Flying commercially with a drone in your luggage can be a daunting process. The FAA is seen as very strict with what can, and cannot, be placed in your bags. In reality, the FAA has only a handful of rules that apply to packed drones – mostly in regards to the lithium ion batteries used to power the drone. While those are the only hard and fast rules, there are still best practices that a traveling drone pilot can adhere to. These best practices ensure a quick trip through security and the avoidance of delays.
The FAA’s lithium ion battery regulations require anyone traveling by air to carry their lithium ion batteries with them as a carry-on. The batteries cannot be checked, and further, must be of a ‘consumer’ size. The size is determined by their watt hour, with anything below 100 considered to be ‘consumer grade.’ The FAA has made an allotment of two batteries of a size between 101 and 160 watt hours. Therefore, even if a traveling pilot decides to check their drone, they must carry the batteries with them. When separated from their device, and certainly when carried in tandem, battery terminals should be protected to avoid creating a complete circuit. This can be done with storage cases, separate storage locations or simply tape across the terminals.
If the pilot intends to bring the entire drone with them as a carry-on, they should have the batteries ready and available to place in a separate bin. Much like laptops and other consumer electronics, the FAA prefers to get an unobstructed view to ensure safety and security. While not strictly necessary, failing to separate the batteries for a drone could result in delays and further inspections at the security check point.
Drone training courses cover the FAA regulations that restrict pilots both during flight and during travel. After all, one of the benefits of receiving a drone pilot license is being able to commercially operate a drone anywhere in the USA. While the drone pilot license test covers only the restrictions and regulations pertaining to Part 107, drone training covers many of the day to day scenarios that pilots will have to deal with.