We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Can I travel with a drone?

Sydney, Australia
Level Contributor
12 posts
5 reviews
Can I travel with a drone?

Hi,

I'd like to buy my boyfriend a Drone for Xmas, which he'll need to take with him when he flies back home. The issue is the Drone will be wrapped up as a gift and he won't know what's inside. Should he take it as a carry on or check-in luggage? If he takes it as carry on do you think security will want to investigate what it is?

Thanks in advance

Australia
Level Contributor
1,441 posts
124 reviews
1. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

My initial thoughts are about the batteries - what kind of batteries does a drone use?

Also - technically he couldn't carry it in his checked luggage, as he couldn't honestly answer the "did you pack your bag yourself / did anyone give you anything to carry" question. That would mean he'd need to take it as carry on - how heavy is it? If security wanted to, they could ask him to unwrap it.

Have you considered exchanging gifts before he flies?

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
18,695 posts
2. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

You want him to take it not-yet-unwrapped (so he doesn't know what it is) on the plane? And when he is asked by security "what is in here?" he will have to say he doesn't know?? And you think that is OK???

This would not be OK even if it was a bath towel, and the same applies whether it's in checked luggage or carry-on.

Dubai, United Arab...
Level Contributor
11,186 posts
26 reviews
3. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

<<The issue is the Drone will be wrapped up as a gift and he won't know what's inside.>>

Sorry, that is a bad idea. Technically he must know what is in his luggage (hand and hold). These are the regulations.

Further - depending price and country - he is due taxes at customs.

Also you need to check in detail the regulations about drones in his country. Depending drone and country the importation of drones is regulated. It would be sad to have the drone confiscated at customs.

I understand that you want to surprise him, but sometimes it is a tad better to ask, before gifting something.

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
10,442 posts
140 reviews
4. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

All airlines and security advise people not to wrap gifts so they can be inspected.

Dublin, Ireland
Destination Expert
for Austria
Level Contributor
27,790 posts
81 reviews
5. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

does your airline say that lion batteries can be put into luggage? if drone is wrapped, you are unaware of the rating of the batteries so could be exceeding the permitted size.

i have heard of drones been siezed and i have even seen one being taken from a traveller.

Windhoek, Namibia
Level Contributor
1,041 posts
164 reviews
6. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

As someone who deals with various national civil aviation regulations around the world, I echo the sentiment that drones/UAVs aren't legal around the world. You need to be aware if it's legal in his destination country or any other countries he may be going through, lest he get busted importing an illegal item.

hudson valley
Level Contributor
3,271 posts
7. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

Definitely better to just give it to him before he leaves.

Wrapped or not, the batteries can't go as checked luggage. Even something as small as a cell phone shouldn't be in the hold if it has a lithium battery.

You could remove the batteries and let him take the wrapped drone as checked luggage, but there are (at least) two problems with that. One is that when his luggage is screened they may think there are batteries in it because they'll recognize the drone. Since they'll probably be easily recognizable on the x-ray they might make it through security still wrapped (security might not even know they're wrapped if they don't open the carry on for a more thorough inspection), but he might be asked what they're for and it would be embarrassing if all he can say is "They're for my Christmas present". The other issue is that the unwrapped batteries will probably have a label indicating that they're for a drone, so that it won't be a surprise.

"if drone is wrapped, you are unaware of the rating of the batteries"

Maybe if they beg and plead they can get the manufacturer to make that information available to the public.

Corona, California
Level Contributor
7 posts
195 reviews
8. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

As an enthusiastic Drone pilot there are several things you need to understand.

First is SAFETY. Most drones use LIPO (Lithium Ion) batteries. They are very powerful and potentially explosive or cause a fire if not carried with caution. NEVER check them in your luggage! Let me repeat: NEVER check them in your luggage! A fire in the main cabin is bad. But it can be fought. In an airplane's cargo hold it can be fatal as it cannot be fought in-flight.

