This has come up a lot lately because of holiday travel, but is a frequent question: How does one travel via airplane (from here on out, I’m just going to say fly) with their drone batteries?
The short version is: discharged, with a cap, in a LiPo Bag, as part of your carry on.
The long version is below the cut, and isn’t much longer. Both versions come with the following disclaimers:
- I’m not a lawyer
- This mostly applies to the US
- This could change two minutes after I post it, so double check anyway.
OK, let’s get travelling!
So my two primary sources here are the FAA and this handy dandy resource as well as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and their own handy dandy resource. For the sake of discussing things with people at the gate, I recommend printing both resources out ahead of time.
The real limit for “spare” batteries – batteries not actively plugged in to the device – is that you’re limited to 100 watt hours per battery, and must be protected from damage, short circuit, accidental activation, and heat generation.
Spares are only allowed in your carry on baggage. They are not allowed in your checked baggage. To comply with the safety requirements, make sure you have some sort of cap or cover over the plugs for the batteries – especially the main plug – and that the batteries are at storage voltage in a fireproof LiPo bag.
There is a limit of 100 watt hours per battery. To figure out the Wh of the battery, simply multiply the amp hours (Ah) by the volts of the battery. For those unfamiliar with metric, 1000 mAh = 1 Ah).
So by S rating, your limit per battery is:
- 1S: 27.027 Amps / 27027 mAmps
- 2S: 13.513 Amps / 13513 mAmps
- 3S: 9.009 Amps / 9009 mAmps
- 4S: 6.756 Amps / 6756 mAmps
- 5S: 5.405 Amps / 5405 mAmps
- 6S: 4.504 Amps / 4504 mAmps
Err… yeah. So basically your field batteries are iffy. You can also take up to up to two 101-160 Wh batteries in your carry on, but airlines may get a bit more iffy there so get airline approval first.
These limits are also per battery, not per passenger. These limits are also for transporting these batteries for your usage, not for resale.
That’s about it. So discharge, cap the terminals, put them in a LiPo bag, carry on and fly on safely!