Traveling with a drone is more common than ever now. Once you’ve bought your drone, the real fun can begin, but many travelers usually have some questions about traveling with their drone. We have got you covered. Here are a few useful drone travel tips so you can get the most from you drone on your next trip.
Traveling with a Drone (and later, some practical drone travel tips)
Specifically, this article addresses the following questions that often arise when traveling with a drone:
- Can I bring my drone on the plane?
- Can you travel with drones?
- Should I check my drone or carry it on?
- Can I take my drone to any state, city or even country?
- How do I know if I can fly my drone on my trip?
- Can you bring drone batteries on a plane?
- How do you transport a drone in luggage?
- Are drones allowed in carry on luggage?
- Can you take a drone through airport security?
- Do I need to register my drone before I go? And in the (say) country I am visiting?
We answer each of these questions throughout this post. We’ve also added several interesting drone travel tips from fellow travel bloggers through a collaboration. Yep, these drone travelers share their special drone travel tips and experiences so you can travel with your drone a little easier.
Can you travel with drones?
Yes, you can travel with drones. In fact, one of the most popular things to do with a drone is take it with you on a trip. See our buying guide here for more information on selecting the right drone for your trip.
Can I bring my drone on the plane?
The answer is almost certainly, yes! Unless you have a very large drone (like really large) your airline will almost certainly let you bring your drone on the plane. In fact, you can likely check your drone or carry it on.
Are drones allowed in carry on luggage?
Many airlines have specific policies for traveling with drones that cover checking your drone or carrying it on. That said, a large number of airlines do NOT specifically address traveling with a drone, but still allow it. These airlines simply rely on the totality of their baggage handling policies to cover situations where travelers are bringing their drone on a plane.
For example, American Airlines will let you check your drone or carry it on. However, when carrying it on there are some restrictions – namely size and battery related. You can read our full article on the American Airline Drone Policy, here.
On the other hand, Delta, has not specifically called out a policy however, travelers can definitely bring their drones on Delta flights.
- Check out all of our Drone Airline Policies here.
- You might be interested in the TSA Drone Policy restrictions (which are minimal)
Should I check my drone or carry it on?
Should you check your drone or carry it on the plane is also an important question to address when traveling with a drone.
We recommend drone travelers always carry their drones on. Ever seen a baggage handler toss your suitcase off the plane onto the baggage cart? Now imagine your $1200 drone getting that treatment. Or worse, stolen.
Can you take a drone through airport security?
Absolutely, yes. Oddly, the Transportation Security Administration has fairly light restrictions regarding traveling with drones, but generally speaking, it’s a very simple process to bring a drone through airport security. Read our guide to the TSA Drone Policies here.
Can you bring drone batteries on a plane?
Typically, yes, travelers can bring drone batteries on the plane, but travelers should always check with their airline regarding specific guidelines for traveling with batteries.
Battery travel is the one aspect of traveling with your drone that’s a bit finicky. You see, batteries can catch fire and thus, airlines have more restrictive policies on the Lithium Polymer (LiPo) batteries that drones use.
Some airlines allow you to take only two batteries on a plane. Others require them to be in baggies and removed from the drone.
Can’t keep it all straight? Check with your airline for details and if they don’t have a specific policy on drone batteries simply review their general battery policies which they will definitely have.
Can I even bring my drone to where I am going?
Another question to ask when traveling with your drone is related to your destination. Travelers often want to know: Can I even bring my drone to where I am going?
This is a more difficult question to answer, but a very important one. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:
- Cities, States and Countries are still figuring out how they are going to treat drones from a civic law perspective (e.g. what is allowed, not allowed). Restrictions / Laws / Etc vary wildly.
- In addition to government related destinations, you may not be able to use your drone at the attraction you are visiting (e.g. it’s fine to bring your drone to Bali but the Beach you are staying at doesn’t allow drone use)
After reading that you might be thinking “why did I just waste $1400.00 on a travel drone. How am I going to explain this to my wife!?”
Deep breath. It may sound a bit ominous, but in reality it’s not. What we’ve found is that many cities, states and counties have very limited restrictions. Most US locales will not have an issue with you bringing a drone and using it with some exceptions.
For example, you might want to use your drone on your trip to the Grand Canyon. You’d be fined. In 2014, the US National Park Service banned the use of drones in National Parks (read the full order here).
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t bring it with you and use before you get to the park or at other areas on your visits.
It’s best to do some simple google searching for the destinations you are visiting on your trip before you lug your drone with you.
