It’s great to take a drone with you on vacation so flying with a drone in your luggage is something that a lot of travelers are interested in.
But are drones allowed on planes?
Complications arise mainly because of the rules around bringing batteries on a plane. Not all airlines have the same rules about lithium batteries and hence the rules about flying with drones are vary across airlines.
The post will help you learn how to travel with a drone. Let’s get started.
Tsa Drone Rules & Regulations
The airport security checkpoint is run by the Transportation Security Administration. Here is what they have to say about taking a drone on an airplane.
Can you take a drone in your carry-on?
Drones are allowed through the security checkpoint. The TSA doesn’t see drones as a threat but advises that you check with your airline about their drone policy.
Most airlines have specific regulations about drone battery size. Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries are a fire risk and not all airlines have exactly the same battery policies. That’s why you need to check with your airline about bringing your drone on the plane. See more below about airline drone policies..
Keith on Twitter asked the TSA how to travel with his 2 DJI drones.
The TSA says if the airline will allow the drone then remove it from your bag at the x-ray machine and put it in a separate bin for screening. Just like you do with a laptop or any other large personal electronics.
Can you take a drone in checked luggage?
Again, the TSA don’t object to packing drones in checked baggage. However they advise that you check with the airline you are flying with.
Loose spare lithium batteries are always prohibited from hold luggage because of the fire risk. So even if your airline is fine with you packing a drone in your checked suitcase your spare batteries should always be packed in your carry on baggage and the terminals should be covered.
But hold on a second…
It’s rarely a good idea to pack anything valuable in checked baggage. Checked suitcases can be lost or delayed. There is also the risk of damage or theft.
This passenger had his $3000 drone stolen from his checked suitcase.
Even if your airline permits drones in checked baggage think carefully before you take the risk. Unless your drone is so large that it cannot qualify as a carry-on it’s almost always best to pack drones in carry-on luggage.
Okay let’s see what the airlines in the US have to say about traveling with drones on planes.
Airline Policies About Drones On Airplanes
Here are the drone policies for airlines based in the United States. Pay attention to the battery size limits. Some airlines only allow batteries under 100 wh and others allow you to bring 2 batteries between 100 and 160 wh.
If you are flying with an international airline then check with them about their drone policies. Remember there are some countries where you are not even permitted to be in possession of a drone. If you try to enter Morocco with a drone it might be confiscated so check for any local laws at your destination.
Alaska Airlines Drone Policy
You can take a drone on a plane with Alaska Airlines. Drone batteries must be packed in carry-on baggage and they must be under 100 watt hours. Alaska recommend that you pack your drone and batteries in a bag that will fit under the seat in front of you.
Allegiant Air Drone Policy
You can’t bring a drone on a plane if you are flying with Allegiant Airline.
American Airlines Drone Policy
American Airlines say you can take a drone on the plane if it is under the carry-on size limit and the drone battery is not greater than 160 wh (watt hours).
Delta Air Lines Drone Policy
Delta doesn’t mention drones on their website. I took a look on Twitter and noticed Sarah asking if she could pack her DJI drone on a Delta flight.
Delta replied that you can take a drone as a carry-on assuming it is under the carry-on size limit of 22 x 14 x 9 inches. The battery size can be 160 wh on Delta flights and 100 wh on other connecting flights.
They also want to point out that you can’t fly your drone when your on the plane. Sure it would be a great way to pass the time and annoy the flight attendants but flying a drone up and down the aircraft cabin is frowned upon!
Frontier Airlines Drone Policy
Frontier doesn’t include a carry-on allowance on their basic fare. You are only permitted to bring one personal item size under-seat bag. It costs extra to bring a carry-on.
If you are bringing your drone in it’s own bag then you might need to pay extra for a carry-on allowance.
Frontier doesn’t mention drones specifically. They do say that passengers can only bring 2 lithium-ion batteries.
Hawaiian Airlines Drone Policy
Hawaiian allow you to bring a drone on a plane. They want you to remove batteries from the drone and you can only bring 2 lithium-ion batteries.
JetBlue Drone Policy
JetBlue let’s you bring unlimited batteries under 100 wh and two spare batteries that are under 160 wh. The size limit for under the seat is 17 x 13 x 8 inches if you are planning on bringing a separate drone carrying case.
Southwest Airlines Drone Policy
Southwest talk about taking a drone on a plane in their section on Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs).
Drones are allowed in carry-on luggage. You can bring a maximum of 20 spare drone batteries under 100 wh and two spare batteries that are between 100 and 160 wh. Make sure each battery is individually protected from short circuiting.
Spirit Airlines Drone Policy
Taking your drone is possible on a Spirit Airlines flight.
As a low cost airline Spirit only allow you to bring one under seat bag on their basic fare. If you can’t fit your drone in this one bag you’ll need to purchase a carry-on allowance.
You cannot bring any spare drone batteries larger than 100 wh on a Spirit flight. You can bring “a reasonable number” of batteries that are under 100 wh. Which I suspect means you can bring drone batteries for personal use but don’t bring a box full of them.
United Airlines Drone Policy
United allow you to bring a drone in your carry-on but the battery cannot exceed 100 wh.
Traveling with a drone is pretty simple. Pack the drone and it’s batteries in carry-on luggage. A drone bag that can fit under the seat might be suitable unless you are flying with a low-cost airline.
You can generally bring as many batteries that are under 100 wh as you like. And two batteries that are under 160 wh. Check with the airline you are flying with. If you can’t find anything written about drones specifically then check what the airline says about flying with lithium-ion LiPo batteries since this is the area of concern.
If you are crazy enough to risk it you can pack a drone in checked luggage. Kiss it goodbye because you might never see it again.
Never pack spare lithium batteries in checked luggage. If there was a fire in the hold caused by the battery nobody would be around to put it out.
When you reach airport security take the drone out and put it in it’s own bin for screening by the TSA officers.
Remember even if your airline bans drones (Lookin at you Allegiant) it’s the TSA that actually checks your luggage.
Allegiant can ban drones in hand luggage but they never actually look inside your hand luggage. I’ll let you do the math on that one.
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