How to Travel With a Drone [Complete Step-By-Step Guide]

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how to travel with a drone

Many photographers and videographers grapple with the question. This is especially true when going abroad. This piece offers incredible tips on how to go about it.

Drones have become great travel companions, especially for photographers, videographers, travel enthusiasts, and writers. With a drone, you can capture amazing sceneries that would be impossible with a handheld camera.

From waterfalls, deserts, highways, and 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 travel with one. 

You need to familiarize yourself with some of these standard practices, from different country laws to airline policies and ways of packing and carrying drone accessories while traveling.

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

traveling with a drone

Different manufacturers have come up with drones of various sizes and shapes. For example, DJI, the popular Phantom and Mavic Pro manufacturer, makes small and big drones.

The DJI Phantom 4 is bigger than the Mavic Pro model. That makes it challenging to carry while traveling across multiple countries.

Though it’s a fantastic drone for footage, you cannot pack it in a carry-on bag, and it will require a bigger case, which can take up a lot of space in your luggage allowance.

On the other hand, the Mavic Pro is super-compact, making 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.

See Related: Best Travel Lenses

2. Buy a Suitable Case

DJI Drone Waterproof Hard Case

Drones are pretty fragile and expensive. If you want to ensure 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 drone size. 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 like 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.

Taking a compact drone that you can have as carry-on luggage is recommended when traveling. Consider using a camera bag like the Tahoe BP 150 by LowePro. Alternatively, consider a carrying case like the 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.

See Related: Best Travel Humidifiers

3. Learn Drone Laws of Where You are Going

A banner showing a warning sign about drones

Can you travel internationally with a drone? Yes, you sure can. However, the first step is learning how to move with your drone internationally.

Before you travel, learn more about drone laws for every country you travel to. As drones become popular, governments must develop legal measures to regulate their use.

Not everybody can fly drones, and 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 due diligence to understand the local drone laws applicable to 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 them outside 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 updating. What you knew last year might no longer be true this year.

Then, confirm whether you must register your drone with any authority like the International 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 insurance to fly a drone, but you must have liability insurance to fly a commercial drone in Canada.

See Related: Proven Ways to Save Money for Travel

4. Put Safety First

DJI drone floating

When flying a drone, safety should come first. Mind the people, animals, and delicate objects, particularly when launching and landing a drone.

Avoid flying them in a crowded place, like on a beach. It invades personal privacy, and 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 morning, after sunrise, sunset, or late evening. You’ll get the best light for shooting at such times, and few people will be 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. Remember that a drone can be scary, especially to someone who has never encountered one.

See related: Why is everyone obsessed with travel?

5. Have a Flight Plan!

Colorful drone flying in mid air

You should have a flight plan before sending a drone to a new place. 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 drones, warn of magnetic interference before the drone takes off.

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 enough wide-open space to take the flight. Take time planning and setting up the flight to avoid missing beautiful captures due to 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 constantly.

Don’t try to catch your device; even a small wind gust can see you harm your fingertip. So, always watch the drone and ground it when it gets windy to avoid accidents.

See Related: Lowepro Freeline BP 350 AW Camera Backpack Review

6. Carry Repair Tools and Extra Propellers

Drone propellers

Drones crash pretty easily. Therefore, have a basic repair kit. When traveling, bring 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.

See Related: Best YouTube Travel Vloggers You Need To Follow 

7. Use Neutral Density (ND) Filters

Showing a Neutral Density (ND) Filter in Nature
Image by Robert Emperley used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Another must-have when traveling with a drone is a neutral density (ND) filter. 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 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

Scandinavian Airlines Plane Flying

While most airlines don’t restrict drone carrying, there are some policy differences. Some allow it 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. Understand the ideal carry-on size and weights if you use a carry-on case.

Drones are considered a potential flight threat because lithium-ion batteries power them. Lithium batteries can release 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 capacity, but check to avoid disappointments.

As a US citizen, you can 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, alerting the crew in case of battery fire is easier, 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 charge the drained battery fully.

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 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 ideal.

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9. Be Friendly to Airport Security!

Behind the Screen of a TSA Agent's COmputer

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 with many other electrical items. That means you should be ready to remove it from your luggage and reveal it 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.

Flying a drone can add extra 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.

See Related: Best Travel Accessories

FAQ

Can you travel with a drone on a plane?

Yes, you can travel by drone on a plane, but some restrictions exist. You will need to check with your airline to see if they allow drones on the plane, and there may be size and weight restrictions. You must also 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 must follow the TSA’s guidelines for packing lipo batteries.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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