What is the American Airlines Drone Policy? It’s a great question. Traveling with a drone has become more popular than ever. More and more people have added a drone to their travel kit. But, drone travelers may have questions about what is allowed and not allowed when bringing your drone on a plane. In the first article in our series of Airline Drone Policies we are looking at the American Airlines drone policy.
Looking for a drone to take on your next trip? You might be interested in our drone review page that examines popular travel drones in great detail.
What’s unique about traveling with a drone?
As we examined in our TSA Drone Policy article, the Transportation Security Agency is largely silent on traveling with your drone. Specifically, they defer to each airline to set it’s own policy. Some airlines, like American, have such a policy, while others, like Delta, do not.
What drives an airline’s policy towards drones (as is the case with American Airlines’ Drone Policy) is really based around batteries.
Drones utilize Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries, which like laptops, cannot, in most cases, be checked into carry on baggage due to the risk of leakage / rupture that might cause fires.
Hence, airlines policies tend to follow other similar policies surrounding LiPo batteries. Let’s get into American’s Drone Policy, which is, fortunately, pretty clear.
American Airlines Drone Policy – explained
American Airline’s Drone Policy is based on two factors: size and power.
Max Size Drones Allowed on American Airlines
Regarding the size of the drone, American Airlines states that drones can be carried on if the drone or the the box it’s in is less than 22 x 14 x 19 inches (which is 56 x 36 x 23 centimeters, for our metric system readers).
Most drones (although not all) are will not exceed this size. For example, the most popular and well regarded travel drone, the DJI Mavic Pro, is a mere 9.7 x 8.9 x 4.7 inches (unfolded) in size (readers can check out the sizes of other popular travel drones in our Travel Drone Comparison table, here). When folded, the DJI Mavi Pro is even smaller.
Since, most travelers will not be bringing their drone on the plane unprotected, it’s really the size of the travel drone carrier that traveler’s need to be concerned about.
Most (if not all) of the travel bags that accompany the DJI Mavic Pro fit within the drone size limitations on American Airlines. For example, the DJI Mavic Shoulder Bag is a mere 7 x 5 x 9 inches (roughly) which is more than adequate to comply with American’s drone policy.
Even the larger DJI Mavic 2 Protector Hard Case (below) is only 15.9 x 14.2 x 8.6 inches in size.
So, it’s likely that the size of your drone won’t be issue. But, if you are concerned, double check your drone mfrs specs or measure your drone (both in the bag and out of the bag).
Max Drone Battery Power Allowed on American Airlines
The second issue travelers on American Airlines need to be concerned about when traveling with a drone is the size, or rather, power of their batteries.
American’s Drone Policy states that your drone’s batteries cannot exceed 160 Wh (or Watt Hours).
American Airlines travelers might get confused, though, because in looking at AA’s website (see pic below), they don’t mention any restrictions regarding the batteries OTHER than the watt hours. However, if you take a look at the AA policy on LiPo batteries there are some additional restrictions that traveler’s ought to consider
American Airlines battery policy states that batteries must:
- Be removed for the device
- Not placed in checked bags (so you have to carry them on)
- Placed in separate plastic bags
- Allowed 2 spare batteries up to 160 Wh (meaning you can bring 2 batteries each that have a max watt hour of 160)
- If you have batteries that exceed 160 Wh you must contact American Airline’s Special Assistance Desk (here’s a link).
All of that is to say, it’s VERY likely your drone’s battery will be well under the limit. For example, the aforementioned DJI Mavic Pro’s battery is a mere 43.6 Wh.
Should I check my drone on American Airlines?
As a general rule, we suggest travelers NOT check their drones when traveling on a plane. Given the value of the drone you invested in it’s far too likely it could get damaged or (worse) stolen. Instead, carry it on the plane with you for safekeeping.
If you do check it, we suggest a hard case and a TSA-approved travel lock.
Final Thoughts on American Airlines Drone Policy
To summarize the American Airlines policy on drones we’ve provided this simple list to keep in mind:
- Check the size of your drone (in it’s carrier). Max size: 22 x 14 x 19 inches
- Check your battery power Max Size per battery: 160 Wh
- Bring no more than 2 batteries
- Put in separate plastic bags
- Don’t check your batteries
We also highly recommend you carry your drone on the plane instead of checking it!
Readers can view the full policy, along with all restricted or special items on American Airlines website, here.
We hope you enjoyed this short discussion of American Airline’s drone policy. Be sure to check back for future airline drone policies! And, please, check out all of our great travel drone related content, including:
- Top 5 Drones on Amazon.com
- Best Travel Drone – comparison & analysis of the top drones for travelers
- What’s the TSA Drone Policy?
- 7 Tips for Traveling with a drone – the experts weigh in