What good is having a powerful drone if you can’t take it away with you on your travels? With the increase of battery related incidents, travelling with batteries on planes can be a touchy subject for airliners these days. Today we’re going to clear up some misconceptions about taking your drone batteries away with you on your next adventure.
What does the NZ Law say?
The New Zealand Aviation Security Service explicitly states “spare lithium (ION and metal) batteries must NOT go in check-in luggage under any circumstances“. This rules out any chance of packing drone batteries away in your checked-in luggage. Always pack any spare battery in your carry-on bag for inspection at security. Also, if you’re not sure, it’s better to be safe and carry it on the plane and declare it anyway. After all, they can legally confiscate and dispose of your valuable drone battery at their discretion.
The Aviation Security Service rules also mention a limit of 20 spare batteries on planes per person. Furthermore, these batteries must not exceed 100Wh in power (2 of your 20 can actually be between 100Wh but not over 160Wh). Most drone batteries will not exceed this limit but it’s important to check. To give you an idea of how much this is, a DJI Phantom 4 battery sits at 80Wh. Most 5″ Racing Drone batteries are just under 20Wh.
If your drone battery does not state it’s Watt hour rating, you can calculate it using this simple formula: Power = Ampere Hours x Voltage. You should be able to find these attributes on the label. For example, a 4 cell (15.2V) battery with a capacity of 1500mAh is equal to 15.2 x 1.5 = 22.8Wh.
Related: A guide to Flying Safely and Legally
Securing and storing batteries on planes for travel
If the batteries are new in their original packaging, you are good to go! In any case they’ve been opened or used however, you must wrap the terminals with electrical tape to prevent accidental activation. This might sound a bit over-the-top but in the case something conductive makes contact with the terminals, it can cause big trouble – especially at 30,000 feet.
Before packing them in with your chewing gum and phone charger, be sure to place them in a seperate bag or a protective pouch. This will also make it easier to remove in the event security or flight staff ask to see them.
What do the airlines say?
We’ve compiled the most popular airlines and their specific regulations. Our findings showed that every airline had the same regulations with a maximum of 20 spare batteries at a limit of 100Wh. However, some airlines had different requirements for how your batteries should be stored and what packaging they require.
|Air New Zealand||“The Watt hour (Wh) rating must be clearly marked by the original manufacturer on all lithium batteries.”|
|Jetstar||“No more than 20 spare batteries in total, for personal use, are permitted per passenger. All other battery restrictions still apply.”|
|Qantas||“The battery terminals must be protected e.g. taping over the exposed terminals.”|
|Singapore Airlines||“Spare batteries should be in the original manufacturers packaging. If not, to protect it from damage or short circuit, you should tape across the battery’s metal parts (terminals) or place each battery in its own protective case or plastic bag.”|
|Virgin Australia||“… must be protected against short circuit by, placing in its original retail packaging, placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch or insulating terminals by taping over exposed terminals.”|
The Do’s and Don’ts, A Quick Reference
As always, if you’re unsure, call your airline and ask what they recommend. It’s better to be safe and follow their guides than to have your batteries confiscated!
DO label your drone batteries clearly with their Watt hour rating if they do not already state it.
DO place them in a separate bag or protective pouch.
DO declare them with security or flight staff.
DO tape up the terminals with electrical tape.
DO check with your specific airline before you fly.
DON’T pack batteries in your check-in lugggage.
DON’T bring more than 20 drone batteries in your bag.
DON’T pack batteries with a Watt hour rating of more than 100Wh.