It would seem that the war between airline pilots and drone operators has spread beyond FAA task forces and media headlines. Colin Smith of photoshopCAFE knows all of the rules for flying – and flying with – his drone. But he recently got kicked off a Southwest Airlines plane when the airline personnel didn’t.
Smith was boarding a full flight and was asked to check his drone – in a case similar to the one pictured – due to a lack of space in the overhead bins. If Smith had decided to say nothing and let the airline make a mistake, there would have been no problem; but Smith followed the rules and explained to airline personnel that according to FAA rules, Li-po batteries should be carried in the plane and not in cargo.
And in yet another demonstration of the prevailing paranoia over airplanes and drones, the pilot asked that he be kicked off the plane.
The regulation isn’t complicated: the FAA’s “Pack Safe” site states:
Spare (uninstalled) lithium ion and lithium metal batteries must be carried in carry-on baggage only. When a carry-on bag is checked at the gate or at planeside, all spare lithium batteries must be removed from the bag and kept with the passenger in the aircraft cabin. The battery terminals must be protected from short circuit.
In what has turned out to be an embarrassment for Southwest Airlines – at least we hope they’re embarrassed – it turns out that nobody at the airline actually knew the FAA regulation. They didn’t believe Smith even when he showed them the regulation on the FAA website. After missing his flight and dealing with bureaucracy at its worst, Smith eventually got home – and created a video to explain what happened and help other drone owners avoid the issue.
Let’s hope that Southwest makes it required viewing for their pilots, too.
Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
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