(Photo Credit Ashim D’silva)

Taking a drone along on your travels is a fun, unique way to document a journey from an aerial perspective. Remote pilots should review the rules and regulations of their destination, especially if operating in a different country where separate registration of the UAV may be required. Thoroughly check local ordinances to ensure safe, compliant operations at all times.

Most consumer-grade drones are powered by lithium-ion polymer (LiPO) batteries. They’re rechargeable, lightweight, and practical for powering small unmanned aircraft where payload heavily factors into flight time. However, LiPO batteries pose both a chemical and electrical hazard, making them prone to explosions and fire if punctured, overcharged, or exposed to an unstable environment such as a pressurized cabin in the cargo area of a passenger aircraft. LiPO battery fires spread quickly and are catastrophic if not contained immediately. This poses a challenge when they’re stored in an area that can”T be accessed by an airline’s trained crew.

While LiPO fires are rare, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) to enhance air safety by revising the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) for LiPO batteries transported by passenger aircraft on February 27th. “This rule will strengthen safety for the traveling public by addressing the unique challenges lithium batteries pose in transportation,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

LiPo batteries will no longer be permitted in the cargo hold of any passenger aircraft, they must be checked in as carry on items with the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA). “In addition, the IFR requires lithium ion cells and batteries to be shipped at not more than a 30 percent state of charge aboard cargo-only aircraft,” says the DOT notice. To ensure safe transportation of the drone onboard, make sure it’s packed in a travel-friendly case with separate compartments for the LiPO batteries.

The complete IFR can be viewed in its entirety at http://www.phmsa.dot.gov. Comments can be submitted to the IFR under Docket Number: PHMSA?2016?0014 (HM?224I) at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov.

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