The FAA and U.S. DOT have clarified the travel policy for LiPO batteries – something that drone flyers need to know before traveling.
Lithium ion batteries do carry a risk of fire – incidents reported to the FAA show that some problem comes up at least a couple of times a month. But as it may be more difficult for an airplane crew to deal with a fire when it is in the cargo hold, passengers are required to carry the batteries with them in the cabin.
“This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.
“This IFR prohibits the transport of lithium ion cells or batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft. In addition, the IFR requires lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft,” says the DOT notice.
The full text of the interim final rule (IFR) can be downloaded here. The critical points for drone operators are:
(1) prohibits the transport of lithium ion cells and batteries as cargo on passenger aircraft; (2) requires lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft when not packed with or contained in equipment; and (3) limits the use of alternative provisions for small lithium cell or battery shipments to one package per consignment.
The interim rule issued on February 27 was mandated by theUnited Nation’s International Civil Aviation Organization for all member countries in 2016.
In addition to obeying the regulations and carrying your batteries with you in carry on baggage, there are a few other pointers that will make traveling with your drone easier.
Make sure you understand the regulations in your destination country or state: and if you are traveling for work, you may want to ask your employer for help with this. You can find state regulations here; but local regulations can be hard to track down without contacting the city or park regulators directly. Regulations for other countries may also require research – you should definitely spend some time on forums and websites to figure them out before you go. Some countries may require your drone to be registered in advance of your visit.
Avoid breakage by packing your drone in an appropriate case. It’s worth the investment in a travel case designed for your drone to protect your purchase – and save you from the hassle of repairs on site. Keep it inconspicuous: those designed to look like ordinary backpacks or briefcases may prevent your drone from being targeted for further examination.
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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