One of the questions we have been asked a number of times at Airshare is whether there are any restrictions on carrying a drone (or drones) onboard commercial aircraft in New Zealand.
We have done some homework with NZ’s two major carriers, Air New Zealand and Jetstar, and in both cases they responded that their policies regarding Dangerous Goods are based on the IATA and CAA policies.
These don’t relate specifically to drones but the relevant policies do apply to the drone batteries. So the big concern is transport of lithium batteries, which are known for their lack of stability, particularly when fully charged.
There have been a number of fires on commercial and cargo flights started by lithium batteries, including this one started by lipo batteries , so the risk is very real.
We have compiled some useful reference links in this post, but also recommend you review the Dangerous Goods policy of any airline you are planning to travel with.
The following guidelines are a good starting point:
1) The recommendation is that you carry your drone and any spare batteries with you in cabin luggage. This means they will be less subject to temperature fluctuations, and if any fire starts, the cabin crew will be able to manage it. Make sure you mention you are carrying lithium batteries when you check in.
2) For batteries over 100 Wh and up to 160 Wh, you can only carry a maximum of two spares. (Batteries over 160 Wh cannot be carried.) These need to be transported either in their original packaging, or with the terminals taped, and each battery placed in a separate plastic bag. If you have LIPO batteries it is advisable also to place them in a fireproof bag used for charging.
3) If your drone is too large to take in carry-on luggage, ensure it is packed in a hard case, and ensure there is no way it could turn on during the trip. If you can, remove the batteries and carry them with you in the cabin.
4) Carefully check your batteries for damage including scratches before you travel, and either replace or leave behind any that are damaged.
The IATA guidelines are here: http://www.iata.org/publications/Documents/lithium%20battery-risk-mitigation-guidance-for-operators-1st-ed.pdf – Page 23 carries the relevant information.