How to Travel with an FPV Drone?

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Blog cover: everything you need to know before traveling with a FPV drone

Last year, I traveled a ton for drone work, so today, I want to give you some tips on how you can travel with your drone.

I do lots of FPV drone reviews, tips, and tutorials on how you can use them.

In this guide, I’m going to break down five vital tips on how to travel with a drone on a plane.

Strolling through terminals with bulky drone gear in tow can spark some seriously nervous glances from security personnel and passengers alike. After all, those hefty lipo batteries bear an uncanny resemblance to certain explosive devices (which I swear they are most definitely NOT!). Lugging around a dozen carbon fiber quads, dangling wires and intimidating power cells seems questionable at best when dashing between connections.

So over my many years traversing regional airports and sprawling international hubs with copters in carry ons, I’ve gleaned countless small suggestions that collectively make a truly tremendous impact surviving the journey intact.

Because beyond suspicious TSA agents delicately caressing your seemingly ominous electrical components, simply keeping complex FPV rigs functioning after enduring the typical baggage handler slam-dunk is itself a lofty achievement! Trust me, no pilot enjoys rebuilding discipline-tuned racers at the hotel the night before an early call.

In this extensive guide, I’ll cover all my hard-won travel knowledge concerning FPV drones specifically, spanning ideal bags for transport, prepping batteries safely, packing cleverly to avoid mid-air mayhem, repairing problems anywhere, breezing across checkpoints and more.

Stick with me fellow pilots…we’ll have you trotting the globe chasing epic locations confident your prized miniquads withstand virtually anything airports dish out! Let’s start things off discussing intelligent luggage choices.

Choosing Sturdy & Convenient FPV Backpacks

The initial essential decision when preparing carry gear involves selecting tough, well-designed backpacks and cases purpose-built for equipment-intensive piloting. As frequent fliers know, baggage mishandling is no joke, especially when wrangling multiple connections en route to destinations.

I’ve tested countless options over the years, finally settling on durable, thoughtfully constructed camera bags providing ample capacity without breaking backs. My personalized trio of packs streamlines transit by keeping necessary flight-critical items easily accessible while protecting the most delicate and expensive components from harm.

For all adventures, I haul a versatile everyday photo backpack to lug essentials for field work on location. Alongside this, a rugged wheeled carry on hard case shelters fragile drones, transmitters and goggles that absolutely cannot risk stowing below. Finally, a basic checked duffle bag swallows less crucial personal items like clothing that won’t paralyze shoots if momentarily misplaced.

This tiered storage and transport scheme offers substantial flexibility adjusting to trip specifics while sidestepping nasty surprise of gazing sadly into empty overhead compartments because gate staff insisted on check-ins. When managing heaps of electronics crossing oceans or continents, better safe than sorry!.

My daily driver pack for shoots is the Nomadic Peter McKinnon Tactical Camera Backpack, which hits a sweet spot blending resilient construction, smart capacity options and convenient organization for around $250 USD. It swallows lenses, quads, batteries, tools and more with clever configurable dividers.

I strongly recommend McKinnon’s signature bag specifically because it caters to aerial creators via two killer features. Externally, durable adjustable straps allow safely piggybacking 1-2 complete drones on the outside rear when necessary. This permits quick access without unpacking everything if, say, only the XHover2 needs a prop swap before the next flight.

Additionally, an expandable lower storage pouch doubles as a waterproof cover for the main compartment. Thus, during long hikes or outdoor excursions, I can stash a compact racing drone inside this padded, isolated layer rather than wearing a fragile machine into the elements. Topping around $250 depending on sales, the versatility and rugged build quality justify a pricier investment in my experience.

Of course no right answer exists across limitless pilots with unique needs and budgets. I’ve had buddies loving cheaper alternatives like the Rotor Riot Backpack or Torvol Quad Pit Stop models at nearly half the cost. Generally, expect to replace more affordable options yearly as zippers jam and fabric wears compared to premium substitutes, but assessments differ person to person.

