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Drone enthusiasts often travel with their drones. Consequently they are faced with the challenge of figuring out what the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) rules are regarding drone travel. In this article we examine the TSA Drone Policy.
Looking for a travel drone? If so, check out our main page which describes several of the best travel drones with reviews, comparative analysis and tech specs.Â
Note: this article was previously published on BestTravelDrone.com.Â
TSA Drone Policy – it’s both straightforward and open ended
To cut to the chase, the TSA Drone Policy is both incredibly clear and frustratingly open ended (and borderline unhelpful).
The TSA’s policy for traveling with drone states:
“Drones are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline for their policy.“
In other words…you CAN bring them through security, but to get on your airplane you are going to have to check with your specific airline and validate what their rules may be.
We’ve covered a few Airline Drone Policies on BestTravelDrone.com
Here’s a picture of the TSA Drone Policy, directly from their website:
Each airline has it’s own drone policy (or has no policy at all). For example, Delta is notorious for having no policy whatsoever on how to bring a drone on the plane. Other airlines require you to bring them on the plane (versus checking them in a bag) while others are happy to let you check them, but sans the drone batteries.
Pro tip: make sure to check the destination restrictions for your final travel destination as well to avoid a very frustrating experience.Â
What’s also interesting to note is the small comment (that’s easy to miss!) on the TSA policy for drones page. It says:
“The final decision rests with the TSA officer on whether an item is allowed through the checkpoint.”
In other words, the TSA officer inspecting your luggage retains the discretion to not let an item through (as they do at all times with any sort of item – not just drones).
Looking for a travel drone? If so, BestTravelDrone.com which describes several of the best travel drones with reviews, comparative analysis and tech specs.Â
Why is the TSA Drone Policy so open ended?
We’ve long wondered why the TSA is largely silent on drones. Perhaps it’s simply a lack of understanding on their part, or maybe they’ve underappreciated the success and widespread popularity drones have these days (especially for travelers). Or, they simply aren’t a huge security risk.
That said, it’s also important to remember that a drone is really just a piece of electronic equipment and the TSA already has rules in place for dealing with these sorts of devices.
At the end of the day, what the TSA is reallyÂ concerned about is threats to the safety and well being of passengers (things like weapons, bombs, etc). They are also concerned about lithium polymer batteries (better known simply as lithium batteries and abbreviated LiPo).
Drones, of course, use lithium batteries (as do most small electronics). LiPo batteries strike the right balance between charge time and weight (both of which are huge issues for drones).
But, LiPo batteries can create some safety problems. They can overheat, overcharge (and then explode or catch fire) and be ruptured under pressure.
When traveling with your drone, it’s really the LiPo battery issue that’s of concern for the TSA – hence their policy on drones being so light. And even more so than the TSA it’s the FAA (responsible for flight policies and more here in the US) that has issued guidance on LiPo batteries and each airline has specific policies on traveling with LiPo batteries.
Summary of TSA Drone Policy
To sum up, the TSA Drone policy is, as noted, both simple and a little frustrating. We’ve heard of cases where travelers were subjected to additional screening when bringing a drone through airport security. But, for the most part, it’s nothing more than another piece of electronic gear.
So, when traveling with a drone it’s not really the TSA’s policy on drones you need to worry about, it’s the airline you are flying so be sure to check your airline’s policy.
Thanks for tuning in. We hope this brief discussion of the TSA Drone Policy was helpful to our readers in planning their next adventure. Check back for more great travel drone content!
In the meantime, if you are looking to find a great drone to travel with be sure to check out our comparison and analysis of the best travel drones.
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