So ALL of your LIPO batteries must be carried on. Drone batteries must have their contacts wrapped (either with electrical tape or plastic wrap) and then put in a plastic bag (like a Ziplock) and then be placed in a "LIPO Approved" safety bag. The latter costs less than $10 typically but it is a must ... and far cheaper than having a TSA Agent take a battery that may cost $100 (or more) from you! And if you are giving a drone as a gift, make sure to spend the extra money and give at least one additional battery. (Not to belabor the point, but most LIPO fires are caused by re-charging them before they have cooled down. You will not believe how hot they can get after a flight!)

That said, the TSA recommends that while the LIPO batteries can be taken on board, they must be charged at a very low level, about 25% as I recall. DO NOT bring one on-board fully charged.

People have asked me "oh what damage can they really do?" Really? Haven't you seen all of the Hover Boards that have caught on fire? Or do you know what grounded those new 787s for several months? LIPO batteries. Google LIPO and TSA and you can get the details.

When I take my Drone I also print out the TSA's Regulation sheet as many (if not most) of them don't know their own rules.

Also on SAFETY, remove the Drone's rotor blades (and any tools you keep with the drone) and pack them in your checked luggage. The TSA can consider them like knives. Nothing could be worse than getting to your dream destination and not having the rotor/propeller blades to be able to fly your bird.

And while almost everyone (as well as most airline personnel) does not take the carry-on luggage size seriously, don't risk it as it relates to your Drone. Most Drone luggage is too big to meet carry-on regulations. I bought a UPS cardboard box (for about $10) that I could put my DJI Phantom 3 in that is about 1/4" smaller in all directions than the airline limitations. TIP: Measure the box and write the dimensions on it ! That takes any doubt about it being legal to carry on out of play. Also make sure your name/address contact info is on that box.

Re packing the drone as a gift ... the TSA needs to be able to look at everything you have in your luggage, gift included. Unless you want them to have the pleasure of opening the gift, don't do it. I suggest you pre-measure and cut all of the gift wrapping materials and fold them neatly in your luggage. Then wrap your drone gift when you get to your destination. Don't forget to take some scotch tape.

One final thing, make sure to check what countries your flights may fly through as well as your end destination. I just became aware that more that a few countries do not allow drones on their soil. Belize is now one.

MY LAST TIP: Tell a little lie at your destination. Do not tell their Customs Agent that it is a gift as they will probably tax it like it was Gold ! I gave me good buddy in Chile the drone I took there. My Chilean friend told me that if it was being given as a gift (essentially "imported") I would have had to pay taxes almost in excess of what the drone cost! Ouch!!.

My experience is that most Customs Agents will just be curious and want to see the drone, but the ones in Chile looked at it very very closely.

Wow. You are giving a Drone as a gift? How can I become your friend?? I will mark this post to be notified of eMail replies (if you have any other questions).

Centerville, Ohio
Level Contributor
14,710 posts
3,451 reviews
9. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

Do Not gift wrap.

OUR TSA precheck experience is to actually display the drone during the process

Brussels, Belgium
Level Contributor
37,320 posts
3 reviews
10. Re: Can I travel with a drone?

1) You can't let him put an unknown item in either hold or hand luggage, and if you tell him what it is, he can't put it in his hold luggage.

2) It might also not be allowed as hand luggage, you need to check the airline's rules

3) If it is allowed by the airline, as hand luggage, it MUST also be presented unwrapped for security check.

4) You also need to check whether he will be allowed to import it into his country of residence, which I take it is not Australia. Drones may be prohibited, or if allowed, above the value limit for duty/tax-free importation of items acquired abroad (for the UK, for instance, this is 390 GBP: items received as gifts are not exempt)

5) I suggest you either buy him something else (and he must still know the contents wherever he packs it) or buy something online and arrange for it to be delivered to his home address. If this is still a drone, I suggest you also check the rules on using it in his country of residence (which is a different issue from being allowed to import it in the first place): you could be causing him to incur the expense of getting a license etc..