One suggestion – don’t abandon important characteristics purely chasing savings on packs holding thousands in aircraft and AV assets. Poor padding, low quality fasteners and inadequate weather resistance definitely complicates far flung assignments. Measure options against realistic use cases beyond skimping on initial purchase tabs.

Ultimately, select backpacks providing sufficient volume at a comfortable weight limit that also keep valuables secure. While the McKinnon model hits my professional demands balancing functionality, protection and features, shop around before big drone investments based on individual preferences and tendencies!

Preventing In-Flight Fires with Smart Battery Management

Alright, assuming you’ve secured worthy FPV luggage, let’s explore the top concern when flying drones commercially – safely transporting lipo cells without combusting at 30,000 feet! Preventing battery mishaps makes or breaks vacations, so smart charging and storage habits mitigate potential issues.

Firstly, always discharge cells to around 3.8 volts per unit before packing them away in cases. Personally I simply try squeezing a few last flights the evening prior regardless of wherever travels take me. Some pilots rightfully suggest investing in an appropriate discharge/storage accessory for perfectly dialed voltages.

Either way, depleted cells demonstrate drastically lower failure rates than fully fueled 4.2v batts, so never neglect this quick preparation step. Discharged packs also seldom trigger scanner alarms compared to hovering near topped off peaks. I subscription save 10% on a quality discharger/balancer combo unit ensuring kosher pre-travel voltage targets if manually flying isn’t convenient at home.

Additionally, remember lithium polymer batteries CANNOT ever occupy checked luggage or gate valet storage compartments. Well intentioned as suggestions may seem ensuring bags squeeze onboard regional jets, flight regulations explicitly prohibit anything with lithium cells dwelling amongst suitcases due to fire risk.

However, while cumbersome lugging piles of lipos through terminals, this restriction has frequently worked toward my carry on advantage as well! Cleverly noting cells must remain onboard due to FAA compliance makes underwriters far more accommodating discovering overhead space when gatechecked items face refusal. By emphasizing fire hazards can’t hide below with baggage, they’ll often negotiate room up top rather than take chances separating essential operations gear.

Smart pilots obtain flame resistant charging pouches too for pairing devices inflight just in case. I’ve personally never combusted a pack (knock on wood!), but containing the worst justifies minor investment for peace of mind. These fireproof sleeves add protection when detonations seems imminent.

Really, minimal precautions PREVENT rather than react to lipo mishaps – so set yourself up for success each trip following basic lithium safety guidance. Budget gear protected, inspected routinely and stored properly travels without drama time and again.

Building a Quadcopter Field Repair Toolkit

Despite meticulous planning, crashes happen flying FPV drones in spectacular locales. Dinged props and shattered GoPro mounts somehow materialize on location regardless of caution measures back home. Precision-tuned racers refuse navigating unfamiliar sites as flawlessly as open workshop practice spaces.

Thus, carrying a compact emergency toolkit proves invaluable restoring battered birds mid-shoot rather than witnessing expensive investments retiring prematurely. Especially when far from the hobby bench and familiar repair supplies, backup components make huge impacts keeping aircraft operating smoothly.

My portable pit bag holds all the essential items needed to tackle small field fixes for common mishaps. I carry…

  • Hex/Allen drivers for opening chassis and replacing components
  • Multi-size wrenches fitting various motor and strut nuts
  • A specialized prop removal tool
  • Assorted spare propellers to swap damaged ones
  • Adhesive Velcro and camera pads replacing torn mounting fixtures
  • Electrical tape for quick wire harnesses and insulation patches
  • Zip ties of all sizes when cracks appear
  • Plus an ample amount of replacement hardware like small screws With these supplies on hand, I can patch things well enough for short flights back home to the workshop for proper overhauls. Duct tape and crazy glue also work wonders near disaster!

Of course, the latest upgrade now coming everywhere involves compact electric screwdrivers – an absolute revelation for repairing finicky aircraft remnants trailside! My midrange 1800mAh model zips through adjustments and hardware swaps once handled manually when tools weren’t present. The thumb size driver works perfectly carrying abroad too thanks to international adapters.

