Many photographers and videographers grapple with the question. This is especially when going abroad. This piece offers incredible tips on how to go about it.
Drones have evolved to become great travel companions, especially for photographers, videographers, travel enthusiasts, and writers. With a drone, you can capture amazing sceneries that would otherwise be impossible with just a handheld camera.
From waterfalls, deserts, highways, hills to jungles, this device comes in handy in preserving good memories. Moreover, it unveils magnificent views from unique and different angles.
However, prior preparation and understanding of drone laws are essential before you decide to travel with one.
From different country laws to airline policies and ways of packing and carrying drone accessories while traveling, you need to make yourself familiar with some of these standard practices.
Luckily, this piece on how to travel with a portable drone can help you get all aspects of traveling with this device.
Let’s dive in…
Tips on how to Travel with a Drone
1. Invest in a Travel-friendly Drone
Different manufacturers have come up with different drone sizes and shapes. For example, DJI, a popular manufacturer of the Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro models, makes small and big drones.
Phantom 4 has a bigger size than the Mavic Pro model. That makes it challenging to carry while traveling across multiple countries.
Though it’s an amazing drone for footage, you cannot pack it in a carry-on bag, and will require a bigger case which can take up much space of your luggage allowance.
On the other hand, the Mavic Pro is super-compact which makes it ideal for travel. You can fold it into a small package and fit it in a carry-on bag.
This means that size is a key determinant of traveling with a drone.
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2. Buy a Suitable Case
Drones are pretty fragile and expensive. If you want to ensure that it gets to your travel destination in one piece, the case you use matters.
How you carry the drone depends on several factors, like the airline policies and the size of the drone. For example, Emirates requires passengers to use carry-on baggage to carry their drones.
The size of the drone determines how you pack and travel with it. Smaller ones, such as Spark by DJI, are compact enough to fit in protective carry-on baggage. On the other hand, larger drones like DJI MAVIC Pro will require a bigger case.
When traveling, it is recommended to take a compact size drone that you can have as carry-on luggage. You can consider using a camera bag like Tahoe BP 150 by LowerPro. Alternatively, also consider a carrying case like DJI Drone Hard Case.
However, if you must travel with a big drone such as Phantom 4, use a durable protective case like the Waterproof Drone Case by Case Club.
This helps ensure increased safety as you have no guarantee how it will be held or stored. Also, it helps minimize the risk of bumps and knocks during travel.
Depending on the legal or airline requirements, the storage of a drone and its accessories should follow certain restrictions. Most airlines require you to have accessories in a separate bag from the drone.
Also, as a protective tip, pack any stored media like recorded images and videos in a separate case. This way, you’ll have your media safe in case you, unfortunately, lose the drone during travel.
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3. Learn Drone Laws of Where You are Going
Can you travel internationally with a drone? Yes, you sure can. However, learning how you should move with your drone internationally is the first step.
Before you travel, find out more about drone laws for every country you will be traveling to. As drones grow in popularity, different countries are finding it important to develop legal measures to govern their use.
Not everybody is allowed to fly drones, and certainly not every place allows it. So, understand the laws governing drone use in the country you intend to go to and respect them when you get there.
If you plan to travel with a drone, first do the due diligence to understand the local drone laws applicable in the country you’re going to. Some countries have completely banned the use of drones, and others allow them but with restrictions.
For instance, flying drones is allowed in Norway, but you can only use it outside of national parks. On the other hand, merely owning a drone in Egypt is enough to get you arrested.
Before you go to any country, regularly check their restrictions as they keep on getting updated. What you knew last year might no longer be true this year.
Then, confirm whether you’re required to register your drone with any authority like the Nations’ Civil Aviation Authority. In some places, this takes time, but it’s important to have the paperwork sorted before you start using your drone.
Finally, check if there are special insurance policies regarding the flying of drones commercially or for recreational purposes in that country. For example, in the US, you don’t need to have insurance to fly a drone, but you must have liability insurance to fly a commercial drone in Canada.
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4. Put Safety First
When flying a drone, safety should come first. Mind the people, animals, and delicate objects around, particularly when launching and landing a drone.
Avoid flying them in a crowded place like on a beach. Not only does it invade personal privacy, but most laws prohibit flying drones over people and animals. Remember, it may also run into difficulty and crash and cause harm.
Animals can get scared as the sound is stressful to them. Larger birds like seagulls may attack the drone when it’s too close. So, make sure you keep a distance from them.
Avoid flying drones when it’s cold or above freezing temperatures. That’s because if it gets too cold, the drone may interpret this as battery low and dropdown. In cold regions, always keep the battery in a warm place.
Finally, take advantage of the best times to shoot it, like early in the morning, after sunrise, after sunset, or late in the evening. You’ll get the best light for shooting at such times, and there will be few people around.
Before you fly it over private property, always seek permission, even in your hotel.
