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Traveling with Your Drone – Best Practices

May 31, 2021 | 0 comments

Note: Keep safety and responsibility in mind when flying. If you’ve never flown before, it’s never too late to learn. Find a hands-on Training near you.

 In order to legally operate a drone business, you will need a Part 107 License. If you want to pass the test on your first try, take a Prep Course.

Traveling with your drone to take it on adventures was probably one of the reasons you bought the drone in the first place. For those who love to travel, we’ll provide a few simple and concise tips to enjoy flying your drone while avoiding the loss of one in a foreign land. Hopefully, you’ll find these particularly useful for your next trip, whether you’re a beginner or a pro.

Prepare everything before traveling with your drone

Be Efficient and Make a Moves List

While traveling with your drone, time will be a scarce resource. It helps videographers to know which cinematic moves will work. You can save some battery life if you practice several moves and list the best ones. This will optimize your travel time so that you can make multiple takes more efficiently. Whether you are taking a photo or making a video, the composition is crucial! Learning how to use and master your drone will go a long way towards capturing those epic shots when traveling.

Drone Insurance

Before you leave your country when traveling with your drone,  make sure you contact your insurance company. Verify all the detials regarding your coverage overseas and plan accordingly.

Consider space and weight when traveling with your drone

More times than not, traveling will always consist of walking a lot. Instead of hiring a camera crew to carry your drone accessories while traveling, consider instead getting a bag, optimal for drone photography. Below is a list of a few essentials to have in the bag:

  • Drone Battery Case (Safety and Airports)
  • Memory Cards
  • Spare Cables and Props
  • Probe Light

Packing efficiently will become easier as you travel more. This can also be practiced by taking short trips inside your home city or country. Always plan your sessions and carry only the essentials. You will master efficient packing in no time if you make it a standard.

Lookout for lockers and rental storage spaces

Many big attractions like Disneyland or tourist-oriented theme parks and water parks do not permit drones. However, they usually have lockers near the entrance where you can store your drone for a fee. It is best to ask ahead of time, so your drone can be left at the hotel.

Get plenty of  information on the Drone Laws and Battery Safekeeping for the Place your visiting

Drones are getting more popular by the minute. Countries all around the world have specific drone regulations for several areas. As a photographer, it is your job to do your due diligence and learn these regulations before flying the drone. Gratefully, DJI has a page with the guidelines for several countries worldwide. To help you plan your drone field trip, you can find useful information here such as drone laws, local policies, and GEO zones.  Singapore’s No-Fly-Zones map also makes things easier by showing us where we can and cannot fly. Besides some places requiring permits to fly, there are also certain cities where flying is simply not allowed! 

Additionally, battery storage is something to consider before getting yourself on a plane. Remember to verify the LIPO Policies listed on DJI’s Airline Baggage Battery Policies page.  You should also note whether hand luggage or checked luggage is preferred, and what kind of battery storage is recommended. 

Drones typically run on lithium-ion (LIPO) batteries, so they need to comply with FAA  hazardous materials regulations. LiPo batteries should be stored in carry-on luggage. In some cases, you may be able to pack lithium-ion batteries in your checked baggage. However, you’ll notice that the rules for traveling with lithium-ion batteries are more consistent and easier to follow for carry-on baggage.

Carry-on luggage with LIPO batteries when traveling with your drone

Packing LIPO batteries in your carry-on baggage requires knowing how many watt-hours (Wh) each one has. Batteries for small drones have an average power capacity of less than 100 Wh but make sure you know the Wh is right for your drone’s batteries.

To determine Watt-hours, multiply volts by ampere-hours (V x Ah).

As an example: a 12-volt battery with an 8 amp hour rating has 96 watt-hours (12 x 8 = 96).

Please follow these steps if you are packing LIPO batteries up to 100 Wh in your carry-on baggage:

  • Leave the batteries in their retail packaging
  • Cover the battery terminals with tape
  • Use a battery case
  • Use a battery sleeve in a camera bag, or put them snugly in a plastic bag or protective pouch.

Your batteries must be for professional or personal use. Packing batteries for sale or distribution is not allowed. Ensure that your carry-on bag meets any airline-specific requirements for bringing LIPO batteries onboard.

Follow these procedures when packing LIPO batteries less than 160 Wh (bu over 100 Wh)  in your carry-on bag:

  • Obtain airline approval for carrying large lithium-polymer batteries (more than 100Wh) in carry-on luggage.
  • Pack no more than two spare batteries with a capacity greater than 100 Wh.
  • You can protect batteries from a short circuit by keeping them in their original packaging, a battery case, or a pouch.

Checked baggage carrying LIPO batteries

The LIPO batteries with a capacity of 100 Wh or less can be packed inside checked baggage only if they are installed inside the drone. Batteries with a capacity larger than 100 Wh packed in checked baggage require airline approval.

In your checked baggage, you cannot pack any spare LIPO batteries. In checked baggage, only the battery inside your drone is allowed. Pack your spare batteries inside their original packaging, a battery case, or a separate pouch or pocket with you in your carry-on bag.

Before leaving to the filming site

You’ve finally arrived at your destined country. Now let’s prepare for flying our drone. Before you decide to leave your hotel, these tips will ensure you make the best of your sessions every time.

Consider all variables when traveling with your drone

Lighting and Weather

When traveling with your drone it is very important to verify the weather forecast of the area you’re visiting. Again, you have to optimize your time when traveling. It might be better to take a picture of that building or landscape at a time when the sun is not behind it. Additionally, your drone flight itinerary may be affected by weather forecasts, such as rain or lightning. 