For electronics, I also pack…

  • Soldering iron
  • Heatshrink tubing
  • Flux gel
  • Roll of solder
  • Multimeter
  • Wire strippers
  • And loose connector sets like XT30s

This covers rebuilding flight controllers, ESC signal issues or installing new video transmitters when originals unexpectedly melt mid-trip!

With the right field repair gear, you’ll stay confident in struggles abroad. But do restrain packing 70 pound metal toolboxes rather than compact pouches! Helpful equipment is very different from questionable mechanics hauling blowtorches through TSA checkpoints…so keep things reasonably sized and innocent seeming!

Packing Copters – Removing Props Prevents Damage!

Carbon fiber quads stack compactly within protective cases, but their protruding bulbous camera lenses and delicate plastic propellers remain exposed to harm unless carefully stored. Nobody wants to discover shattered GoPro domes or warped blades first evening removed from bags.

Thus, always detach props when transporting aircraft to prevent loose items torque motors during handling. Tuck them safely inside zipper pouches apart from models rather than leaving attached. It takes seconds avoiding unnecessary maintenance later. Blades and vibration isolation grommets slip into plastic tubes or prop bags easily.

This quick trick minimizes risks of props biting into to neighboring drone chassis during conveyor mayhem resulting in ugly gashes. Because while duct tape serves valiantly securing crashes mid-flight, its lackluster finishing turboshine looks rather unimpressive at professional film shoots!

For the copters themselves, the quantity varies per trip specifics, shooting length and charging/repair options on site. Two-week documentary projects warrant extras to swap if components fail, get lost downstream or fall victim to unpredictable environmental adversities. I hauled six when filming a massive Alaskan cruise requiring backups against salt corrosion, frigid weather, long recharging times and high chance of destructive ocean landings.

In these scenarios, also pack one or two emergency drones in carry ons rather than purely relying on easily disrupted checked luggage flights away. Don’t gamble with screwed schedules, regulations changes or lost gear discovered hours before sunrise call times. Allow leeway accessing spares if circumstances out of your control decide all aircraft absolutely must inhabit terrifying airline underbellies temporarily.

Additionally consider waterproof pelican hard cases offering maximum protection for 1-2 prized quads when practical. Pick foam interiors precisely hugging gear rather than loosely shaking about. While padded backpacks work perfectly for typical commutes, long haul pilots encounter variables difficult predicting. Bring built-in insurance!

Oh! And wrap finished drones in soft t-shirts or bubble wrap avoiding nicked plastic and scratched camera lenses. I’ve received aircraft resembling hedge trimmers after handlers played kicking games beyond the scenes. A little extra cushioning goes long ways preventing expensive heartaches!

TSA PreCheck – The FPV Pilot’s Golden Ticket

We’ve covered planning, gear selection, charging and storage logistics, damage control insights and packing tricks…now for the grand finale airport shortcut promising smoother homeland trips with drones in tow – TSA PreCheck registration!

This glorious $78 five year US program grants qualified travelers expedited screening access at 200+ domestic terminals, permitting you to jet through metal detectors shoeless with laptops inside bags and minimal queues. It’s a revolution for recreational or professional pilots facing baseless scrutiny and bag searches thanks to piles of “questionable” electrical components raises alarms.

PreCheck enrollment paves literal gold-paved shortcuts bypassing these hold ups when flashing your known traveler number at checkpoints. Friendlier lines mean less time removed from gear keeping inspectors content and flights on schedule. Cases pass through reduced security scanning with much less chance of manual unpacking or swabbing compared to non registered travelers.

And with 35% shorter queues, worries about departure gates closing before boarding vanishes in peaceful TSA salvation! I’ve witnessed fellow RC flyers pleading with agents at closing doors to rescue checked drones from the tarmac below. Meanwhile I tap my watch waltzing onto aircraft wondering what peasant crisis unfolds as I nestle into reclined comfort. Glorious!

Anecdotes aside, Global Entry and CLEAR offer similar perks too, albeit at higher $100+ annual memberships. Both integrate biometric fingerprint/retina scans permitting legal US residents and citizens to completely forgo identification card checks in select “smart lane” airports. That means no physical documents required aside from your body!

