Taking a drone with you on holiday can be enormously rewarding. But there are also a few risks that need to be managed — after all, this is a high-value piece of equipment, and when you travel between different countries, you’re likely to run into other laws surrounding drones and their use.
Whether you’re photographing foreign vistas from the sky or you’re just taking your drone out for the sheer thrill of it, it’s important to get your preparation right.
Generally speaking, this preparation should come in several forms.
- Make sure that you’re on the right side of the law.
- Make sure that your drone is technically fit for the trip.
- Make sure that you’ve researched your destination and know where the most drone-friendly spaces are.
What case do I need?
Packing a drone into the rear of your car is one thing, but loading it into the baggage compartment of an international flight is quite another. Your bag will be at the mercy of the baggage handlers, who might not treat the package with quite the same respect that you do.
If you arrive at your destination only to discover that your drone was damaged in transit, you might find it extremely difficult to repair. It’s therefore important to invest in a hard case. This will help you to transport it safely. Look for a case that your manufacturer recommends and make sure that you’ve packed sensibly. If you’ve got the right padding, you might also go DIY — but you’ll need to think about how to pack a drone into a suitcase alongside all of the necessary accessories.
What are the rules for airports?
Drone airport rules tend to cover your flying in the airspace around an airport rather than transporting your drone through it. In most cases, they will treat your drone like any other personal electronic device. It comes equipped with a lithium-ion battery, which can pose a danger to the flight. You also might run into trouble if you’re taking multiple spare batteries.
Insurance will allow you to fly without fear that a single mishap will wipe out your investment. It’ll also protect you against the damage mentioned above that can occur during transit. You’ll find specialised drone insurers that will cover travel across the world. Look into travel insurance for drones, or talk to your existing insurer to ensure you’re covered.
Selecting the right drone
Certain drones are better suited to life on the road than others. Among the most important criteria is the size and portability of the device; larger, heavy items will suck the fun out of the trip if you have to spend time worrying about them or dragging them through hotels and into the back of them taxicabs.
Updating your drone
Drone manufacturers periodically release firmware updates designed to eliminate bugs and keep the drone in the sky. Updating a drone can be a long process, and it might drain your battery. If you can’t rely on a stable internet connection in the place you’re visiting, then take care of this before departure.
What are the most drone-friendly countries?
Several countries distinguish themselves as being friendly to drone users. In some sense, this might be a product of their physical characteristics. Part of the appeal of flying a drone, after all, is the terrain over which you’ll be flying!
But we also need to worry about the laws in those countries. Some countries stand apart as being permissive for drone users. These tend to be those where there are vast tracts of wilderness over which you can pilot your drone without fear of running into human beings (or wildlife). But you might also find dedicated space that has been set aside for the explicit purpose of drone piloting.
Spain boasts a wealth of appealing geography, as well as relatively permissive laws when it comes to drones. The authorities have recently launched ENAIRE, which will tell you what conditions apply to your flight based on the route you provide.
Germany is quite ahead of the field when it comes to drone regulation. There are plenty of places where you’re free to fly, but others where certain conditions apply. If you’re in an RMZ, or Radio Mandatory Zone, then you’ll need radio equipment to fly. You can check out a detailed map here.
This island nation is among the most sparsely populated in the world, and you should be able to pilot your drone with relative impunity. Steer clear of bird sanctuaries and airports, and you shouldn’t have any trouble.
In Singapore, the use of drones is fairly widespread — you don’t need to be licenced, provided that you’re below 7kg (loaded) and that you follow the rules. The rules themselves should be familiar to even inexperienced drone pilots. Avoid flying low, avoid airports, avoid large crowds, and keep your drone in sight.
There’s a great deal of variety to be found across Australia. If you’re visiting New South Wales, you’ll get an entirely different experience than if you’re trekking across Western Australia. Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority has created an app that will tell you where you should and shouldn’t fly. Consider it a must-have before your trip.
What do you need for the perfect drone vacation?
If your drone vacation is to go off without a hitch, then it’s essential that those legal and technical niggles are anticipated ahead of time. Do your research, and make sure that you’ve invested in a heavy case for safe transport.
Of course, there’s another factor that we haven’t yet mentioned — the weather. Your trip along the gorgeous Californian coast may be scuppered if the environment is shrouded in fog. Make sure you’re visiting at the right time of year, and be aware of alternative destinations you can visit during spells of bad weather – that way, your day won’t go to waste!