Carry-On Bags vs. Hard Shell Cases
Depending on the size and amount of gear you have for your drone, you’ll need to decide if you want to carry on the drone or check it in a hard-shell case. Just like traveling with camera gear, it’s always best to keep things with you. A checked bag is always a risk. Even if it’s handled properly, there’s always a chance that the bag can get delayed or put on the wrong plane.
If you have a smaller drone like a Phantom, there are bags designed for carry-on purposes. You just need to make sure that the bag fits in the overhead compartments or underneath your seat — this differs on every plane.
DJI has a hard-shell backpack , but I’d advise against getting a bag with any type of branding. You want your bag to be as inconspicuous as possible. While airport security doesn’t care if your bag says DJI, thieves might. The hard-shell backpacks are always uncomfortable and wear you down if you must carry over long distances. I much prefer a soft bag for carrying a long distance. Again, there is an official soft drone backpack — but you can find all sorts of these bags online.
If you have a larger drone like a DJI Inspire 1, Yuneec Typhoon, or Freefly Alta, you’ll want a rolling hard-shell case to check the drone. The Inspire and Typhoon are borderline in size. They will fit in overhead compartments on larger planes, but they won’t come close in smaller planes. Rather than risk finding out at boarding time, just plan to check your drone. A hard-shell drone case is your best form of protection when it comes to traveling with a drone. I once checked a semi-rugged case with padding, and still found that my baggage wasn’t handled properly. The best way to travel is a combination of both. I always check the drone body, controller, and accessories. In my drone case, I carry the drone batteries, as well as the camera gimbal and memory cards. Those are things I want to make sure don’t get tossed around below the plane.
Rechargeable lithium ion batteries must always be carried in carry-on baggage. This includes your drone batteries. Do not check your batteries with the drone. It’s also recommended that you protect the battery terminals; you can simply cover them with tape.
You’ll need to verify with the airline, but the standard regulations limit passengers to only two lithium ion batteries over 100 Amp hours (Ah). There is no limit for most batteries under 100-watt hours.
Therefore, you’ll see manufacturers like DJI producing two types of batteries. For the Inspire 1 series, DJI produces the TB-47 battery that has 99.90 Ah and the TB-48 which has 129.96 Ah. The FAA restricts passengers to two TB-48 batteries, but they can carry several TB-47 batteries. You can also combine the type and carry two TB-48 batteries at four TB-47 batteries.
New batteries should have the watt-hour marked on them. If for some reason they don’t, you can calculate the watt hours by multiplying the battery voltage by the Amp hours (Ah).