A really great website that’s worth reading before you take your trip is Know Before you Fly. It’s an excellent site full of great resources about flying your drones, what to stay away from, etc.
Do I need to register my drone where I am traveling?
Another question drone travelers get a lot is “Do I need to Register my Drone?” or “I registered my drone in my country, do I need to register it in the country I am visiting?”
Again, great questions and again, somewhat difficult to answer.
Let’s start first with do you need to register your travel drone at all? Let’s assume you are in the United States, too.
The Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA has published guidance on drone registration. And it’s based on the type of drone flyer you are. For our purposes we will assume you are a hobby drone pilot or recreational drone pilot you have to register your drone. Unless you are actually a real pilot (like certified and stuff…then you are a hobbyist).
The FAA’s policy is pretty clear, and we’ve provided a snapshot of their website so you can read it yourself:
So, basically you need to register your drone. It’s not a big deal. Just get it done.
If you are visiting the US you also need to register too. Click the image, above, to find the process.
As another example, let’s look at the United Kingdom. Pocket-Lint notes about the UK’s drone policy:
“The amendment to the Air Navigation Order requires owners of drones weighing 250 grams or more to register with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and for drone pilots to take an online safety test to ensure the UK’s skies are safe from irresponsible flyers. “
Our advice is to research the country you are visiting and verify the particulars of their drone requirements. Better safe than sorry.
Best Drone Travel Tips – the experts weigh in with practical advice on traveling with a drone
In the second part of this post we are going to get a little more practical. We are talking to actual drone travelers, people who travel with their drones. In fact, we found 7 experts who’ve traveled with their drones and asked them to share their top tips for traveling with a drone.
Here are the 7 top tips for traveling with a drone!
Please don’t forget to check out our drone comparison table where we examine several different travel drones based on features, price, value, etc.
7 Tips for Traveling with a Drone
We found 7 travel experts who also love drones. They’ve traveled with their drones and learned the hard way some of the ins and outs of traveling with a drone. We’ve collected their favorite tips in this collaboration. Enjoy!
Traveling with a Drone Tip #1: Can I take my drone to “x” country?
From: The Travelling Twins
I’m the happy owner of a drone, however, I didn’t fly it on my recent trip to Morocco. Why? Because Morocco doesn’t allow you to bring one into the country. Fortunately, I had researched Morocco Travel Tips before the trip. I have also read that if you do take one it will be seized at customs and may be returned to you on exit, but why risk it? The customs staff at Agadir certainly checked all my photography kit quite carefully.
This prompted me to see if I could find a list of other drone-unfriendly countries. The number of countries which ban them outright is quite small, but several others require you to obtain permits before you travel. This makes it all but impossible for most people to carry them.
Here is my long list of places which either disallow them or else make it very difficult.
- North Korea
- Saudi Arabia
This list may change, so wherever you go, my tip is to do a bit of research well in advance. Find out whether they are allowed at all, and if so, what hoops you might have to jump through to avoid disappointment at the border.
Check KnowBeforeYouFly.com for potential information about flying your drone in your country of destination.
Traveling with your Drone Tip #2: Can I take my drone to my final destination (e.g. national park, tourist attraction, etc)?
From: Our Kind of Crazy
Drone footage always adds an awesome new perspective to your videos or photos. However, it’s important to be aware of any destination specific restrictions while traveling with a drone.
While many countries will allow you to fly your drone in many parts, there still may be many places that are “off limits” to pilot your equipment. For example, the US prohibits flying a drone in any National Park.
So before you start it up, be sure to check the rules of the place you are in and make yourself aware of the rules if you plan to fly.
Traveling with a Drone Tip #3: Can I fly my drone at my resort?
From: Mumpack Travel
Drones have become so popular these days that it’s not only countries and cities that have no fly zones – resorts and private properties are also restricting drone usage to protect the privacy of their guests. When you’re traveling with your drone you should always check with the resort you’re staying at for their operating guidelines and make sure to work within them.
At Kuredu Resort in the Maldives, for example, flying was not only restricted to certain areas, but also specific times due to the light aircraft transporting guests in and out of the island.
While many resorts now have no-fly rules, it can pay to talk to the manager to organise a fly window, often early in the morning before too many people are up and about. I did this at the Shangri La Tanjung Aru in Borneo and was given permission and a confirmation note from the General Manager to show security – who approached me as soon as they saw me setting up.
Drone Travel Tip #4: What is my airline’s drone policy?
From: Dream Big Travel Far
When it comes to flying with drones, many airlines tend to have unique and quirky policies. Most of the time, we find that it’s okay so long as you disconnect all batteries from the drone itself and store them in your hand luggage. Whereas some airlines have even stricter requirements. Such as requiring you to have a maximum number of batteries per person in your carry-on.
