How to Travel With Your Drone
Part of what’s drawing people toward becoming professional drone pilots and aerial photographers is the chance to capture the world’s most incredible scenery and get paid while doing it. It’s a dream that many aspire to, but there’s one small problem: Not everyone is lucky enough to have spectacular landscapes in their neighborhood. And we don’t all live in New Zealand or have potential clients within a 5-minute drive.
So there’s no getting away from it. If you want to make a success of your drone business, at some point you’ll have to hit the road and travel with your drone. But how easy is it to get on a plane with your drone? And what kind of precautions should you take when crossing borders as a drone pilot?
Get a case that’s up to the job
It goes without saying that your drone needs to be securely stored. Whether you’re taking a flight or packing your drone into the trunk of a car, making sure that you’ve got a decent case is the first step you should take before travel.
Ideally you’re looking for something sturdy with padded insides, which will protect your drone from the inevitable bumps during transport. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination with the tools of your trade in pieces. Most manufacturers offer bespoke cases to fit their drones, but if you’re flying with more than one model you might want to look for something more versatile. As long as it’s a hard case, you should be fine.
Check local regulations before you travel with your drone
Drone regulations around the world are fast changing and confusing at the best of times, so preparation is the key to ensuring things go smoothly. If you’re traveling within the US there shouldn’t be any issues, providing you’ve got the relevant license and are obeying FAA rules in full.
If you’re traveling further afield, it’s a sensible idea to check the local regulations before you leave home. There are plenty of stories of pilots arriving in exotic destinations only to receive fines or have their drones confiscated at the airport.
UAVCoach offers an extensive list of drone regulations by country. It’s well worth checking out the rules before you accept an offer for a job abroad or plan any international trips for aerial photography. You should be fine, but there’s a chance you will need to obtain a special license prior to arrival. Do your homework.
Flying with LiPo Batteries: Know what you’re doing
Most of the popular quadcopters on the market today run on LiPo batteries. As with the above, different countries will have different regulations regarding their transportation. But the general consensus is that they should always be in your hand luggage.
Lithium batteries carry a small risk of spontaneous combustion, and as such aren’t allowed to be checked in as hold luggage by most airlines. To lower the risk it’s advised that you travel with your LiPo batteries drained of charge. Ensure that your batteries are stowed in fireproof bags, such as LiPo Guard, and safely kept with you at all times.
As this kind of thing is usually at the discretion of the officials you are dealing with at airport security, all you can do is prove that you know what you’re doing and make it clear that you understand the risks involved. You could even go as far as printing off some ‘Lithium Ion/Polymer Rechargeable Batteries Inside’ labels and sticking them onto your fireproof bags.
Take the right accessories with you
There’s nothing more frustrating than being grounded because you’re missing a part and forgot to bring a spare. Accidents happen, so it’s a good idea to travel with extra propellers and batteries, as well as the tools you need to repair your drone if things go wrong.
Apart from a strong bag, spare batteries and spare parts, traveling with your drone can be a lot more fun if you’ve got the right gear to take your flights to the next level. Consider taking an FPV kit with you to see your flights from a totally different perspective, and think about investing in a dedicated monitor, such as DJI’s soon to be released CrystalSky. Both will give you more high-quality detail and in-flight visual feedback than you’ve had before.
Not all accessories have to take up room in your bags. There are plenty of apps you can download to help your drone missions on the road go as smoothly as possible. From pre-flight checks apps, such as the DJI pre-flight Checklist, to photography aids like Sun Surveyor, which lets you predict how the light will fall at an exact location and time of day.
Whether you are traveling with your drone for work, play or a combination of the two, getting your trip insured could save you a lot of time and money in the long run.
Conventional travel insurance policies will differ in terms of covering accidental damage, theft and everything in between. Your best bet is to arrange coverage that’s been designed by a legitimate drone insurance broker. That way you can get bespoke cover that applies to the flights you are planning to take, whether they are recreational or commercial. This can be done with on-demand insurance services such as Verifly, or more standard coverage from operators such as UAV Protect.
How to travel with your drone
Traveling with your drone doesn’t have to be a stressful experience fraught with uncertainty. These simple suggestions will help to make your life as a pilot easier, but they are by no means exhaustive. As long as you get the basics right by making sure your equipment arrives safely, take everything you need to get the most out of your chosen destination, and follow local legislation to the letter, traveling with your drone should be a breeze.
Learn more about becoming a DroneBase Pilot, wherever you are, at www.dronebase.com/pilots and make sure to subscribe to our newsletter if you want to know when we publish more articles like this!