Travelling With A Drone – What You Need To Know!

Man flying drone

Flying your drone abroad is a feather in any drone pilot’s cap. But travelling with a drone isn’t as simple as just throwing it in your luggage and leaving it with the baggage handlers. There are rules to be followed and best practices for flying with your drone!

Read on for the answers to your top travel and drone-related questions, as well as advice and suggestions from experienced drone users! 

Travelling With A Drone – Your Questions Answered

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Drone and Accessories
Make sure your drone is packed properly for travel!

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Can I Take a Drone on a Plane?

In short, yes, you can take your drone in a plane. However, it’s rarely that simple… 

Most drones are safe to bring on a plane but you need to be aware of your specific airline’s rules when it comes to batteries, dangerous goods and whether your drone needs to go in the hold. 

Battery Size

Most airlines impose a 100Wh limit on batteries taken on their planes. While it can change between airlines, the general rule is that you can bring as many sub 100Wh batteries as you like, as long as it doesn’t look suspicious… If you arrive with nothing but a backpack full of batteries, the airline may have an issue!

If your drone batteries are over 100Wh but below 161Wh, you can contact the airline to check their rules. Often, they’ll allow you to carry two batteries between 100Wh-160Wh. 

Batteries almost always need to be stored in your hand luggage too. Batteries stored in the hold are more likely to go wrong due to pressure and temperature fluctuations. Plus, batteries stored in the cabin can be accessed quickly should anything go wrong with them during the flight. 

Drone with Batteries in Case
No matter where you put your drone, the batteries need to stay with you!

How To Determine the Watt Hours (Wh) Of A Battery

Some batteries display watt hours on the back. In this instance, your job is relatively straightforward. Compare this number to the number given by your airline to see if they’ll let you on the plane with your batteries. 

However, some batteries don’t display the watt hours and you’ll need to work it out yourself. Thankfully, the maths is pretty simple. 

Simply multiply the volts (V) by the amp hours (Ah) to get the watt hours (Wh). 

If your battery only lists milliamp hours (mAh), divide this number by 1000 to get the amp hours (Ah) then continue with the above multiplication. 

Drone taking off from someone's hand
Make sure your drone batteries fit within your airline’s regulations!

Are Drones Dangerous Goods?

According to the FAA, drones may contain hazardous materials. Lithium batteries, fuel cells and parts of certain parachute systems can all flag as dangerous goods to an airline. If you’re in doubt, check the manufacturer’s brochure and consult with your airline to see if you’re able to take your drone on a plane. 

How to Pack Your Drone for Air Travel

There are several ways to correctly pack your drone for air travel. 

The most important thing is to remove the batteries from the drone and store them in Lipo Safe battery cases. These prevent combustion, so even if your batteries get damaged, they won’t catch on fire and risk the lives of everyone on the plane. Lipo Safe battery cases are a requirement for some airlines but not for all. However, we always recommend carrying your batteries inside them just in case! 

Batteries must then be stored in your hand luggage and not in the hold. 

As for the rest of your drone, where you need to put it in the plane depends on the airline. Some require you to put it in the hold, others require it to stay in your hand luggage. Know the rules for your airline before arriving with your drone at the airport. 

DJI Drone Case
A good case will keep your drone safe in your luggage!

Wherever you need to put the drone, having a good protective case is wise. You can buy plenty of universal drone cases online but getting one made for your drone is a better bet. Sure, it’ll cost a bit more but it will offer the most protection. Padded cases, with firm sides and plenty of storage inside, are a good idea, so you can keep everything safe and together while in transit. 

Know the Local Drone Laws for Your Destination Country

Every country has individual laws regarding drones. What’s okay at home might not be okay at your destination. Some general rules should be applied anywhere when flying a drone but for more detailed rules about flying a drone in Southeast Asia, we recommend referring to our detailed country-by-country breakdown articles.

Drone Flying Over Mountains
Drones offer the chance to get some amazing photos – just obey any rules!

General rules for flying a drone abroad:

  • Keep drones at a certain altitude – All countries have a maximum altitude for drones, make sure you know what it is. 
  • Register your drone if required – Some countries require you to register a drone before use, make sure you’ve done this if required. 
  • Avoid no-fly zones – If you’re flying in a no-fly zone, you should probably just quit drone piloting before you get into deep trouble. 
  • Stay away from people, buildings, vehicles and airports – No matter where you are in the world, this is solid advice. 

For more information about drone laws in Southeast Asia, refer to these country guides:

Other Tips for Travelling With a Drone

Expect Some Interest From Locals

In some countries, especially in more off-the-beaten-track locations, drones can garner a lot of attention. People often just want to know what you’re doing and what the drone looks like. Answer questions respectfully and let people see what you’re doing. Clamming up and getting defensive or evasive could cause you issues with local people who are more likely than not, just fascinated by your drone. 

Be Respectful

In the 2010s, selfie sticks were everywhere. Tourist attractions the world over bristled with them. Large groups of stick-wielding travellers made the most of the extra 1.5 metres of reach they’d recently gained. 

And while they took some cracking photos, everyone hated them – even the people using them!

The same is becoming true of drones today. If you need to fly your drone in a popular location to get the perfect shot. Be quick about it. It’s no secret that people find drones annoying – especially if you’re flying out in nature somewhere that is supposed to be peaceful! 

Thailand Drone Image
It’s better than a selfie stick!

Drone Insurance 

Some countries will require you to get specific drone insurance before flying your drone. But even if your destination doesn’t require this, you may want it anyway. Drone insurance protects you financially should your drone get damaged while travelling. Good drone insurance should also cover you should you cause damage to someone or something with your drone. 

We use Cover Drone for our drone insurance needs! Click for Cover Drone UK!

Travelling With A Drone – A Round-Up

Drones give you access to a world of new photo and video opportunities. Not only does this improve the Instagramability of your trip but it helps record your memories and gives you the chance to see things from a different angle. 

Travelling with a drone is usually pretty straightforward. Make sure your drone is packed correctly, find out the rules for your airline and check the batteries aren’t too big for the plane. When you arrive at your destination country, make sure you understand the local drone laws and register your machine if required!

Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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