The usage of drones is increasingly becoming popular in India. The Drone Rules 2021, released on August 25th, have made it easier to buy and fly drones. However, traveling with drones came with several restrictions. The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) has now allowed passengers to carry drones on personal trips and domestic flights. Here is how to carry your drone on a domestic flight in India.
Size and Batteries
According to the MoCA, small to medium-sized drones are allowed on domestic flights. However, the drone regulations have categorized drones into five sizes:
- Nano: Drones weighing less than 250g
- Micro: Drones weighing 250g – 2kg
- Small: Drones weighing 2kg – 25kg
- Medium: Drones weighing 25kg – 150kg
- Large: Drones weighing over 150kg
Most consumer drones fall below the micro category and weigh up to 2kg. Therefore, all nano and micro drones can be easily carried either in hand or in check-in luggage based on their size. Some airlines mandate for drones to be carried in check-in luggage only. In that case, the drone batteries must be removed and carried in the carry-on baggage.
“If drones are asked to be mandatorily checked-in, it is because of individual airline policy and not a regulatory requirement,” a ministry official stated. “When drones are accepted as check-in baggage, the batteries need to be removed and carried in carry-on baggage only.”
“Nano drones can be carried in hand baggage with batteries in the passenger cabin or checked-in baggage (without batteries). Ideally, it is advisable to carry Nano drones in hand-carry baggage and not in checked-in baggage, as these drones have Lithium batteries and hence the potential risk of fire…,” the official added.
The allowance is highly beneficial for drone companies that regularly need to transport larger drones. Drones with batteries of up to 160WH capacity can be carried on domestic flights. However, any drone that has a battery capacity between 100WH and 160WH can only carry two spare batteries. The procedure for larger drones remains the same. The drone must be carried in the check-in luggage with the batteries placed in the hand baggage.
Drones with a battery capacity over 160WH must be shipped as cargo and cannot be transported in personal luggage. Additionally, no spare batteries are allowed for these drones. Large drones (160WH) will only be transported in cargo compartments with smoke detection and fire suppression systems. The order also mandates passengers to take prior approval from the airlines as some airlines have specific individual policies regarding drones.