by her window) and Angkor Wat (more on that later). Meanwhile, China has very few restrictions so you can fly pretty much anywhere.
Traveling with LiPo Batteries
Batteries must be offered for transport at a state of charge (SoC) not to exceed 30% of their rated design capacity. This means that you need to deplete your batteries before you attempt to transport them which is a good idea regardless of the mode of travel (as a package or on board a passenger aircraft).
A shipper is not permitted to present for transport more than one (1) package prepared according to Section II in any single consignment. Obviously, this regulates shipping, but there could be a situation where this will apply to our LiPo batteries as well.
A few Tips
- Discharge batteries
- Keep them with your Drone
- Use a LiPo Saftey bag
- Be upfront with both security and cabin crew as to what you are carrying
- Label them as it limits your chances of being had up
- Do not Use Old batteries
The quantity permitted is based on watt-hours (Wh). Wh establishes the lithium content by multiplying voltage with the ampere-hours (Ah). For example, 14.40V x 5Ah battery = 72Wh.
The current IATA dangerous goods regulations and your rights as passenger to carry the LiPos with you in carry-on luggage but not in your checked luggage. There are 3 classes of LiPo batteries. Below 100Wh there are no quantity restrictions as to the amount of batteries you can carry. Between 100Wh and 160Wh you are limited to two battery packs total per passenger. Above 160Wh you are not permitted to carry the packs as carry-on.
Avoiding short circuit
As another safety precaution, though this might not be mandatory according to flight safety regulations is to avoid short circuiting the batteries thus increasing the chance of fire hazard. This is fairly simple, all you need to do is to place each battery into an individual plastic bag. Also try covering the connectors with tape. It will only take a few seconds.
Checked-in or Carry-on?
First of all it is very important that LiPo batteries MUST be carried on with you on board the aircraft and CAN NOT be placed in checked in luggage! Swift change in temperature and air pressure make LiPo batteries susceptible to catching fire.
An Australian man learned this the hard way earlier this year. Just because you’ve disassembled your photography drone and packed it safely away in a number of Pelican cases, it doesn’t mean it can’t cause troubles when traveling (undeclared) in the cargo bay of your international flight. White smoke was seen billowing out of the cargo hold of a Fiji Airways plane. It was investigated by the Australians and the investigation concluded that the rapid change in pressure and temperatures had causes the batteries to catch fire mid flight. The man was prosecuted for not declaring the batteries.
On threads of discussion online debating if you should declare that you are traveling with LiPo-s when passing through the security inspection. Some reported: having no problems even when questioned about the nature of the batteries and even friendly TSA personnel asking them if it is fun to fly quadcopters. At the same time, any Lithium based battery pack falls under IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations involving the shipment of lithium-based batteries on passenger and cargo aircraft. So if you use common sense, you must agree that not declaring things that are classified as dangerous goods is NOT a good idea. You can stretch your luck but don’t think that your LiPo-s will not be seen during screening. Also, please don’t blame me if you follow my advice and still get declined to travel with your batteries. If it happens, it will definitely not be because you declared them.
SafeTravel.dot.gov – Traveling with Batteries
TSA – Safe Travel with Batteries and Devices
The TSA Blog – Safe Packing Batteries for your Trip
Hazardous Materials Info-Line – 1-800-467-4922
E-mail Address – Infocntr@dot.gov
Disclaimer: The above information is not provided as legal advice! Flight safety authorities may still deny carrying your batteries or your aircraft. Dronethusiast.com does not accept any responsibility for any damages resulting from the use of the above information. If you are unsure, consult the authorities or seek legal counsel!