The logistics of traveling with your drone on a vacation or business trip are simplified with a little preparation. I’ll outline battery bags, backpacks, and carrying cases in this article. First, let’s cover the FAA’s position on those Lithium-Polymer (Li-Po) batteries:
FAA requirements (49 CFR 175.10(a)(18)) state that:
- Each battery must have short circuit protection.
- Spare batteries must be carried in the cabin (not checked).
- For less than 100 Watt-Hours (W-Hr) per battery, there is no limit on the number for personal use. (With permission from the carrier, up to 2 batteries can be carried with up to 160 W-Hrs per battery.)
- Always discharge your batteries to 10-15%.
- The W-Hr rating is typically stamped on the battery. For older batteries, the FAA calculates the W-Hr rating by multiplying the battery’s voltage by its Amp-Hr rating.
- Some example batteries: Phantom 3 batteries are rated at 68 W-Hrs and Phantom 4 batteries are rated at 81 W-Hrs.
I recommend a Li-Po fire-resistant carrying bag, such as those made by Lipo Guard. Not only a wise investment for traveling, it also provides a safe enclosure for charging.
How to select a backpack or carrying case:
Start with your drone’s dimensions, including all accessories that you plan to pack. That will be your minimum requirement. Your maximum requirement is the size restriction for your commercial carrier – typically an airline. The restrictions I’ve come across:
- Personal item dimensions: maximum of 18x14x8 in (typical for under the seat stowage). UPDATE – United Airlines’ stricter dimensions just went into effect: 17x10x9 in. Always check!
- Carry-on bag dimensions: maximum of 45 in L+W+H (I’ve also seen 22x14x9).
- Your carrier may charge a fee for a carry-on bag, but no one charges for personal items.
If you’re so inclined, then go with a hard case and check it through to your destination. The advantage of a hard case is that everything is well-protected and much more accessible. Some hard cases don’t even require you to remove the propellers; although I always do. Checked bag max dimensions are typically 62 in L+W+H. Checked bag fees may apply.
Once you’ve listed your requirements, it will be much easier to select a case that meets your needs and suits your style. Personally, I prefer a hard case for travel by car and a compact (personal item size) backpack for travel by air.