So you bought the DJI Mavic Air and can’t wait to take it overseas. Part of the reason you bought it is because of its ultra-small footprint. It can easily fit in your luggage, sets up quickly, and takes amazing images and video.
But before you put the Mavic Air in your carry-on and zip over to a foreign country there are a lot of things you’ll need to consider.
Can you even fly your Mavic Air where you’re going?
Traveling to Kenya? You’ll need to apply for a permit before bringing your drone into the country. Not doing this could land you a hefty fine or even jail time. Would you have even thought of doing this?
Every country has different drone laws, and they’re also constantly changing, making keeping up with them quite difficult.
Why do different countries have such strict, varying drone laws? There are a number of reasons.
- Safety – lack of specific drone regulations puts civil aviation at risk, and so these countries outright ban drones until such regulations are drafted.
- Security – many countries view drones as a security threat, spying on sensitive infrastructure and operations.
- Privacy – some cultures have concerns for their citizens’ privacy with the proliferation of small, portable cameras and posting photos of these citizens is illegal.
There are a couple of resources online to help you plan your trip, but they’re not the final solution. UAV Coach has an incomplete list of regulations by country, and FoxNomad has a map showing drone restrictions but no sources are cited. So ultimately it’s up to you.
The best thing to do is to contact that country’s civil aviation authority well in advance of your visit.
Keep in mind that your 107 Certificate is only valid in the United States. Other countries do require you to have a license issued by their own civil aviation authority, even if you are only flying for recreational purposes.
Going through Customs with your Mavic Air
Another difficult subject to navigate is the different regulations you’ll face going through Customs in various countries.
You could again face serious fines or jail time if you don’t follow the proper Customs procedures.
Customs officials want to make sure you don’t sell the drone in their country. Any financial gain that people make in foreign countries must be cleared, documented, and taxed. If you enter a country with an $800 drone and leave the country without it, even if it’s lost or stolen, Customs could assume that you made a business transaction inside of their country.
Again, you should check with the Customs & Immigration department of any country you’ll be visiting in advance. You’ll find out if you
- Don’t need to declare your Mavic Air to Customs.
- Need to declare the value of the Mavic Air and continue on your trip.
- Will have to pay a deposit anywhere from a hundred to a few thousand dollars to ensure that you bring the drone back out of the country.
- Will have your Mavic Air confiscated and held at Customs until you leave the country.
The last two courses of action are less than ideal, but they do happen in some countries. The last one should especially make you nervous. In that case, you may want to consider not bringing a drone at all.
Should you put your Mavic Air in checked luggage or carry it with you?
The nice thing about the Mavic Air is the small size. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to carry the drone in your carry-on luggage.
If you do have to check your Mavic Air:
- Make sure it’s secure in a padded case.
- The battery should be properly installed and can’t be activated.
- There should be no spare batteries in your checked luggage.
Airline restrictions with drone batteries
Most countries, including the United States, require that you carry spare LiPo batteries in your carry-on luggage.
These batteries are volatile and can catch fire if not stored properly. All spare batteries in your carry-on luggage should be stored in protective sleeves to prevent a short circuit.
If a fire breaks out in the cargo hold of a passenger airliner it would be disastrous. If the fire breaks out in the overhead bins it can be dealt with much easier, though still less than ideal.
Check with the airlines you’ll be flying internationally for their policies on lithium polymer batteries. Not transporting them properly could result in confiscation.
Also, some small airplanes may make you gate-check your carry-on luggage if it’s too large for the smaller bins. If this is the case, be sure to take your spare batteries out of whatever luggage you need to check and keep them with you in the cabin.
Getting through airport security with your Mavic Air
Traveling through airport security with a Mavic Air shouldn’t be too difficult. Assuming you’re in a country where their import and operation is legal, they don’t pose much of a threat to airport security.
Most security officials have seen enough drones going through their inspections every day that they won’t be surprised by a Mavic Air.
They may run it through the x-ray one more time, they may ask you to turn it on, or they may swab it for explosives.
Expect a worse case scenario where extra screening is backed up by a few minutes if you’re traveling with a Mavic Air.
Don’t be afraid to bring your Mavic Air on international trips
There are a lot of scary things about international travel with your Mavic Air – fines, large deposits, confiscation, and jail time. Don’t let this deter you from getting amazing drone footage.
Follow these steps and you’ll have nothing to worry about:
- Can you fly a drone in that country?
- What kind of operational license do you need, if any?
- What are the flight & geographic restrictions?
- What do you need to do to bring it to the country?