A warning on travelling with drones in your luggage

The scary headline below should be a warning to all of us who travel with drones in our checked or carry-on luggage. Here's what I do, and it's worked well for me so far:

  1. I carry the drones in a Pelican case, which is checked luggage
  2. I enclose a note in the case explaining what they are, for the TSA to read. I use phrases like "robots for a competition" rather than use the word "drones".
  3. I carry the LiPos in my carry-on luggage, in a bag that clearly marks them as batteries. 

Anybody else have other good drone travel tips?

Quadcopter drone group held in London airport on suspicion of terrorism

From the article:

It was just as the three performers were disembarking from their Dublin flight in London that their suitcases were swarmed in upon by customs officers at the new London Southend Airport.

"We were returning to London with our suitcases full of drones, batteries and wiring equipment. Customs scanned through the suitcases and their eyes widened," said Young.

He said the officers then decided to call in the special branch, whose officers began questioning the three performers about their projects and asked them to describe what the electronic drones were all about in layman's terms.

"They asked us what electronic countermeasures we were trying to achieve! They took all of our materials and asked us for weblinks and references. Then they went away and Googled the project."

After that, Young said each team member was taken away for individual questioning. "They were also quite interested to know if we had cars."

Robotic ballet in the sky

Young said they told the special branch that their performance was a robotic ballet in the sky to show how communities in cities can use technology to gather and share information.

"My concern was they might have thought we were going to incite terrorism with the upcoming Olympic Games," he said.

But, after two hours of repeated questioning, the performers were eventually allowed to continue on their way. That wasn't before their conversations were recorded under the UK's Terrorism Act.

"Our stop and search is now on their file. We're now in the system, so they told us they would be checking us against our case file if we pass though the airport again," added Young.

(via Makezine)

Views: 24124

Comment by Paul Mather on June 24, 2012 at 2:39pm


In the link above, by my math, that's (2) 9000 mAh batteries 3S or (2) 6800 mAh batteries 4S. No "spares" allowed in checked bags, but you seem to be able to take them as carry on or checked. No clue why you get the quantity "2".

Comment by Gary Mortimer on June 24, 2012 at 2:44pm

Yep I'm with Paul there Chris some couriers are stopping air freighting them altogether. 

Comment by John Arne Birkeland on June 24, 2012 at 4:56pm

Welcome to 1984. Enjoy your stay...

Comment by Mark Bateson on June 24, 2012 at 5:21pm

I have traveled worldwide with my helicopters for the last couple of years with no problem. Like Chris, my systems are packed in Pelican Style cases, I leave a photo and description of what's being transported inside the case for TSA and clearly inform them my LiPo batteries have been shipped separately.

As for my LiPo batteries, I have a pelican case for them and ship them out in advance to my destination. I have been using UPS and although they inspect every battery before signing off on the shipment - I have never had a problem.

On a few occasions I have traveled on short notice and carried them on-board the aircraft. Instead of letting TSA "discover" your batteries as they pass through the xray equipment it's best to simply take them out in advance, just like your laptop so they are in clear view. TSA will wipe them down and test to make sure they are not an explosive and run them through the xray machine again and that's it. Just make sure to leave extra time to get through the line.

In regards to the experience described above, when you consider an event as large as the Olympics and the threats they are under I can certainly understand the sensitivity and their thorough investigation of the equipment.

Comment by Andreas M. Antonopoulos on June 24, 2012 at 6:07pm

I suspect this story is more about police state overreaction. Over-reacting is what the security state does best. If you pump it up with money (Olympics), and without a commensurate increase in accuracy, the security state will "trawl" more, overreact more and produce more false positives. Hilarity ensues at great cost to taxpayers and freedoms.

Feeling safer yet? After all, this is all theatre for your peace of mind, taxpayer. Don't worry about the random capriciousness of it all. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Comment by Patrick Egan on June 24, 2012 at 6:27pm

For sUAS ARC demos I made an odd shaped (triangle) box. I marked the sides in several locations with printed out in bold labels that stated, "Cracker Barrel Unmanned Aircraft System." It had my name and phone number on it. Everywhere I went the box was opened up and inspected... The looks on peoples faces when they pulled a slow stick out of the box must have been priceless;-)

Comment by Andrew Rabbitt on June 24, 2012 at 10:58pm

I think Andreas wins the gold medal.


Comment by Russkel on June 25, 2012 at 12:30am

Aaaahhhh it all makes sense now. The Terrorism Act is used to terrorise the public.

Comment by emile on June 25, 2012 at 3:46am

Just came back from my trip.

I stored my copter in the checked bag, a carried 4 LiPos in my hand luggage. The 4 LiPos were stored in the LiPo sack and all connectors were covered with isolating tape.

I took out the batteries from the hand luggage as I did with my laptop. A part from a few questions and an explosive test, everything went fine. 

But I didn't fly in England or America, so this would be an advantage. ;)

BTW don't store your batteries in checked luggage,it is forbidden although many custom operators don't even know...

Comment by Jan Detlefsen on June 25, 2012 at 5:37am

Fun Fact:

In Burma you can't bring in any remote controlled helicopter. Last time i was there a few month back they had big signs in the arrival halls.


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