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If you’ve asked yourself, “can I take lithium batteries on a plane”, you need to know that there are international rules on flying with photo/video equipment, however, at times there may be further restrictions by FAA, TSA security, the individual airline, and other international jurisdictions.
Lithium batteries can be taken on planes but with some restrictions. Depending on the quantity, rating, whether they are installed in a device or spares, and whether they are protected from damage or short circuit, will determine whether they can be taken on as carry-on or checked-in baggage.
Under IATA rules, digital cameras are classified as Portable Electronic Devices (PED). If you are taking a laptop, perhaps to view and edit your images, the laptop would also be considered a PED, as would your mobile phone, strobes, etc.
Although this article provides good information on traveling with batteries for cameras and associated devices, regulations can change at short notice. If traveling with several or larger capacity lithium batteries, or batteries that require the airline’s approval, contact the airline for clarification.
The five types of photo/video batteries you may need to take on a plane
Generally, there are four types of batteries your photo/video gear may use for power, although not all are lithium. These are as follows:
- Dry cell alkaline batteries AA, AAA, C, D, 9Volt, button
- Lithium metal (non-rechargeable) AA, AAA, button, etc.
- Dry cell rechargeable batteries (NiMH, NiCad, etc.) AA, AAA, C, D, 9Volt
- Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries (lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO) rated up to 100Wh
- Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries (lithium, lithium polymer, LIPO) rated 101-160Wh
Lithium batteries are the ones that you need to pay the most attention to. However, because makers of batteries and power banks for photo and video use are aware of TSA and international travel restrictions, their power devices are generally designed to abide by the rules.
Lithium-ion batteries can be dangerous if the terminals are shorted, the batteries are damaged, or the device they are installed in can unintentionally be activated.
If you also travel with dry alkaline or dry rechargeable batteries, there are no restrictions on these batteries. Any number can be carried for personal (including business use). They can be installed in devices or carried as spares in both carry-on and checked-in baggage. However, you must ensure they are protected from damage and short circuit.
Quick user guide to what batteries you can take on a plane
|Battery type / Configuration||Power rating or lithium content||Carry-on||Check-in||Airline approval necessary|
|Dry alkaline batteries installed in equipment||–||YES||YES||NO|
|Dry cell alkaline batteries spares||–||YES*||YES*||NO|
|Dry rechargeable batteries (NiMH, NiCad, etc.) installed in equipment||–||YES||YES||NO|
|Dry rechargeable batteries (NiMH, NiCad, etc.) spares||–||YES*||YES*||NO|
|Lithium metal batteries installed in equipment||Less than 2g lithium per battery||YES||YES||NO|
|Lithium metal batteries spares||Less than 2g lithium per battery||YES*||NO||NO|
|Lithium-ion battery installed in equipment||Up to 100Wh or 2g per battery||YES||YES||NO|
|Lithium-ion battery spares||Up to 100Wh or 2g per battery||YES*||NO||NO|
|Larger lithium-ion battery installed in equipment||101-160Wh||YES||YES||YES|
|Larger lithium-ion battery spares||101-160Wh||YES*|
Max of 2
|Power Bank||Up to 100Wh or 27,000mAh||YES||NO||NO|
(up to 43,000mAh)
Max of 2
* If protected from damage and short circuit
NB: You can’t have two larger Lithium-ion batteries plus two high capacity Power banks. You can only have a maximum of two batteries/power banks that are in the 101-160Wh bracket.
Last update on 2023-01-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Can you have lithium batteries in checked-in baggage
Spare or loose Lithium batteries cannot be included in checked-in baggage. Only lithium batteries that are installed in a portable electronic device, such as a camera, Speedlite, or strobe light, can be checked in.
Can you have lithium batteries in carry-on baggage
Lithium batteries, whether installed in a portable electronic device (PED) or spares, can be included in carry-on baggage.
According to IATA, each person is limited to 15 PEDs and 20 spare batteries of any type. However, the FAA’s illustrated guide on batteries for airline passengers and batteries states that “the main limit is that the batteries and devices must be for personal use (includes professional use). There is a two-spare battery limit on large lithium-ion batteries”.
You must ensure that spare batteries are protected from damage and short circuit. Any equipment containing lithium-ion batteries must be protected from accidental activation and heat generation.
Can Lithium batteries be taken on planes if installed in cameras or lights
A lithium battery installed in a camera or light can be taken on a plane, so long as it is 100Wh or less. When installed in a camera or light, the battery does not count toward your battery limit and can be placed in checked-in or carry-on baggage.
So, you can travel with several cameras and lights with installed lithium batteries. But those batteries must be less or equal to the 100Wh limit and the device must be completely turned off.
Installed batteries are not considered loose or spare, but they must not be able to become detached from the camera. If detached from the camera the batteries will be considered as spares or loose batteries, which are not allowed in checked-in baggage.
Can You Take Spare Camera Batteries on Planes
Spare dry cell batteries can be taken onboard planes in checked-in or carry-on baggage without any restrictions other than they are for your own use, and they are protected from damage and short circuit.
Spare lithium batteries, whether for your camera or another portable electronic device, can only be taken on a plane as carry-on baggage, they are NOT allowed in a suitcase or equipment case that is checked-in either at the gate or planeside.
Please read the sections below on how to pack camera batteries and prevent short circuit.
Can Larger Lithium Batteries Go on Planes
Larger Lithium-Ion Batteries in the 101-160Wh power capacity range can go on planes, with airline approval. According to FAA and IATA regulations, a maximum of two spare larger lithium batteries can be taken on board per passenger. These batteries must
Airline approval is required.
How to pack your camera batteries for a plane flight
If the lithium battery is installed in the device, such as a camera, light, or laptop, ensure the device is completely switched off. It should not be left in standby, hibernation, or sleep mode.