Global Entry owners then use express machines verifying passport credentials post-security, while CLEAR links 500k member identities to cloud records for frictionless waltzing anywhere with confirmation of one’s eyeballs or fingertips to prove legitimacy.

For Europe, NEXUS and APEX sister programs bridge security abroad, while Canada and Mexico smooth paths through the North American nonsense as well. Soon enough iris validation units may replace boarding passes worldwide thanks to advancing recognition tech. Until the utopian unified global transit ecosystem emerges, snagging applicable early screening where possible saves FPV pilots monumental hassle versus the alternative.

So grab that precheck bargain, register every scanning and tracking option extended through elite memberships galore and transform the gargantuan security slog into a 5 minute minor inconvenience wherever possible. Considering most pilots elicit gear trepidation at baseline, paying premiums to avoid extensive handling seems reasonable for heavy packers.

Trust me…it rescues hours over the long run!

The answer is yes!

Most airlines allow you to travel with drones, but there are rules and guidelines you must follow. If you’re flying to a different country, make sure to study the regulations concerning drone usage in that specific country.

How to travel with a drone on a plane?

It’s not just about tossing the drone into your suitcase! Here’s what you need to know.

Research the local drone regulations

One of the first and most important tips is the importance of researching the local drone regulations of my destination. From Tokyo’s neon glow to New Zealand’s emerald hills, each country has its own set of rules and guidelines for drone operators.

In some countries, drones might be prohibited without proper documentation, and you could lose your drone at customs. Knowing the rules in advance will help your entry and keep your drone safe.

Don’t forget the accessories

In addition to the drone itself, don’t forget to bring along extra batteries, chargers, remote controllers, and all the necessary accessories to ensure you can use your drone wherever your travels may take you.

Backup Your Data

If your drone records footage on a memory card, back up your data before you travel. This precaution is essential in case your memory card gets lost or damaged during your journey.

Pack your drone properly

From personal experience, I highly recommend keeping your drone in your hand luggage whenever possible. While the chances of damage in checked baggage are relatively low, having my drone within arm’s reach gives me peace of mind.

After all, my drone isn’t just a gadget—it’s a companion on my journey.

Label your drone

Attaching your contact information to your drone is a simple yet effective step. Include your name, email address and phone number. This simple tag with your name and contact information will prove invaluable in case your drone is misplaced or lost.

Manage your batteries

Airlines might have different battery rules, but generally, all your batteries must be carried in your carry-on luggage. They can’t be checked in.

In the past, concerns surrounding flying with drones mainly revolved around the risks of carrying extra batteries. This issue has been addressed by both aviation regulators and airlines over time. Most airlines now provide clear guidelines on their websites regarding drone travel.

To ensure you’re up-to-date, consider emailing customer services with your flight details to confirm the drone policy for your specific flight. Print these guidelines and the email confirmation to present to security if required.

More tips

  1. Make sure the battery terminals are taped off to avoid exposed contacts, making the batteries safer. 
  2. Keep the batteries charged to around fifty percent, which is a good storage voltage and safe for travel. 
  3. Be aware that most airlines have a limit on battery size. Usually, batteries with over 99.9 watt-hours (or 100 watt-hours) are restricted, so check the regulations beforehand to ensure you’re compliant.

Organized packing for smooth security checks

Packing your gear neatly can expedite security checks. My next tip concerns packing everything well to be visible and easily accessible.

Don’t stack numerous batteries on top of each other, as their density can obstruct the view on X-ray machines. Pull out your laptop to make the inspection process easier, even if you have TSA approval or known traveler ID approval.

Insurance Coverage

Don’t forget to check if your drone is covered by your travel insurance. If not, consider getting additional coverage to protect against loss, damage, or theft.

FAQs about travel with an FPV drone

Final Words

If you have any further questions or need assistance, feel free to reach out.

Happy travels, fellow drone adventurers!

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Written By Kristen Ward

My name is Kristen R. Ward. I’m an adventure Filmmaker and I run a production company based out of New York. FPV drones are integral to my business. I'll be teaching you everything I've learned over the years creating videos for clients.

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