If the locals become curious and ask questions, be ready to answer them respectfully. Keep in mind that a drone can be scary, especially to someone who has never come across one before.
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5. Have a Flight Plan!
Before sending a drone up to a new place, you should have a flight plan. Besides crashing your drone by hitting it against trees, power lines, buildings, or other large objects, you may encounter magnetic interference.
Magnetic interference occurs when radio signals interfere with your drone communications. Luckily, some drones like DJI ones warn of magnetic interference even before the drone takes off.
Therefore, take note of the area before you allow it to go up to capture any footage. Consider using the Photopills (Android / iOS) or Google Earth apps to plan the flights.
Also, fly your drones away from large antennas or avoid industrial areas. Ensure you have a wide-open space enough for taking the flight. Take your time to plan and set up the flight to not miss beautiful captures because of interferences.
Besides planning the flight, maintain the line of sight. Don’t let the drone go where your eyes cannot see. With direct video streaming, you can have a first-person mode. But without it, you need to keep your eyes on the drone all the time.
Don’t try to catch your device, as even a small wind gust can see you harm your fingertip. So, always keep an eye on the drone and ground it when it gets windy to avoid accidents.
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6. Carry Repair Tools and Extra Propellers
Drones crash pretty easily. Therefore, have a basic repair kit. When traveling, bring along a few repair tools and propellers for your drone. A spare battery will also be very important during your trip.
This way, you won’t interfere with your adventures due to a minor crash. You will have the drone back up in the air within no time and continue taking beautiful images and videos of your travel destinations.
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7. Use Neutral Density (ND) Filters
Other must-haves when traveling with a drone are the neutral density (ND) filters. ND filters offer you the versatility to capture images and videos in conditions that would otherwise be less than ideal. ND filters offer you more control over your shots.
The shutter speed matters if you want to attain a balanced exposure, especially in bright sunlight. With drones, the footage quality decreases when the shutter speed increases. An ND filter helps create motion blur and lengthen the shutter speed.
Good examples of ND filters include Smatree Filters and Freewell VND Filters.
8. Understand the Airline Policies
While most airlines don’t restrict carrying a drone, there are some differences in policy. Some allow if you take it as a carry-on item, and for others, it must be taken in the hold.
For example, the Emirates requires one to transport them as check-in luggage. If you use a carry-on case, make sure you understand the ideal carry-on size and weights.
Drones are considered a potential flight threat due to the fact that they are powered by lithium-ion batteries. Lithium batteries can release a huge amount of heat and energy in a thermal event, shock, or short-circuit accident.
In America, The Transportation Security Administration is responsible for airport security. Because of this, you will find most airlines require LIPO batteries to be less than 160 watts. Most small consumer drone batteries have less than 100 Wh of capacity, but make sure to check to avoid any disappointments.
As a US citizen, you have the option to register your drone to avoid problems when you come back with the same drone.
Most airlines recommend carrying the drone in carry-on luggage to protect it from loading and unloading damages. Also, it’s easier to alert the crews in case of battery fire which will help them deal with the issue quickly and efficiently.
The DJI Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro fly for 20 to 30 minutes on average per battery. Then, it takes an hour to fully charge the drained battery.
Therefore, having spare drone batteries is important as you can still use the drone when the other is charging. However, understand the airline’s policies as most only allow you to carry two spare batteries.
For most airlines, you should cover the lithium battery terminals with tape to prevent coming into contact with a metallic object or use a fireproof case.
Storing and transporting drone batteries in a fireproof charging bag, also called a LiPo guard battery bag, is necessary for additional safety.
For example, this one from COLCASE will be an ideal one.
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9. Be Friendly to Airport Security!
Dealing with airport security can be a huge headache, especially if you fail to cooperate. So, always be polite and let them know in advance you are carrying a drone and batteries during screening. Be ready to answer all the questions they may have.
If you have it in a carry-on bag, let the security know. You may be asked to present them when passing through security, just like it happens with many other electrical items. That means you should be ready to remove it from your luggage and reveal them at security checks.
Readily display the batteries in a separate tray to make the checks quicker. This will save you enough time to relax ahead of your flight.
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Flying a drone can add an extra layer of excitement to your travels, but it’s important to know the basics before taking off. By following these tips, you’ll be able to safely enjoy capturing aerial footage of your destinations without any mishaps.
Can you travel with a drone on a plane?
Yes, you can travel with a drone on a plane, but there are some restrictions. You will need to check with your airline to see if they allow drones on the plane, and there may be the size and weight restrictions. You will also need to pack the drone in a hard-shell case for protection. Lipo batteries also need to be packed according to the airport authority guidelines
Can you bring drone batteries on a plane?
Yes, you can bring drone batteries on a plane. However, you will need to follow the TSA’s guidelines for packing lipo batteries.
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