Travelling with your drone – the need to know guide
Got a commercial drone job abroad and need to travel with your equipment. In this guide we will look at travelling with your equipment and the best practices to keep it safe.
With some drone operators travelling around the world we will take a look at what drones are good to travel with, what you will need to know about the local laws, travelling with lithium ion batteries and more.
Remember if you are insured with us all your equipment and liability will be covered throughout the world subject to some exclusions and having staying within the local regulations in the country of operation. You will be covered whether in flight, in transit, if it’s stolen and everything else you would be covered for in your home country.
Should I check in my drone or carry it in hand luggage?
This is all going to come down to the size of you drone. Anything small like a dji mavic pro or phantom series which can fit in a hand luggage sized hard or soft case can be taken as hand luggage. However, anything larger and designed for heavier lift will probably need to be checked in using a hard case.
Always keep your batteries in your carry-on bag
One of the biggest problems you will encounter when taking your done abroad is the lithium ion batteries.
With the airframe of your drone you can either carry this on board if it’s small enough like a mavic pro or you can ill need to check it in with all the other luggage if it’s something larger – think an inspire 2 or an S1000.
However, with the batteries they must always be carried in hand luggage no matter the size. Due to hold luggage not being stored in a pressurised cabin and the severe temperature changes when flying at 35,000+ feet your batteries are going to be less affected and in the case of an emergency you or any flight attendants can react quickly.
Dependant on the airline and battery rating airlines will restrict how many batteries you will be able to travel with. Most airlines will allow you to travel with an unlimited amount of batteries if the rating is 100 watt hours (Wh) or less. Anything over this may be restricted and anything over 160 watt hours you will not be allowed to fly with. It is best to check with the airline that you’re flying with to see what the limitations are.
When travelling with batteries is it recommended that you cover up all battery connections and terminals with electrical tape or similar.
Get a good travel case or bag
There is an abundance of carry cases for the well know manufacturers of drones nowadays including direct from the manufacturer or aftermarket pieces. Dependant on the type of drones you will be flying with, amount of equipment and how protective you want your case to be will help you make a decision.
There are some fantastic bags on the market for the smaller drones like the mavics and phantom series that are more backpack orientated and are great if you are travelling to many destinations.
As well as soft cases there are some more heavy duty hard plastic cases which will be a lot more protective and durable if you are carrying bigger and more expensive equipment.
What to do when going through security?
The biggest thing to stress going through security is to separate your batteries from everything else. It is recommended that you add these to their own separate bin very much like you would with any other electrical items like your phone or laptop.
If security have any questions for your items it is best to be completely upfront and honest with your answers.
Hopefully, this will give you a swift walkthrough security with no problems at all.
Take additional spares and batteries with you
It is recommended that you travel with additional spares including propellors and repair tools so you are able to repair any damage that has happened in flight. Imagine how annoying it would be if anything got damaged and you were unable to complete the mission because of a broken propeller.
Spare batteries are a good choice as well but remember what we were saying above and travelling on an airline. Taking all your spare batteries, why not invest in a car charger if you are travelling between jobs and can charge and drive.
Check the local drone laws before you go
Remember that there are no universal laws about drone flying throughout the world and each countries laws and regulations are different on a recreational and a commercial basis.
If you are working on a commercial basis it is best to check with the local National Aviation Authority in the country you are visiting to see what you need to do prior to visiting and working.
Some countries will issue you with a permission on a temporary basis with your current training, others will need you to complete their own training and permission application and others just require certain flying regulations to-be met.
Each countries rules are different for commercial operations so it is best to check with the aviation authority yourself.
What’s the best drone to travel with?
Something small and compact like the DJI Spark or DJI Mavic is going to win hands down for portability but the other question to ask is what you require for the job to be completed to the highest standard.
A small portable and foldable drone will not be able to fly with a LiDAR scanner or thermal cameras and certainly won’t be able to film with a high-end camera.
So it is really a question on what the client requires and what drones is going to be best suited.
Watch out for different weather conditions
If you are working in areas of extreme temperatures this can affect the operation of your drone when flying. Most drones are built to operate in optimal temperatures but if it gets too cold this can decrease battery life and the aerodynamics of the propellers.
This can make your bird just fall out of the sky so be careful!
Helpful tip: Use a battery warmer before use to keep your batteries warm and to an optimal operating temperature
Give yourself plenty of time
Remember it can take time to get set up and complete a mission so always give yourself enough time to complete as you may need to redo one or more flights.
Always take time into consideration so you are not rushing as this could cause more mistakes and jeopardise the whole job
Hopefully, these tips will help you if you are travelling for a job and give you some helpful tips to stay safe when flying in another country.
Let us know if you think we have missed anything and we can get it added.