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November 2015    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 30, No. 11   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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New Rules for Lithium-Ion Batteries on Airplanes

from the November, 2015 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Lithium-ion batteries pretty much power everything you use for your underwater photos and videos. Now the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has handed down new regulations for how you must carry them when you fly.

Don't pack spare lithium-ion batteries in checked baggage, as the FAA says they "present a risk of both igniting and fueling fires in aircraft cargo/baggage compartments." If they're found during a random search, the batteries may be removed, leaving you in a pickle.

So you must carry them with you, but the FAA is being stricter on how you pack them in your carry-on luggage. It will provide "limited exceptions for passengers... who carry on spare lithium batteries for personal use." "Spare" refers to batteries not installed within a portable electric device like a laptop or tablet. The definition of "limited" is vague, but you may assume that you'll be fine with two to three camera batteries and a handful of other lithium-ions. Spare batteries' terminals must be "individually protected" to prevent short circuits, and they must be packed so as not to be able to come into contact with other metal objects.

The new rules also stipulate the Watt-hour capacity of batteries you may carry. If you have lithium batteries of 100Wh, you may carry up to three (two spares and one in the device) in your carry-on. If your batteries are over 100Wh but less than 160Wh, you must seek approval from the air carrier to do so. Practically most SLR and still-camera batteries fall well within this limit, but larger video camera batteries may exceed it.

Although these guidelines are currently limited to U.S.-based airlines and flights that depart or land at U.S. airports, it is likely they'll extend to other countries and airlines, too. So check with your airline at the time of booking to ask what their current policy is. And to be well informed before you get to the airport, read the entire FAA document (https://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/airline_operators/airline_safety/safo/all_safos/media/2015/SAFO15010.pdf) so that airport bag handlers don't ruin your next dive trip.

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