You un-wrap your new drone, charge up the batteries and can’t wait to head off on your first vacation with your new tech toy? But before testing it under the open skies of your intended destination, there are a few tips for travelling with your drone.
You do need to be properly prepared to travel with the device in order to get the aerial shots of the most gorgeous landscapes out there. There are a few things that you need to keep in mind before you take the ‘flight’.
Research the drone laws and regulations of your destination
You need to check the rules and regulations regarding flying with your drone but remember there are two parts to this: the airline, and the destination. If you are flying internationally, your drone may not be welcome. You have to check if it’s even legal to carry your drone to this different country. It is possible that your drone will be confiscated at customs. It may or may not be returned to you at the end of your trip upon leaving the country on your return flight.
There are also countries which have no drone-specific laws, even now. The absence of drone laws doesn’t necessarily mean you can fly wherever or however you like—in fact, it could mean that authorities will be generally opposed to the use of drones, especially by tourists. We would suggest you check all the rules and regulations beforehand as there exists no single database on drone laws per country. However, some research will let you know whether it is legal to fly at your destination and if it is what are the limitations.
Get a proper case for your drone
You need to buy a sturdy case specially moulded for your drone and make sure it can be locked with a lock pad or combination to avoid any potential theft. It’s also better to get a bag that fits easily in the overhead compartment, and you don’t have to worry about it getting beaten or thrown by baggage handlers.
Pro Tip: As drones are expensive and fragile, there is also the chance that a checked bag could be put on the wrong plane and be delayed. So carry on is the way to go.
Know your batteries
Since most drones are powered by lithium-ion (LIPO) batteries, you need to follow hazardous materials regulations while you are flying with your drone and batteries. The lithium polymer batteries are a legitimate fire risk so be sure that you follow the airline rules regarding their transportation as there are typically restrictions on the number of batteries and where they should be stored in your luggage. These batteries should be stored in your carry-on baggage. So, if you check-in your drone for your flight, take the batteries out of the case (including the one in the drone) and carry them with you in your carry-on. This is because bags in the passenger cabin aren’t stored in a pressurized environment, and temperatures won’t fluctuate as much as it does in the check-in luggage. Moreover, with your bag in an overhead compartment, airline staff can respond quickly in an emergency.
Watt-hours of the Battery
Now, while packing LIPO batteries in your carry-on baggage, you’ll need to know the watt-hours (Wh) of your battery as the flying rules for batteries depend on it. Most batteries will have their capacity in watt-hours already marked on the label. Sometimes this is not available but can be calculated from the volts and the amp-hours values. Be sure to check aviation administration regulations in the country to which you’re travelling and check your airline’s rules.
Carry a repair kit and extra propellers
The last thing you want to happen while on vacation is an accident that causes damage to your drone. However, it may happen and having a small drone repair kit which contains some basic repair tools (duct tape and a small screwdriver) for your drone and a few extra propellers (as they are usually the first casualty after a crash).
You can either make your own repair kit, or you can simply buy a small drone repair kit that has the tools that you may need to get you back to flying.
Getting through Airport Security
One of the biggest potential worries you will have while travelling with drones is airport security. Be polite and try not to create a fuss during the security checking. Offer to show them the drone and batteries when passing through screening and answer any questions they have.
Pro Tip: Batteries are usually the main concern so keep them separate for quick and easy inspection. You will get through security faster by putting the batteries in their own bin. This will reduce the chances of delays as the large batteries might get flagged inside your bag.
Always practice before travel
Schedule your day with some flexible downtime between sights because the chances are that you might need it to fly your drone safely. While there is now an increased number of smart features on drones, that doesn’t mean that they are getting easy to fly and foolproof. So, we suggest you learn and practice flying your drone before you decide to take your new tech toy on your next trip.
Do not make your first maiden flight while you are on vacation because if you accidentally crash, you may be saying goodbye to your precious drone. Even if you have previous drone flying experience, it wouldn’t hurt to practice a few flight paths that are similar to how you would fly while on vacation.
Scout your location and work on the flight plan
It is a good idea to have an idea of where you are going to fly before you get there. Scout the place ahead of time which will help you in getting the idea of the scenery, hazards, and what you want to capture as images or video. Before you send your drone up in a new location, scouting will help you in planning your flight path. Pay attention to how windy the location is or the Magnetic Interference at the location. You wouldn’t want your drone to be accidentally blown away due to a wind gust; or to crash due to the radio interference, right? Therefore, get an efficient plan to avoid obstacles.
Remember these few tips while travelling with your drone and do let us know about experiences below!