I’ve been doing a lot of travelling this year. We’ve been filming in North Carolina, Spain, the Canary Islands, Barbados, and St Kitts and Nevis, as well as shoots here in the UK. A lot of these shoots have been aerial filming abroad with the drone.
So, what have I learnt? Because travelling with the drone can be a pretty steep learning curve.
- Get a good case. There aren’t many airlines who will let you take a drone onto the plane as carry-on. Most likely you’ll be checking it. And once it passes check-in and flops onto the conveyor belt, who knows what goes on. I use the landing-mode peli-case from Multirotor Axessories. There are other choices around but I like the look and versatility of this one. Plus it has wheels and a decent handle and can accommodate another bag on top whilst you roll it around. Having the drone in landing mode is far more convenient when moving from location to location too. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to put in into travel mode whilst you pack down your ground station! Also, the bonus of being able to leave the camera attached is handy and makes set up quicker. (I travel with an Inspire 1, most of the time)
- Do your homework. This can’t be stressed enough. And no matter how much you do, there’ll always be something. Every country has different UAV laws. I have a friend who was left without his drone for 3 days when it was confiscated at Oman airport. Fortunately he had some ground filming to do as well. But that could have easily been a wasted trip. When we visited Barbados, we did our research, spoke to the relevant authorities, and still, 3 days before we were due to depart, the Bajan government announced a year long prohibition on Drones coming into the Island. We were fortunate. We left about a week before that came into effect. Even on a tiny island like Nevis, you should always take as much care as you can, although you can probably afford to be a bit cheekier. We managed to get them to close the airport for an hour to allow us to film next to the runway, something you’d never even think about asking elsewhere!
- Batteries. (Sigh) Most airlines are still getting up to speed with lithium batteries and carrying them for UAV purposes. Expect this. You will be far less stressed if you expect it and prepare to be questioned. Carry the batteries in fire retardant bags to stop short circuiting. I install one 4500mAh battery in the drone, and carry two 5700mAh, in bags, within my hand luggage. If you need more, make sure you call through to the airline beforehand and check it with them. Most are very accommodating.
- Set up and test. Before you do anything, set up the UAV and calibrate. Calibrate everything you can: gimbal; compass; IMU, and then just wait for a little bit. If you can, get the ground station online. This is all to make sure your system knows where it is. Last time you flew, and last time it registered a home point could be 5000km away!
- Finally, for now: ND Filters…get them! You’ll definitely need them and there are choices out the now.
Let me know in the comments what other tips you have for travelling and aerial filming abroad.