Travelling with Lithium Polymer Batteries

*This post initially appeared on blog.flyte.ie *

It will come as no surprise that a lot of drone enthusiasts will want to take their drones with them on holidays. As well as ensuring you follow all the rules and regulations surrounding safe flying when you arrive at your destination, there are a few issues to think about when travelling with your drone and it’s batteries.

In the media there has been a lot of coverage surrounding the Samsung Galaxy Notes that spontaneously ‘exploded’. This was down to the Lithium Ion batteries. The liquid inside is highly flammable and if the battery were to be damaged, it could short circuit, therefore heating up the flammable liquid and causing a fire. Many airlines banned them, all airlines specifically warned Galaxy 7 owners to travel with them in the cabin (so any fires could be extinguished at 30,000ft). Many airports hosted Samsung “drop and swap” booths for customers.

Most Drone batteries are Lithium Polymer (LiPo), which raise the questions; is it safe to take them on an airplane? Do I need to check them or take them in my carry on bag? How many can I travel with?.

The answer to much of this depends on the Wh (watt hours) value of the battery. For example, if the battery is less than 100wh you could travel with an unlimited number of batteries but they must be in your carry on bag and protected against short circuiting. The Wh value will be on the outside of the battery or if you can’t find it this simple calculation will help you out:

multiply the V (volts) by the mAh (milliamp hours) and divide by 1000.

It’s important to note that you should not take batteries that are damaged in anyway with you. If the battery is swollen, scratched or has any physical damage to it; dispose of it at your local recycling centre or rubbish dump. – It could incur further damage more easily (from heating up), lose its sealing and short circuit unexpectedly.   It could do so in mid-air, this is why security personnel will want to inspect the batteries and confiscate any from you  at the security checkpoints. .

Keeping the batteries stored in separate plastic bags will also narrow down the chances of short circuiting. It is also advised by drone pilots, who travel often, to buy a Lipo battery bag to keep all the batteries in. These are usually made from flame retardant material adding another layer of safety to travelling with the batteries and cost around £10 each.

Equally important is that you cannot carry any spare batteries in your checked in luggage unless they are in the equipment they are for. Essentially this means that any spare batteries you plan to take with you must be kept in your carry-on bag and must be protected from short circuiting through either being within original and/or protective packaging and prevented from contact from other metal surfaces.

The CAA and FAA have provided similar FAQ documents to answer questions about what you can and can’t fly with and here are the screenshots surround the questions about flying with batteries. Make sure to check your airline’s policy as well.

 

 

The short answer is yes, you can travel with LiPo batteries but you must check with your airline beforehand and follow any and all safety regulations they have in place.There can always be differences regarding Watt-Hour cutoffs, the number of batteries and as to whether batteries can be checked-in to the hold or must remain solely within the cabin. Here’s a link to British Airways’ site offering possibly the most comprehensive guidance across all airlines.

 

*This post initially appeared on blog.flyte.ie *


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