I never really understood the point of traveling. To be frank, I hated taking any steps that would lead me away from the comforts of my home. I’m a proud homebody or should I say a recovering homebody.
A few years ago, I took a trip to Maui and that is when everything changed. Those beaches have a way of wooing us homebodies.
It got me thinking as much as I love Maui, there was so much I wanted to capture that I didn’t. With travel restrictions weaving their way back to “normal” I thought it would be a good opportunity to create the "Ultimate Guide to Bringing a Drone on a Plane."
Can You Bring A Drone On A Plane?
The easy answer is yes. Other resources have shared the top things to know when you bring a drone on a plane. However, this guide will provide additional traveling with a drone tips from Skydio to make your trip that much easier when dealing with TSA drone policy.
1. Turn It Off
Your safest bet here is to disconnect your battery completely from the drone. Batteries on planes have a risk of being very risky. You don’t want to take a chance of the drone accidentally getting bumped and you capturing that epic 360 shot from the comfort of its case, as your flight is airborne.
2. Confirm With Your Airlines
There is no golden rule that every airline follows. Some don’t mind you packing a drone as a carry on or in a checked bag, but some do. Play it safe and double check with your airline. Don’t risk leaving your baby behind.
Special Tip: When in doubt double check TSA drone policy page.
Special Tip - here are some more TSA Drone Policies:
- Southwest Airlines Drone Policy - View the Portable Electronic Devices Section
- Delta Airlines Drone Policy - View the rules on batteries.
- United Airlines Drone Policy - View the rules on batteries.
When in doubt double check TSA drone policy page - view here.
3. Spot Check Your Batteries
Most drones are powered with lithium-ion batteries and are required by the FAA to be stored in your carry-on baggage. I say “most”…to know for sure you’ll need to know the watt hours of your battery.
If your battery is 100 watts or less, place them in a plastic bag, battery case, or sleeve in your camera bag.
If your battery is 100 watts or more, you’ll need to obtain approval from the airline. To put it in perspective our S2+ Battery found here is 61.22Wh with a flight time of 27 minutes.
Special Tip - don’t pack more than two spare batteries with more than 100 watts.
4. Protect Your Drone
You know how much that drone cost. We recommend placing it in a camera or drone case for ultimate protection. You don’t want to risk scratching the lens or your gimbal being tossed around.
5. Traveling Through Customs
Not every country has the same drone rules. You’ll need to check the country’s drone laws before traveling. Some may require you to register your drone, have certifications, drone licensing and more.
Special Tip - double check your drone can fly in your target country. This is not always the case.
As a safety net for U.S. travelers you may have the option to register your drone with customs as a “Personal Effect Taken Abroad” prior to traveling. This might come in handy when returning home so that there are no misunderstandings that your drone really is YOUR drone.
6. Drone Insurance
When traveling outside the U.S. be aware that some countries require liability insurance. You’ll need to do your due diligence to make sure you have the proper documents. Also, don’t forget about your drone warranty. Accidents happen while in the air. At Skydio, we offer drone insurance for select kits, learn more here.
If you’re also worried about your drone being kicked around you could look into drone cases for added physical protection. Here is our Skydio Pro Case which has all the slots you need for traveling.
7. Do A Test Flight First
When traveling outside the U.S. you’ll want to connect the drone, app, and fly about 10-20 feet for 45 seconds. You want to make sure there are no funky, unexpected bugs and a test flight is one of the best safety measures you can take. Things to lookout for: firmware being up to date, propellers working, and hovering ability is stable.Download The Ultimate Drone Travel Guide Checklist
8. Register Online With The FAA
At this point you’re itching to fly - I get it. Remember if your drone weighs 0.55 pounds or more make sure to register it with the FAA. The signup process is quick, don't forget to add your FAA Registration number on your drone.
9. Know Where You Can Fly
Even if you go through all the above with no issue, there is a chance you can’t fly in said destination. Be aware of airspace restrictions, hospitals and power plants. The FAA’s B4UFLY Smartphone App is a pretty handy tool to see where you can go. Airmap For Drones is another must have (here are the links for Android and IOS).
10. Resort Flying Rules
Drones have become so popular some resorts are now implementing no-fly rules. Do yourself a favor and ask the resort manager if there are any flight hour restrictions and / or restrictions overall.
11. Respect Wildlife
Consider ahead of time the wildlife you might encounter while flying. National parks, wildlife preserves, and conservation areas are off-limits to drones and can result in a hefty fine.
12. Keep An Eye On Temperatures
Always check your battery life before taking off. You’ll want to pay close attention to how hot or cold the battery is. Remember not every drone is built for extreme weather conditions and this should be taken into consideration before flying. Often cold batteries will lead to decreased flight time and hot batteries have the risk of expanding.
13. Backup Your Memory Cards
Don’t leave home without a few extra memory cards. We understand it can be easy to forget extra cards when you're excited to fly, but don't miss out on moments because of a forgotten or full memory card. Bring a couple extra cards and remember to have the right class of card to ensure you get the content you want.
14. Brush Up On Drone Etiquette
It is highly unlikely during this process there won’t be one person asking about your drone. It’s going to come up, because frankly your drone is cool. Whether it’s on the beach or going through customs, there are a lot of drone lovers out there. Be polite and respectful, and if you find someone who really is a fan of flying, and happens to own a Skydio Drone, share a referral link and get a free gift card in return to keep on traveling.
Traveling with a drone has a lot of moving parts to be compliant with TSA Drone Policies. Always remember if you are unsure about a rule, reach out to your airline and ask.
Let us know what you think on the tips above and if there are any other gems you think we should add please reach out. Remember to download our infographic for quick reference or link to it. Until next time, safe travels!