Crowded areas

You need to consider several variables that might ruin a session, including crowds. Weekdays are less crowded but you may see more cars on the road if shooting in cities. Google applications such as Google Earth and Google Maps can be a great tool to use to get an idea of the crowds in an area.

Make sure your batteries are charged

Imagine driving for several hours and arriving at that perfect spot and finding that you forgot to charge your drone’s remote control. Such a waste of a good day. Bring yourself to an OCD level where you ensure that everything is charged. Your Drone, your RC, and your phone or tablet must be charged. In some countries, the wall outlet is different and must be taken into consideration. Buy a few adapters and a power bank. These gadgets will come really in handy when you’re in areas with no electricity nearby.

Drink plenty of fluids and pack enough snacks

When traveling with your drone, or without it, you are always bound to take long walks around areas that may or may not have food or snacks available for purchase. Keep light and pack a few sandwiches or chips but always carry enough water to stay hydrated through your journey. This foldable water bottle does the trick and it also serves for traveling light. Do some research of the areas you will be visiting and take note of where you can do your quick stops. 

The Importance of Wind and Weather

Keeping track of the weather, especially the wind, is important, just like at home. A strong wind can be terrifying on elevated ground or at a beachfront. Even though DJI’s drone technology is exceptionally good at stabilizing, you should not rely entirely on it. Make safe flying a habit, and you will never have to worry about losing your drone.

Secondary Film (B-roll) is very useful

Supplemental footage is always great for immersion purposes. If traveling alone, a 2nd camera or drone doing this footage can be very handy. Top YouTubers include a lot of supplemental footage to immerse their viewers in their particular location. This is both resource-dependent and time-dependent; you may need an extra pair of hands or another drone. However, it can make for some awesome storytelling! You can use anything that is not part of your primary film for this purpose. For example, photos of arriving or leaving the hotel, riding to and from the shooting spot, drone setup, flight initiation, and finalization. 

Pre-Flight Checklist 

Safety Comes First

Drones are worth every penny, but they remain far too expensive for people like us. It may be very difficult for you to make a repeat visit to the place you’re traveling to, but don’t risk your drone for one experience. You may be in one place today and another the next but without your drone, you lose all possibilities of a great aerial shot. When traveling with your drone, keep in mind the interference of other transmitters that may mess with your drones positioning systems.  Before you fly, or maybe while still hovering low, it is a good practice to review the IMU and Compass Sensors state in the DJI GO App. 

Weather can be tricky too. Cold temperatures will have an impact on battery life as well as fog can freeze up your propellers. Plan out your flights and keep it safe. If something just seems too unfavorable, it probably is. Evaluate your risk and let your drone fly another day.

Bring your ND filters

Since sunlight is almost always the primary light source, ND filters are essential. Your footage may appear jittery and less cinematic without ND filters. Check out the Infographic made by DJI for taking in great shots using the camera settings of the drone.  

Mind your surroundings 

Safety again, safety. There will be huge number of things that can intervene when flying a drone. Mind the tree branches, the birds, the kites, the balloons, whatever floats or flies is an object ready to crash with if not paying attention. People will always be curious about drones but your job is to make them feel safe while you work. Some people though, might not feel comfortable with you flying a drone nearby. As we recommend on almost every post, state your business clearly, be friendly and clear out any negative vibe away from bystanders. As long as you are being professional, you should not face any inconvenience. Do not be rude to disinterested individuals. It is our responsibility to make everything around us and our drones as safe as possible.

Take Off

Get a 360 degree shot to get started

Whenever you go to a new area, you will definitely find many locations where to sit and take great photos. However, wherever you go, regardless of what iconic spot you found, go to the highest legally able altitude you can and take a 360 shot. This will help you pan out what’s in the area. It will be both rewarding in itself as a shot and will also give you a broader view of what’s around the area. This new insight will give you a good perspective of where to head out to next instead of walking around aimlessly. Consider this as part of your B-roll for supplemental footage, but with intention and purpose.

More is always better

After a long day shooting, you’d rather carefully pick which photo did best. If you take several shots, you’ll have much more to work with and might get closer to perfect with evey shot. 

Make sure you experiment with drone moves when filming, as one of them might be your best option in post. Take a few shots with different settings if the cloud cover is aggravating, especially for smaller drones with limited low-light capability. Whenever clouds are moving quickly and hide the sun, you may want to change your ND filters.

Know Limits within your Flyable Space

Traveling with your drone will give you access to a plenty of airspace that will allow you to capture stunning aerial photos. A sandy beach and cliffs offer a high degree of maneuverability, so be sure to fly your drone in every direction (forwards/backwards/left/right). You can use a camera gimbal and pan/yaw techniques while flying vertically (up/down), hovering, and flying through tight areas.

The Trick is in the Details

In order for any photo or video to stand out among the rest, it is crucial to frame it properly. Shooting people and vehicles from too high off the ground will make them look way too small and maybe irrelevant to the shot. An iconic landmark may be framed in the middle of the frame when shot from afar. When it comes to photography, portrait shots can make a huge impact. Similarly, top-down video almost always looks amazing. Framing each scene according to your story will help you tell your story to the audience. Learning to edit your photos and videos will make it easier to crop when you need to.

Post Production is Part of Your Session

Many photographers and video composers think about the editing stage while they are still taking the photos or videos. Think about what exactly you wish to accomplish and work towards it. By planning ahead, you will be able to save time and space in the long run. 

Final Thoughts

Most of these tips will obviously help you out even if you’re not yet traveling abroad for photo shoots but keeping them in practice will make you stand out professionally. Keep your work organized, specially if its something you enjoy. Creativity and patience is key. Hone your craft all while you enjoy your time traveling.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to write in our comment box below.

Fly safe and stay profitable!

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