What to Know about FAA Regulations for Flying with Li-Ion Batteries

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Lithium-ion and lithium metal batteries can pose a fire risk, and that risk is especially dangerous aboard a commercial airliner or cargo aircraft. Most of today’s digital cameras, cine and video cameras, and portable lighting rely on lithium batteries for power and, because of the fire risk, there are regulations for packing them for flight on passenger airliners and cargo aircraft.

For domestic air travel in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), under the US Department of Transportation (DOT), sets the regulations for the transport and shipping of lithium batteries, which are classified as hazardous materials, on aircraft. B&H Photo strongly recommends that you head to the FAA website before you travel with or ship lithium batteries.

Click this FAA link for regulations for packing your lithium batteries in checked bags or carry-on luggage.

And, click on this FAA link for regulations for shipping lithium batteries.

FAA regulations can sometimes change, so, please verify that you know the current rules before you head to the airport or box up your gear to send to your shooting location. Also, airlines may have their own regulations pertaining to what you can and cannot carry aboard an aircraft or pack in your checked luggage. Certain situations have called for rules that impact specific equipment, such as laptops or phones, that are more prone to incidents. The prudent traveling photographer or filmmaker will check their specific airline’s restrictions before heading to the airport.

If you have questions before you travel, you can also check out the Transportation Safety Administration’s (TSA) @AskTSA Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Additionally, for international air travel, regulations may vary based on International Air Transport Association (IATA) guidelines, or the regulations of local aviation authorities as well as the airline. Again, do your due diligence regarding your batteries before embarking on international flights.

Here are some general safety tips for the care of your lithium-ion batteries, from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) website—Preventing Fire and/or Explosion Injury from Small and Wearable Lithium Battery Powered Devices.

  • Ensure lithium batteries, chargers, and associated equipment are tested in accordance with an appropriate test standard (e.g., UL 2054) and, where applicable, are certified by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), and are rated for their intended uses.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for storage, use, charging, and maintenance.
  • When replacing batteries and chargers for an electronic device, ensure they are specifically designed and approved for use with the device and they are purchased from the device’s manufacturer or a manufacturer authorized reseller.
  • Remove lithium-powered devices and batteries from the charger once they are fully charged.
  • Store lithium batteries and devices in dry, cool locations.
  • If batteries are damaged, remove them from service, place in fire-resistant container (e.g., metal drum) with sand or other extinguishing agent and dispose in accordance with local, state, and federal regulations. Contact a local battery recycling center for disposal instructions.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidance on how to extinguish small battery fires, which could include using ABC dry chemical extinguishers, Class D fire extinguishers (for lithium-metal), dirt, or sand.

For additional safety tips on lithium batteries, click this Safety Share from the Argonne National Laboratory.

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