Traveling on airlines with your drone and batteries – What are the rules?
The popularity of drones is snowballing. The newer DJI Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Air 2, and Mini 2 drones are easily accessible to the masses for recreation and commercial use. The Official DJI Owners Facebook Group has grown to 114,000 members. Heck, the Mavic Mini is now for sale in Costco. An immense new rush of drone operators has entered the airspace in just the past month.
With this rapid growth, there is a resurrection of confusion about rules and safety procedures.
Here is a simplified “field guide” that you will find useful when traveling by air throughout the United States. This blog is not to be taken as legal advice. It is straightforward information whittled down from the latest posts by the FAA, TSA, and eCRF (electronic code of federal regulations).
First and foremost, there is no rule against bringing any DJI drone on a commercial airliner in either checked luggage, or carry-on, as long as the case size falls within the required limitations. Drone airframes are not the issue; batteries are the issue that may cause alarm by TSA, FAA, and airline officials.
#1 – FAA — Federal Aviation Administration rules:
Pack Safe: Portable Electronic Devices Containing Batteries (Last updated May 2018)
Batteries Carried by Airlines Passengers: Frequently Asked Questions (Last updated Sept 2016)
#2 – TSA — Transportation Security Administration rules:
The Top Five Items People Ask About (Last updated Aug 2018)
#3 – eCFR – Electronic Code of Federal Regulations:
Carriage by Aircraft: Exceptions for Passengers (Last updated Jan 2021)
Here is a simplified summary of rules by the three agencies listed above:
- Commercial Airline passengers in the USA are permitted to carry on an unlimited number
of Lithium-Ion Polymer (LiPo) batteries that are marked less than 100 Wh (Watt-Hours), as long as the batteries are for personal (including professional) use, and not for re-distribution or re-sale.
Mavic 2 Pro battery energy = 59.29 Wh
Mavic Air 2 battery energy = 40.42 Wh
Mini 2 battery energy = 17.32 Wh
Mavic Mini battery energy = 17.28 Wh
- Each battery must be discharged to a level of 30% or less and individually wrapped in a plastic bag, pouch, or packaged in the original packaging with exposed terminals covered (electrical tape is suggested).
- All such batteries must be carried on by hand, or in a carry-on case in the passenger cabin, and not placed in checked baggage in the cargo hold.
- If you have batteries properly stored in your carry-on, and you are requested by an airline agent or flight attendant to gate-check your carry-on, then you must take the batteries out of the gate-check bag and keep them in your possession in the passenger cabin.
- The final decision rests with TSA on whether to allow any items through airport security.
- The final decision rests with the aircraft’s pilot in command (captain) as to whether your batteries (or anything else) are permitted on his/her aircraft, should that question ever arise.
Please take these rules seriously, and enjoy your flight.