Ensure the device is packed properly to prevent accidental damage to the device and installed batteries. This will also help prevent the batteries from becoming detached from the device, so avoiding the chance of short circuit or damage.
Place devices in a suitable case or bags for protection.
To help avoid problems and delays use appropriate packaging for spare batteries and ideally apply labels that correctly state what the batteries are inside. If you are transparent in your intentions, you are less likely to arouse the unnecessary attention of those responsible for your and others security.
If you have the original battery packaging place the battery in it. Not only will the battery be safe but it will also provide clarity as to what is being carried.
Loose spare batteries can be put into a ziplock bag or box.
Battery organizers or storage boxes/cases are an ideal solution. Some are made from transparent plastic and snap shut, while others are padded and close with a zipper. You can even get travel storage cases that have recesses for memory cards and popular camera batteries.
Last update on 2023-01-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Protecting your batteries from short circuit
It is important that batteries do not accidentally short-circuit since this could cause them to catch fire.
The battery terminals should be protected from short circuit, meaning that the terminals should not touch other metals.
Simple ways of ensuring your batteries do not short circuit include keeping the batteries in their retail packaging, covering the battery terminals with electrical insulating tape, and placing the batteries in a battery case, plastic bag, or protective pouch.
Some batteries, such as Canon’s LP-E6 series, come with an orange/yellow protective plate that covers the back of the battery and terminals. If you’ve lost the original, you can buy replacement covers quite cheaply.
To protect the electrical contacts on batteries I prefer using electrical insulation tape. Unlike parcel tape and Scotch tape, electrical tape does not leave a sticky residue. It’s also available in a few different colors, other than black. Yellow and green is my favorite since the color makes it obvious that the battery contacts have been taped over.
Can I take damaged or recalled lithium batteries on a Plane
Damaged or recalled lithium batteries must not be taken on planes, whether as carry-on or checked-in baggage. They are a fire risk and therefore could endanger the safety of the aircraft, passengers, and crew.
Can power banks be taken on planes
Power banks can be used to recharge various devices used by photographers or videographers. They can even be used directly, using a dummy battery, to power a camera. Therefore, it’s worthwhile knowing whether you can travel on a plane with a power bank.
Power banks are considered as spare batteries, they can only be taken on planes in carry-on baggage and are not permitted in checked baggage. Power banks up to 100Wh do not require airline approval, however, power banks that have a power rating of 101-160Wh do require airline approval.
Unfortunately, most power banks do not state their power rating in Watt hours but in milliamp hours, so you will have to use a formula to convert between the two.
In the next section, I explain how to do the calculation to convert from milliamp hours to Watt-hours. But as a guide, a 10,000mAh power bank should be airline friendly, being under the 100Wh limit, and therefore can be included in carry-on baggage without airline approval.
A word of warning about calculating the Watt hours of a power bank. It is the 3.7V voltage of the batteries in the power bank that is important and not the 5V output voltage of the power bank. So, use 3.7V as the battery voltage in your calculation.
The maximum power of a power bank that can be in carry-on baggage and does not need airline approval is 100Wh or 27,000mAh.
Higher capacity Power banks are classed as a larger Li-ion battery (101-160Wh), so require airline approval and are limited to a maximum quantity of two.
You can carry on two higher capacity power banks rated up to 43,000mAh but these require airline approval and count toward the number of Larger Lithium-Ion batteries you can travel with.
For example, your carry-on baggage cannot include two high-capacity power banks plus two larger Li-ion batteries for camera gear.
How to calculate the Watt hours (Wh) of a camera battery
Usually, camera batteries have their Watt hours printed on the back, alongside their Amp hour rating. For example, on a genuine Canon LP-E6NH battery the power pack indicates that it is rated at 7.2V, 2130mAh, and 16Wh.
If the Watt hours figure is not printed on the battery you can calculate it by using this formula,
Watt hours (Wh) = Voltage (V) x Amp hours (Ah)
Since most camera batteries show their Amp hour figure in milliamp hours (thousandths of an Amp hour), you should divide the figure by 1000 so the figure is in Amp-hours instead of milliamp hours.
So, if working with milliamp hours, as quoted on most camera batteries, the formula becomes,
Watt hours (Wh) = (Voltage x milliamp hours) / 1000
Doing the math on the Canon LP-E6NH battery, the watt hours is 7.2 x 2.13 = 15.3Wh. So, the value printed on the back of the battery has been rounded up to 16Wh, or the actual battery voltage is likely to be 7.4V.
You might also like…
- Can I Charge a Camera Battery with a Power Bank?
- How long does it take for a Canon camera battery to charge?
- Canon EOS R6 Battery Life for stills and video – What to expect
- Canon EOS R6 USB Charging: No charger required
- Canon EOS R External Power: Adapters & Power Banks
- Canon EOS R USB-C Charging Problems, and how to make it work
- Can You Overcharge a Camera Battery or Charge Overnight
Please note although I have tried to make this article as accurate as possible, regulations can change and individual airlines may interpret the regulations differently. Also, some jurisdictions may have slightly different regulations. The information in this article is mainly based on FAA and IATA data but I encourage you to contact the airline(s) you will be flying with directly to check the current rules on flying with batteries.
Tosh Lubek runs an audio and video production business in the UK and has been using the Canon EOS R since it was released in the Autumn of 2018 and the Canon EOS R6 in 2020. He has used both cameras to shoot TV commercials broadcast on Sky TV, promotional business videos, videos of events and functions, and YouTube creator content. He has also won several international awards for his advertising and promotional work. You can meet him by visiting his “video booth” at HashTag Business Events across the country.
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