New Regulations Regarding Flying with LiPo Batteries

March 30th, 2016 icon / message-square 6
New Regulations Regarding Flying with LiPo Batteries

LiPo batteries (Lithium Polymer) are delicate. In fact, they can be downright dangerous when handled incorrectly, as they can combust when they’re overcharged, short-circuited, and sometimes even if you just look at them a little funny. This makes them a nightmare when it comes to shipping via aircraft. That’s why the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has just announced updated regulations with regards to shipping LiPo batteries.

lipo batteries flying regulations

Checked Baggage vs. Hand Luggage

For stunning aerial shots, a helicopter is no longer a necessity. It is now possible (simple even!) to achieve stunning aerial shots with a drone. It also tends to be a whole lot cheaper. So, there are a lot of advantages to shooting with drones—unfortunately, the commonly used LiPo batteries are not included in that list. Next time you’re planning on packing your drone, along with loads of spare LiPo batteries, and jetting off to a beautiful Caribbean beach for a commercial shot, think twice; you may just end up stuck at the airport!

The IATA have had several rules and regulations in place for a while when it comes to sending Lithium batteries skywards (including Li-Ion and LiPo batteries):

  • Spare batteries up to 100 Wh (watt hours): hand luggage only, max weight of allowed hand luggage
  • Spare batteries from 100 Wh up to 160Wh (max): hand luggage only, max 2 batteries per passenger

Those regulations apply only to personal use. But what is personal use? Well, that’s up to the airline. Whatever their decision, though, transporting each battery in a sealed plastic bag (or dedicated fireproof bag, for LiPo batteries) and having the exposed terminals covered with duct tape is mandatory.

Both, Li-Ion and LiPo batteries are prohibited in checked baggage and are not allowed to exceed 160Wh. Lithium metal batteries are not allowed at all. These require special precautionary measures.

New Regulations, Increasing Prices of LiPo Batteries

The new regulations will become effective by April 1st, 2016 and look to tighten the current rules quite significantly—across a much broader spectrum:

  • All international shipments of lithium batteries are prohibited as cargo on passenger aircraft.

This doesn’t apply to batteries in, or as part of, items of equipment. It applies to individual batteries. In other words, it will affect the way that you order spare batteries from your chosen retailer. From here on in, it is prohibited to send these batteries without following a strict procedure (which involves a lot of labelling, and a lot tighter control on how the batteries are packaged).

different lables and a dedicated LiPo fireprrof bag

Different labels and a dedicated LiPo fireproof bag

Currently, a lot of retailers just pack a battery in a sleeve and ship it. Those parcels will then be handled like any other, being transported by a passenger plane headed towards the desired destination. The new regulations will put an end to this, and it’s reasonable to conclude that the cost of Lithium batteries will increase as a result. After all, shipping by cargo aircraft isn’t cheap—and there’ll be a lot more to the process, too.

LiPo BatteriesFor reference, check out these UPS international lithium battery regulations.

In my mind, these new regulations bring a positive change. These batteries can be fairly dangerous, and knowing that there are no potentially explosive goods below my feet while I am a few thousand feet over the Atlantic Ocean will put my mind at ease! On the other hand, these regulations will cause a slight headache when preparing to shoot abroad; I guess that, as filmmakers, we’ll just have to be prepared so we don’t end up delayed!

Do remember that individual airlines have their own rules. Some follow the IATA regulations to the letter while others handle things their own way (ie. more strictly). It is always a good idea to call your airline before your departure, rather than rushing to the airport unprepared and five minutes late… again.

Related links: IATA 2016 regulation PDF


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March 31st, 2016

Relax everyone!
This is for companies shipping Batteries not individuals carrying personal batteries in cabin baggage. Those rules remain unchanged! Stick below 100wh and you’ll be fine! or x2 upto 160wh.

March 31st, 2016

I wonder if this might birth some interesting ways to travel without batteries… such as rental batteries! Now certainly this will not be the most ideal, as you have to trust a vendor that they are providing you with healthy, useful, pre-charged (yes!) batteries for you on location… and in many locations around the world you would have a very difficult time finding a vendor conveniently.

But, this is something I’d be willing to try.

In fact, there could be tools to validate that the batteries are healthy (as long as they weren’t manipulated and modified illegally)… DJI provides battery health and history in the DJI GO app when your Inspire inspects the battery and its internal cells. It shows the charging history, cycle count, and lots of other health details… of course this information is on the battery’s microcomputer itself! So rental batteries should give us a clue to how safe they are.

But would you trust your expensive equipment with used batteries that have been treated in whatever way by other people? Maybe, but probably not.

It’s an interesting prospect though.

I can’t wait until we see some advances in energy storage over the next few years!

Oscar M
March 30th, 2016

Ridiculousness continues if this is true…
How many LiPo Battery accidents have been registered on planes?

I noticed that the rule is effective from April 1st. Could that be the reason :)

September 25th, 2016
Reply to  Oscar M

I had a LiPo battery from my drone ignite on me and luckily I was in a barn, able to drop it quickly to a concrete floor and good thing there were no combustible objects nearby.

LiPo batteries store incredible amounts of energy and you need to think of them nearly as small gasoline cans. Remember the Boeing Dreamliner entire fleet was grounded because of fires that started from similar batteries used in this specific aircraft.

Get on Google News and you’ll see a couple of hobby shops specializing in RC aircraft have burned down because of fires orginating from a LiPo battery.

Marc-Ferdinand Körner
March 30th, 2016

There i ask myself…is a Philip Bloom now unable to work anymore?! #luggageking

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