Traveling with a Drone- A Travel Guide to Taking a Drone on a Plane
So, you are ready to travel with your drone! Aerial images of foreign lands, ancient ruins, and deep blue oceans pulls you in and convinces you to travel with your drone. But before you pack your drone and get too high on these thoughts, read this travel guide to make sure you travel safely, and your drone doesn’t get left behind. We will review everything you need to know about traveling with a drone on international and domestic flights.
Let’s go over some general things to think about before traveling with your drone.
Where are you going?
Research in depth the aviation rules about drones in the specific country. Every country has different rules, and every Customs Agent will be different than the last.
Try calling the “FAA” institutions in the country to learn their drone rules and regulations. If you can’t find any English speakers, go online, and find forums and YouTube where people have found out by personal experience.
Know where you can and cannot fly. For example, Nicaragua has banned drone flying over ancient ruins, unless you have a specific permit. The permit isn’t just something any one can apply for. You risk getting arrested in places, and it is NEVER worth going to jail in a foreign country!
Weigh Your Risks
There are some countries that do not allow drones in the country. And there are countries that make you leave your drone at the airport and you have to pay a hefty fine for storage fees, etc. And then, there are these countries with these strict rules, that people have gotten through with their drone and didn’t pay a dime.
So, weigh your risks. Maybe you’ll be the person who gets through without any issues, or you could be the person paying hundreds of dollars in “fines”. I say “fines” because a lot of custom agents are pocketing this money.
DON’T PACK YOUR DRONE’S LI-PO BATTERY IN YOUR CHECKED BAGGAGE. Li-Po batteries are made small for lightweight purposes, but pack a crazy amount of energy around them. The battery will expand and contract a lot from the pressure of the flight. There is a very high chance the battery will explode and create a fire. There are ways to really lower the risks.
*Don’t pack the battery under the plane. If a fire does occur, you will want it in front of you so it can be put out.
*Don’t fully charge the battery; keep it at 30% charge or less. This way the battery isn’t at its full energy potential.
*Pack the Li-Po battery in a fire proof bag! Some airlines won’t even let you travel without these bags.
What bag will you be packing your drone in? Most companies design bags to perfectly fit your drone and accessories and keep them safe. Look for bags that fit all of this PLUS other carry-on items you need. Airlines don’t allow more than one carry-on, and you don’t want to have to check your drone.
Make sure it:
Fits drone equipment and all other personal items
Having a compact drone for travel is so convenient. Check out our review on the Mavic Pro. It’s so portable and so easy to travel with.
At the Airport
You and your drone made it through TSA security. And you get to the plane, and the airline tells you, you can’t board with the drone. It is the airline’s choice to let you on the plane or not with a drone.
To prepare for this, you can print out the FAA rules and regulations, and prove you have are within all safety measurements.
Customs and Fees
Since custom agents in foreign counties might try to hold your drone for a fee, you need to be prepared. Usually, they take a fee that’s a percentage of the drone’s value. You can bring a receipt to show the value of a drone. OR you can lie about the price. Because if it’s a $1000 drone, you could pay hundreds of dollars. If they don’t know the value, you can say it’s $50 and save a lot of money.
A carnet is like a passport for your goods. Filling this out shows customs you are not taking the drone into the country to sell it. It is also proof that you came in with the drone and when you leave, you still have it.
Make sure you have at least 2 hours in between layovers. You need enough time if you have to go through customs again.
Arrive to the airport earlier than normal. The chance of you being held-up because of the drone is likely. But don’t be nervous! Stay friendly and patient. It will help the process.
If you have any other tips and personal experiences when traveling with a drone, please comment below! There are new and unique circumstances that arise and we want our drone community to know and learn. You can find GREAT information on drone travel in specific countries on YouTube.