The DJI Phantom surrounded by several other pieces of camera equipment that are often the subject of the TSA's attention

All about drones on airplanes.

Featured Image: Jetpack Insider

With the rising popularity of photography, due in part to platforms like Instagram, upmarket cameras are having an ever-increasing presence in extra-national travel. Long has the DSLR been the must-have travel companion. But, recently a newcomer with a reasonable price tag has entered the market – consumer photographer drones.

Drone’s and quadcopter’s have existed for nearly a century. But, only recently have they become accessible and affordable to the common consumer. Following the release of the ‘Parrot AR Drone’ in 2010 and subsequent creation of offshoot companies like DJI, the use of drones by hobbyists soared.

It did not take long for drones to become the favoured accomplice of tourists and photographers alike whilst abroad. 

Today (2018), airplanes have never seen a higher concentration of long-haired, bandana straddling dinky dories cradling their fancy cameras and drones or well-dressed, well-groomed Asians with a burning desire for social media stardom and a wallet to support it.

Your typical camera set up, the DSLR or point-and-shoot, are the norm. They have long held a presence in the minds of aviation regulators, whom have regulated and adapted to the ‘threats’ they pose. Most nations have adopted and accepted them across their boarders – although there are still some less than desirable destinations that may raise a fuss.

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The Parrot AR Drone was released in 2010, as the first drone with a consumer-friendly interface.

Source: geek.com

The general rule-of-thumb for air travel with handheld cameras and gear that is not of an excessive amount is:

Bring it in your carry-on bag. And, accept that you may be pulled aside for a ‘random inspection’ .

In all fairness, most airports will not hassle you beyond a bit of a post-TSA rummage through your belongs. (Though, few airports are concerned enough to raise said concern).

With that being said, there are some pieces of photography gear that may draw unwanted attention. Namely, drones. Drones are still a recent entry in the market. Many nations have been quick to lump them in with traditional camera gear, although others have not.

Travelling with drones.

Travelling with drones tends to raise much concern in people. Can I bring my drone into country X? What if I’m stopped at the airport? What if my drone is confiscated? What if [insert any variation of a terrible event that could befall an individual and their drone]?

Maybe its the price tag. Maybe it stems from the large amount of misinformation out there. Or maybe it stems from something completely unbeknown to myself. Whatever the answer, the status of drones should not be seen as all that different to conventional cameras. The only difference is perception.



When DSLR cameras were first introduced to the market, there was the same kind of response from aviation regulators. The same kind of hysteria in the general public. And, the same amount of misinformation. But, now that they have become established as a common item, you will scarcely receive a second look when attempting to clear TSA.

As time progresses, drones will eventually be viewed in the same manner. In many countries they already are. However, this perception does need addressing if you are hoping to bring your drone into a country legally.

Drones are still a relatively new product. Some nations, specifically their ports of entry, are still adjusting. While regulation does vary across the world, if you consider two points, you will not encounter any undesired interactions.

Not all countries accept drones.

In this article I have attempted to hammer-home the point that most countries show little concern fro drones. However, this is perhaps counterintuitive because 15 countries have completely banned the import and use of drones and around that same amount have highly restrictive regulation that is tantamount to a ban.

For example, India does not allow drones into their boarders. Their offical position is one of regulating for safety, although it has amounted to a flat-out ban. Through excessive restrictions and bureaucratic nonsense, drones are outlawed. (However, you can still smuggle drones into India relatively easy).

Most of the countries with complete bans tend to be less-than-desireable locations, such as Syria. Although you may find yourself at least one of the more popular locations on ban list, such as Dubai and Morocco. For this reason, a little research before departure is recommendable.



If you are uncertain on the status of drones in the country you are visiting, websites like UAV Coach have an extensive listing of drone laws compartmentalised by country. An alternative option would be to check a country’s’ aviation regulatory agencies website, such as the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) in the USA, as laws do tend to come-and-go with little public consultation or notification.

Lithium Ion batteries can be hazardous.

You are now equipped with the necessary tools to discern if a country you intend to travel to allows drones. But, can you discern if the country you intend to travel to allows lithium ion batteries.

Most drones, at least any worth their salt, utilise Lithium Ion batteries (LIB).

With technology being firmly directed at smaller and more powerful systems, the LIB has filled the gap by offering a higher energy density over most traditional batteries. However, the shortcomings of the LIB system were overlooked in the utilisation of said battery.

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Few airlines allow more than 3 DJI drone batteries on-board.

Source: DroneUplift

The design of the LIB resulted in high energy density, but also, among several issues, higher instability, which requires constant mitigation measures in the form of a protective cover against short circuiting.

For this reason, drone batteries can only be brought on an airplane in your carry-on baggage where they can be monitored and a protective casing can be verified by airport person ell. (Drone batteries are widely consider uninstalled batteries, as opposed to installed batteries, which carry more lenient regulations and may, in certain cases, be carried in checked luggage).

But, it is always best to place batteries in your carry-on baggage. If not to at least ensure their safety – have you ever seen how baggage handlers actually handle baggage?

Furthermore, most airplanes allow no more than three 100-watt hour drone batteries per passenger and only two batteries over 100-watt hours – most consumer drones, including DJI Phantoms’, fit into the first category.

Travelling abroad by air with a drone-in-pack is rarely a difficult task. Most airlines and airports have or are nearing accustomization. Just be attentive, do your research and you and your drone will return home unmarked and in one piece.

What country(s) have you had issues bringing a drone into?

For some of those common sense, drone water-safety reads, check out:

Is the DJI Mavic Pro waterproof? (Underwater for 4 hours)

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