Others limit how powerful the batteries can be, Ultimately, it’s hard to give one fixed rule that covers the drone policy for all airlines. As such, it’s best to check your airline’s website before you fly and even contact their customer service team if you can’t find the facts you need.
Traveling with your Drone Tip #5: How do I know how many batteries to bring for my drone?
From: More Life in your Days
A drone is a great piece of kit that can provide some amazing shots and awesome memories of your trip away. But it is not much good without a working battery so our top tip for travelling with a drone is to make sure that you look after your batteries.
There is nothing worse than being in position for an awesome shot and seeing the dreaded low battery alert coming up.
For this reason, we advise anyone that plans international travel with a drone to make sure that they take along a spare battery so that you always have back up when you need it.
Of course, you need to ensure that the batteries are charged when you need them so make sure that you have the right plug adapters for the country that you are going to and you may want to check whether a voltage adapter is necessary as well.
All these tips assume that your batteries have arrived safely with you to your travel destination. To ensure that this is the case, if you are flying with a drone, make sure that you always take your batteries on board with you in your cabin luggage. This is because the airplane hold is not pressurized and temperatures can fluctuate. In fact, many airlines have policies about proper storage of your drone batteries.
Traveling with a Drone Tip #6: How to pack your drone for air travel
From: Trip and Trail
There are two ways to carry a drone—inside your carry-on, or inside your checked-in luggage. I always prefer the latter if I have the choice (destination or airliner may forbid it) since it’s the safest for my equipment. If your drone is the size of the ever popular DJI Mavic Pro (check price) or smaller, then things are easy. You can use pretty much any luggage/backpack as long as the drone is protected in a pouch. For bigger drones like DJI Phantom, a specialized backpack is probably a necessity, especially if you also carry other photographic equipment with you (cameras, lenses).
I use a Vanguard Alta Sky 51D which is on the limit of most airliners’ cabin luggage dimensions (won’t fit Ryanair or Easy Jet). For even bigger drones or when you can’t take it onboard for any reason (e.g. Budapest airport), then I’m afraid that check-in in inevitable and a hard case is definitely needed (even if you put your drone inside a luggage in which case the drone’s box may be enough).
Keep in mind that some airliners like Wizz Air will even demand you to sign a waiver in order to check-in something this expensive.
Traveling with your Drone Tip #7: When using my drone on my trip am I monitoring for wildlife?
From: Expedition Wildlife
When traveling with your drone, avoid conflicts between drones and wildlife by considering ahead of time the kinds of wildlife you might run into during your flight time, particularly if you plan to be in natural areas. Many national parks, wildlife preserves, and conservation areas are off-limits to drones, as the presence and sound of a foreign object can negatively impact sensitive wildlife, especially during breeding seasons.
Having a spotter, or additional person to watch out for animals that could be impacted by the drone’s presence, can be beneficial in lessening your effect. We never forget our binoculars to scope out the potential animals in the area ahead of time, and we keep an eye on them while the drone is in the air. If the behavior of the animals changes, we discontinue flight and wait until they’ve moved on, or come back another time.
Know the rules and regulations for flying near certain wildlife, as threatened, endangered, or otherwise legally protected species are strictly protected against harassment. Not only could this save you from incurring hefty fines, but you might also avoid having your drone dive-bombed (and destroyed!) by territorial birds.
For more ideas and tips on traveling with your drone check out this video (specifically battery rules)
Final Thoughts on Traveling with a Drone
So there you have it. 7 tips on traveling with a drone. We hope this collaboration has been helpful. Use these tips on your next drone tip (and send pics!).
Special thanks to all of our contributors! Their insights were invaluable – be sure to check out their blogs!
Please check out these great articles including more travel drone related content, travel tips and more.
- Best Travel Drone – comparison & analysis of the top drones for travelers
- What’s the TSA Drone Policy?
- American Airlines Drone Policy – can I take my drone on an American Airlines flight?
- 3 Awesome Drones for Travel
- Delta Drone Policy – there is no policy!
- Checked baggage vs carry on – what’s actually best
- Top 5 Drones on Amazon.com
- 147 Travel Tips – the ultimate list of road warrior tips & tricks
- Spirit Airlines Drone Policy – what is Spirit’s Policy on Traveling with a Drone?
- United Airlines drone policy – what you need to know about bringing a drone on United
- Southwest Airlines Drone Policy – does Southwest Airlines Luv your drone?
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