November 7, 2017
How to Travel With Your Drone
Securing the Aircraft and All the “Bits”
Most aircraft come with a box, bag, or some sort of carrying case. If that won’t provide the protection you need, check out hard cases with foam cutouts to protect your gear. You can buy laser cut foam that is specific to your machine, or craft your own by removing foam cubes from a non-specific option. Amazon, Princess Auto, Nanuk, or GoProfessional are good options to seek out!
Always be prepared when working with aircrafts by having a way of dealing with a fire. Have a dirt, sand, or a fire extinguisher with your drone.
If we’re being realistic, it’s less about the drone and more about the batteries.
- Don’t let a loose battery come into contact with metal objects (e.g. coins, keys, or jewelry).
- Place each battery in a protective case, plastic bag, or leave it in its original packaging when possible. You can also place tape across the battery’s contacts to isolate terminals (noted by the + and – symbols) to prevent short-circuiting.
- Prevent crushing, puncturing, or putting pressure on the battery, as this can cause an internal short circuit and result in overheating.
Aside from preventing moisture from getting in and protecting against slamming around in the trunk, there isn’t a whole lot that your drone needs. The most important thing to pay attention to are the batteries, which can get volatile in the unregulated temperatures of a car trunk or backseat. Generally, lithium polymer batteries should be kept between 0°–40° but double check your manufacturer’s guide in case the limitations are different.
Don’t forget to check with your airline’s size restrictions for baggage. Give yourself lots of time at the airport to check in and check your bags. No Canadian airline offers media rates for carry on gear, but it might be an option if you’re travelling in the US. You’ll have to flash your credentials but it may get you discounts on additional checked bags of gear.
For flights departing from Canada, Canadian Air Transit Security Authority
(CATSA) publishes guidelines on protocol:
Our revised version of CATSAs chart
If you’re traveling internationally, carriers vary when it comes to LiPo batteries. If your battery doesn’t have the watt hours listed on the side, calculate it in advance and bring that paperwork. The conversion is (mAh)*(V)/1000 = (Wh).
In the event they refuse to let your batteries through security, keep in mind that the agents are likely working with conflicting information and are trying to preserve aviation safety. Stay calm and confident, armed with this knowledge, your preparation may convince them of your shared goal of getting the batteries to your destination with everything in one piece. Worst case scenario, most airlines will allow you to store batteries at the airport for a short period of time for someone to pick up.
If you’re still feeling unsure about flying with your drone batteries, another option would be to ship batteries in advance. Canada Post provides a service called FlexDelivery which allows you to ship to another Canada Post location. You need to register in advance, and may need to ground ship batteries depending on their size and the services you’re registered for with Canada Post. Check out their ABCs of Mailing for more details.
Oh and don’t be this guy.
Since you’ll likely want to be as light as possible, it’s tempting to discard “extras” like protective foam, extra batteries, and your larger tablet. Keep in mind that fewer batteries may push you to take flight time risks you wouldn’t if you had another battery to fly on. Flying on a phone rather than a tablet will also make controls and text smaller. While these conditions are not impossible to work in, familiarize yourself with the new setup before you travel.
Still feeling unsure about it? I’m happy to help. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions!