There's a lesson in here somewhere - and TSA destroyed my drone

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I flew to Austin, TX and brought my Phantom 2 Vision + with me to show my friend. I had it well packed in a Tradecraft case with the gimbal lock in place. I carried the batteries separately. When I was checking in, the airline employee asked me what was in the case. I proudly told him it was a "drone." He looked quizzically at me and so I added, "You know, an unmanned aerial vehicle."

What an idiot I was. I should have replied, "It's a toy helicopter." The result was that piece of my luggage (which had a priority tag on it no less) didn't arrive with my flight. I presume my response prompted my luggage to get carefully inspected. And the result of that inspection?

1) My case didn't make it with my airline flight
2) The gimbal lock was NOT in place for the flight
3) The gimbal was completely destroyed in transit
4) A new gimbal and camera cost $600! Who's going to invest $600 to repair their Phantom 2 Vision +?

So I go to my local drone store and they told me how I could get a Phantom 2 with a gimbal that would hold a GoPro camera. Somehow the GoPro idea seemed clever and it only took $1300 to solve my $600 problem.

Ack! I no longer have first person view! WTF!

So my plan is to get a new Phantom 3. That way, for $2,600 I will have solved my $600 problem. I'm still trying to figure out who else to blame but it looks like I'm the problem.
 
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I flew to Austin, TX and brought my Phantom 2 Vision + with me to show my friend. I had it well packed in a Tradecraft case with the gimbal lock in place. I carried the batteries separately. When I was checking in, the airline employee asked me what was in the case. I proudly told him it was a "drone." He looked quizzically at me and so I added, "You know, an unmanned aerial vehicle."

What an idiot I was. I should have replied, "It's a toy helicopter." The result was that piece of my luggage (which had a priority tag on it no less) didn't arrive with my flight. I presume my response prompted my luggage to get carefully inspected. And the result of that inspection?

1) My case didn't make it with my airline flight
2) The gimbal lock was NOT in place for the flight
3) The gimbal was completely destroyed in transit
4) A new gimbal and camera cost $600! Who's going to invest $600 to repair their Phantom 2 Vision +?

So I go to my local drone store and they told me how I could get a Phantom 2 with a gimbal that would hold a GoPro camera. Somehow the GoPro idea seemed clever and it only took $1300 to solve my $600 problem.

Ack! I no longer have first person view! WTF!

So my plan is to get a new Phantom 3. That way, for $2,600 I will have solved my $600 problem. I'm still trying to figure out who else to blame but it looks like I'm the problem.
Welcome to the Forum, John.

Wow, really sorry to hear these kinds of stories. So sad to entrust TSA and baggage handlers who treat checked items so poorly! I've had hard-sided cases come down the carousel with wheels, latches and handles missing. It's a bad deal!

I recommend a backpack to carry-on valuables like cameras and Phantom. The DJI backpack and the GPC backpack amongst others work well for this purpose. Here's mine, 22"x 13"x 9" and 14.5 lbs with everything I take in the overhead.
image.jpg
 
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When checking in a case that contains your Phantom, it's a good idea to wrap a velcro strap, rubber band, etc. around the gimbal protector to ensure it does not fall off. I know it's too late now, but it's a tip that might be useful in the future.
 

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Welcome to the forum! It is a wealth of information and there are many knowledgeable members here.

I always keep mine as carry on, never checked baggage. I also have specialized fragile stickers all over it (I sell them here in the classifieds dirt cheap). I open it up and show it to the TSA, they swab it and I close it up and get on my flight never letting it out of my control.

As far as your old bird, there are many replacement and used parts these days as folks upgrade to the P3, etc. You can easily fix it up for much less than $600 I'm sure.
 
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You should NOT be taking those lipos on board PERIOD! I have some experience with this and they should be shipped GROUND everywhere you go. These lipos can spontaneously ignite, trust me I know. When they do they create a 2000 degree fire that is not extinguishable. The toxic smoke and fire a 4s 5000MaH lipo would create would force that plane down and put many lives in danger! The smoke is CORROSIVE! Have some common sense and understand that most of the freight carriers are restricting lipos for this very reason. Theres are NOT the slightly less volatile computer cell LioN batteries they are LiPo's and carry inherent dangers. be smart and ship the batteries by ground. Do not fly and make this mistake again, PLEASE!

And don't start quoting me airline regs. I know them all. The trouble is that they don't know the very real dangers that exist but they are learning. Don't even check them underneath. Do some research and understand that a shipment of computer LiOn's was suspected in killing hundreds a decade ago in Europe in a tragic plane crash from checked in freight. LiPos have a more volatile constitution. These batteries can spontaneously combust and have taken gown houses and garages. Mine was one........

PS, they can and will ignite each other so you have a potential bomb onboard with three in tow.
 
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Interesting. Many people have been flying with Phantom batteries. I haven't seen any news about them taking a plane down yet.
 
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You should NOT be taking those lipos on board PERIOD! I have some experience with this and they should be shipped GROUND everywhere you go. These lipos can spontaneously ignite, trust me I know. When they do they create a 2000 degree fire that is not extinguishable. The toxic smoke and fire a 4s 5000MaH lipo would create would force that plane down and put many lives in danger! The smoke is CORROSIVE! Have some common sense and understand that most of the freight carriers are restricting lipos for this very reason. Theres are NOT the slightly less volatile computer cell LioN batteries they are LiPo's and carry inherent dangers. be smart and ship the batteries by ground. Do not fly and make this mistake again, PLEASE!
The hyperbolic statements made constantly on this forum are getting to me. The TSA does not give any issue to this and neither should you. Next thing they should do is ban iPads as they have a similar size Lithium battery.
 
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Don't be a fool. As stated they can spontaneously combust and my fire with a brand new lipo causing it is proof. Do some research and read up on the topic before posting what is in my opinion a moronic statement. And educate yourself wont you on your Ipad. Its a Lithium ION battery NOT a Lithium Polymer! And start checking FedEx and UPS as they are now curtailing shipments in flight. Maybe educating yourself will "get to you" a little.

And expand your search above "phantom" batteries. read up on Lithium Polymer batteries and the napalm effect they produce. Mine was a new battery used 2 times stored at 50% and it short circuited. Took the garage down and corroded both cars sheet metal. They now get stored in cinder blocks with 50 pound sand bags on top. I'm speaking from experience are any of you? I learned a lot since my accident I suggest you all start reading a little more about the FACTS.
 
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Don't be a fool. As stated they can spontaneously combust and my fire with a brand new lipo causing it is proof. Do some research and read up on the topic before posting what is in my opinion a moronic statement. And educate yourself wont you on your Ipad. Its a Lithium ION battery NOT a Lithium Polymer! And start checking FedEx and UPS as they are now curtailing shipments in flight. Maybe educating yourself will "get to you" a little.
So let me get this, you want everything traveling with a drone to ship their batteries prior by the very companies that are curtailing shipping of batteries. It must be confusing to be you. I have sold about 5 phantoms and batteries not to mentioned purchased several myself and noone complained one iota. The only company that limits what you can ship is USPS and they will ship it they just don't want to know its in there (trust me I asked and still ended up paying premium for UPS for the added insurance)
You are the one making gross statements as fact and yet you offer no alternative to anyone wanting to travel with their drone.

And expand your search above "phantom" batteries. read up on Lithium Polymer batteries and the napalm effect they produce. Mine was a new battery used 2 times stored at 50% and it short circuited. Took the garage down and corroded both cars sheet metal. They now get stored in cinder blocks with 50 pound sand bags on top. I'm speaking from experience are any of you? I learned a lot since my accident I suggest you all start reading a little more about the FACTS.
And gas stations also have signs up to not use your cell phone while pumping gas but here in NJ where its mandated to have attendants, I find them doing it all the time. If you've seen any experiment to test the possibility the numbers are so small to approach Boltzmann's probability that molecules will reorganize themselves into objects. As someone else has stated, batteries are being shipped all the time and yet you do not hear these horror stories. I have seen a video of a battery catching fire but that's why precautions are also taken. By your logic, you shouldn't drive on roads where industrial vehicles might spill hazardous chemicals (which happens far more frequently than Lithium batteries catching fire) yet I am sure you do. Live and let live.

And expand your search above "phantom" batteries. read up on Lithium Polymer batteries and the napalm effect they produce. Mine was a new battery used 2 times stored at 50% and it short circuited. Took the garage down and corroded both cars sheet metal. They now get stored in cinder blocks with 50 pound sand bags on top. I'm speaking from experience are any of you? I learned a lot since my accident I suggest you all start reading a little more about the FACTS.
Ah there's the rub. I am sorry to hear this is your experience and yes there is a great risk as there is with anything containing volatile or hazardous material. This is why proper precautions are taken and if a battery shows any signs of leakage or decay it should be disposed of properly. I hope your accident was covered by insurance and no one was harmed in the process.
 
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Your missing the point. You need to educate yourself regarding these batteries. Most of these companies are moving towards shipping ground FOR A REASON.....Your the kind of guy who has his mind set on doing something regardless of the reason or logic so I'm sure my point is lost on you. With these size batteries, a runaway can force or crash that plane as they cant be put out. I'm trying to drill this into your brain that it happened to me! A new LiPo ignited in my garage for NO apparent reason. wasn't puffed or damaged. Probably a construction error. My garage is one thing, a plane full of passengers is another. Your probably the kind of person who also thinks global warming is a conspiracy. I'll pray for you.

Seriously people, if theres a chance be it remote.....Why the hell would you put yourself and a plane full of people at risk??? Try thinking about the possibilities as opposed to your convenience for a change......And please let me know when you plan on flying so I can stay off that flight....lol

FOR THOSE WHO FEEL THE BRAIN IS SOMETHING MORE THAN TISSUE.
Check out the "undetermined" section of this thread! And for God sakes pray for the others that sit in denial.

http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=209187

Just read the link I sent.....I think you will feel differently after reading it and ship your lipos by ground. The idea is to be proactively safe, not to fool or put one over on UPS or such just to sent it air. I almost died. PLEASE learn from my experience and be careful with these. The smoke destroyed the sheet metal of both cars, imagine what it would do to your skin on a plane at 30k feet. Sorry for my heated passion but it can happen again as there are more and more batteries being pushed out at an alarming rate. I've been flying planes, helis, etc for 30 years. handle these with care and hope they make a newer Lithium formula without this volatility sooner than later. LiFe works well but cant produce the power as LiPo can : (
 
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Don't be a fool. As stated they can spontaneously combust and my fire with a brand new lipo causing it is proof. Do some research and read up on the topic before posting what is in my opinion a moronic statement. And educate yourself wont you on your Ipad. Its a Lithium ION battery NOT a Lithium Polymer! And start checking FedEx and UPS as they are now curtailing shipments in flight. Maybe educating yourself will "get to you" a little.

A LiPo battery is a Lithium-Ion Polymer battery. I read a little while back on Wikipedia that there are two types of LiPo batteries:

1. Ones with polymer electrolyte - where the innards are actually some kind of polymer/plastic. This tech hasn't been commercialized yet
2. Batteries in a polymer pouch with the same internal electrochemistry as a Li-Ion

I believe that the batteries we use in our Phantoms are #2. That would suggest that the batteries in your iPad and your Phantom are the same, just the ones in the Phantom have a flexible Polymer case. Please correct me if this is inaccurate
Lithium polymer battery - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
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Avoiding short circuit
As another safety precaution, though this might not be mandatory according to flight safety regulations is to avoid short circuiting the batteries thus increasing the chance of fire hazard. This is fairly simple, all you need to do is to place each battery into an individual plastic bag. This will come in handy when labeling also, see below. You can also shrink wrap the battery connectors with saran wrap. This process only takes a few seconds and reduces the possibility of electrical arcing and moisture getting to the battery connectors.

LiPo Bags
Placing your batteries in LiPo safe bags is an absolute necessity, if you don’t have them, do not even attempt to carry them on board an aircraft. This is also for your safety. Of course you do not need to have a separate LiPo safe bag for each battery as you have also placed them in separate plastic bags as suggested above. But depending on the number and size of your batteries, be sure to have a bag with enough space for them all, or use multiple bags.
Traveling With LiPo Batteries and Your Drone
 
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Follow whatever your airline recommends. The airlines I fly want them in the cabin as carry on per their policy on sizes, etc.
 
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When checking in a case that contains your Phantom, it's a good idea to wrap a velcro strap, rubber band, etc. around the gimbal protector to ensure it does not fall off. I know it's too late now, but it's a tip that might be useful in the future.

What a great suggestion. I'll definitely do this from now on, even if I'm not traveling on an airline. Thank you.

Avoiding short circuit
As another safety precaution, though this might not be mandatory according to flight safety regulations is to avoid short circuiting the batteries thus increasing the chance of fire hazard. This is fairly simple, all you need to do is to place each battery into an individual plastic bag. This will come in handy when labeling also, see below. You can also shrink wrap the battery connectors with saran wrap. This process only takes a few seconds and reduces the possibility of electrical arcing and moisture getting to the battery connectors.

LiPo Bags
Placing your batteries in LiPo safe bags is an absolute necessity, if you don’t have them, do not even attempt to carry them on board an aircraft. This is also for your safety. Of course you do not need to have a separate LiPo safe bag for each battery as you have also placed them in separate plastic bags as suggested above. But depending on the number and size of your batteries, be sure to have a bag with enough space for them all, or use multiple bags.
Traveling With LiPo Batteries and Your Drone

That was a great article. And I didn't know about LiPo bags. Time to get one, some plastic bags and some labels. Thanks!
 
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Nice job GoodnNuff. I like when posts on this forum start to look like tech documentation. It is the level I think we should aspire for the benefit of all on this site.
 
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I flew to Austin, TX and brought my Phantom 2 Vision + with me to show my friend. I had it well packed in a Tradecraft case with the gimbal lock in place. I carried the batteries separately. When I was checking in, the airline employee asked me what was in the case. I proudly told him it was a "drone." He looked quizzically at me and so I added, "You know, an unmanned aerial vehicle."

What an idiot I was. I should have replied, "It's a toy helicopter." The result was that piece of my luggage (which had a priority tag on it no less) didn't arrive with my flight. I presume my response prompted my luggage to get carefully inspected. And the result of that inspection?

1) My case didn't make it with my airline flight
2) The gimbal lock was NOT in place for the flight
3) The gimbal was completely destroyed in transit
4) A new gimbal and camera cost $600! Who's going to invest $600 to repair their Phantom 2 Vision +?

So I go to my local drone store and they told me how I could get a Phantom 2 with a gimbal that would hold a GoPro camera. Somehow the GoPro idea seemed clever and it only took $1300 to solve my $600 problem.

Ack! I no longer have first person view! WTF!

So my plan is to get a new Phantom 3. That way, for $2,600 I will have solved my $600 problem. I'm still trying to figure out who else to blame but it looks like I'm the problem.

A few tips - and I know its a little too late...
The handlers may not have damaged the gimbal. If you didn't release the valve on the trade case, there may have been expansion and then compression due to altitude/pressure changes. The case may have not equalised on time and therefore crushed the phantom.
Another thing I do when I trek and travel is that I use a rubber band around the clamp and gimbal to stop the gimbal clamp from coming off.

I would consider a P3 adv or pro if you are considering $600 for a new camera.
You would get less headaches and much much more quality and usability...
I'm in Australia and our dollar isn't so great.. If I was in the states, I would have bought 2 just for parts.
 
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A LiPo is different than an Ipad battery. LiPo's are all the same. And yes then can short and fail EVEN if theres protection circuitry. If you read that link there have been hundreds of unexplained issues. To the guy whos following the airlines recommendations think of this. The stupid airlines are unfamiliar with the "potential" volatility of these packs and wants them in the cabin in case theres a problem it can be handled. BULLS--T! If a LiPo ignites in that cabin it will repeatedly ignite each cell (4 in the case of the phantom) until ALL 4800MaH is depleted. I had a few 4s 5000's burn from my early days with helis. They will burn and smoke for over 10 min.! The fire is over 2000 degrees F. and cant be put out by the BS fire extinguisher onboard. Its NOT an electrical fire. Its a self sustained inferno that can and will fill that cabin in minutes. The smoke is choking in nature and can burn the inside of your lungs its that toxic. it can corrode metal. You wont see a **** thing on that plane as the smoke is a thick white smoke. You cant vent the plane at 30k feet. I'm sure people will suffer all sorts of skin burns as the plane will take at least 10-15 min to descend and still they would have to literally open a door to try to vent it assuming they are below 10,000 feet. So seriously, why risk it? Be a little smarter than the Airlines for now until they wake up and follow the freight companies. ALL of your other electronics are LiOn batteries which are safer (although they too can ignite and explode but a lot less likely as you don't subject them to the forces that RC enthusiasts do. Its a fierce chemical fire that will no doubt catch whatever is around it on fire. Oh and incase anyone forgot theres a little thing called Oxygen on board as well......Wanna guess what happens when it meets Mr. Lipo???
 
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A LiPo is different than an Ipad battery. LiPo's are all the same. And yes then can short and fail EVEN if theres protection circuitry. If you read that link there have been hundreds of unexplained issues. To the guy whos following the airlines recommendations think of this. The stupid airlines are unfamiliar with the "potential" volatility of these packs and wants them in the cabin in case theres a problem it can be handled. BULLS--T! If a LiPo ignites in that cabin it will repeatedly ignite each cell (4 in the case of the phantom) until ALL 4800MaH is depleted. I had a few 4s 5000's burn from my early days with helis. They will burn and smoke for over 10 min.! The fire is over 2000 degrees F. and cant be put out by the BS fire extinguisher onboard. Its NOT an electrical fire. Its a self sustained inferno that can and will fill that cabin in minutes. The smoke is choking in nature and can burn the inside of your lungs its that toxic. it can corrode metal. You wont see a **** thing on that plane as the smoke is a thick white smoke. You cant vent the plane at 30k feet. I'm sure people will suffer all sorts of skin burns as the plane will take at least 10-15 min to descend and still they would have to literally open a door to try to vent it assuming they are below 10,000 feet. So seriously, why risk it? Be a little smarter than the Airlines for now until they wake up and follow the freight companies. ALL of your other electronics are LiOn batteries which are safer (although they too can ignite and explode but a lot less likely as you don't subject them to the forces that RC enthusiasts do. Its a fierce chemical fire that will no doubt catch whatever is around it on fire. Oh and incase anyone forgot theres a little thing called Oxygen on board as well......Wanna guess what happens when it meets Mr. Lipo???

If you're responding to me, mind telling me how the chemistry of a LiPo differs from that of a Li-Ion/"iPad battery"? That wikipedia page I quoted suggests they're the same.

You might have had a fire with your LiPo, but could it have been due to damage?
 

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A LiPo is different than an Ipad battery. LiPo's are all the same. And yes then can short and fail EVEN if theres protection circuitry. If you read that link there have been hundreds of unexplained issues. To the guy whos following the airlines recommendations think of this. The stupid airlines are unfamiliar with the "potential" volatility of these packs and wants them in the cabin in case theres a problem it can be handled. BULLS--T! If a LiPo ignites in that cabin it will repeatedly ignite each cell (4 in the case of the phantom) until ALL 4800MaH is depleted. I had a few 4s 5000's burn from my early days with helis. They will burn and smoke for over 10 min.! The fire is over 2000 degrees F. and cant be put out by the BS fire extinguisher onboard. Its NOT an electrical fire. Its a self sustained inferno that can and will fill that cabin in minutes. The smoke is choking in nature and can burn the inside of your lungs its that toxic. it can corrode metal. You wont see a **** thing on that plane as the smoke is a thick white smoke. You cant vent the plane at 30k feet. I'm sure people will suffer all sorts of skin burns as the plane will take at least 10-15 min to descend and still they would have to literally open a door to try to vent it assuming they are below 10,000 feet. So seriously, why risk it? Be a little smarter than the Airlines for now until they wake up and follow the freight companies. ALL of your other electronics are LiOn batteries which are safer (although they too can ignite and explode but a lot less likely as you don't subject them to the forces that RC enthusiasts do. Its a fierce chemical fire that will no doubt catch whatever is around it on fire. Oh and incase anyone forgot theres a little thing called Oxygen on board as well......Wanna guess what happens when it meets Mr. Lipo???
Please stop. Your info is partially wrong and you portray yourself as a LiPo specialist when you were not even aware there was such a thing as a LiPo safe bag (I use a steel ammo can). We get your point.

While some of us are new and need to be educated about how to respect LiPo batteries, some of us are seasoned RC enthusiast who have been around the block a few times, it's not our first rodeo, if ya know what I mean. The airline industry is well aware of the dangers of this type of battery and have issued rules on how they are handled. LiPo and Li-ion are both the same type of battery "A lithium polymer battery, or more correctly lithium-ion polymer battery (abbreviated variously as LiPo, LIP, Li-poly and others), is a rechargeable battery of lithium-ion technology in a pouch format." So laptops and all other portable devices use them as well as my camera, flash, GoPro, monitor battery, etc, etc. There are easily hundreds of Li-Pos on any given flight.

Below are a couple of informational TSA pages in regards to lithium batteries relevant to air travel in the USA...

The TSA Blog: Travel Tips Tuesday: Safely Packing Batteries for Your Trip

http://phmsa.dot.gov/safetravel/batteries
 
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Here you go! Come on guys stop being CHEAP and ship them GROUND!



1) It's not always possible to ship them on the ground. How do you think they made it from China to your country? They certainly didn't drive, I can tell you that much :)

2) That video even states the battery was damaged, which later caused it to explode. Most airlines prohibit carrying damaged LiPos (or any kind of battery) on-board.
 

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