The following are some online resources that relate to the regulations and safe allowable transporting of lithium batteries on airlines.
CATSA – Guidelines for Batteries
Most batteries are generally safe for air travel. Infrequently, batteries can short-circuit and overheat and in some cases cause sparks or a fire. This page provides tips for travelling with batteries, including how to properly pack spare batteries.
Transport Canada – Did you know that Lithium Batteries are Dangerous Goods?
Lithium batteries are dangerous goods, much like gasoline, propane, and sulphuric acid.
In Canada, the shipping and importing of lithium batteries are subject to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992 and its Regulations.
Transport Canada – Passenger’s Baggage
Consumer electronic devices: (watches, calculating machines, cameras, cellular phones, laptop computers, camcorders, etc.) containing lithium or lithium ion cells or batteries when carried by passengers or crew for personal use which should be carried as carry-on baggage. Spare batteries must be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits (by placing in original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating terminals, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals or placing each battery or cells in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch) and carried in carry-on baggage only.
Government of Canada – What you can bring on a plane
Remember that you should carry spare lithium batteries or lithium batteries contained in equipment—like your cell phone, laptop or tablet—with you in your carry-on baggage.
Air Canada – Restricted and prohibited items
Lithium metal or lithium ion cells and batteries: Portable electronic devices containing lithium metal or lithium ion cells or batteries, such as watches, calculating machines, cameras, cellular phones, laptop computers*, camcorders, etc., are accepted under the following conditions…
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has some great information regarding lithium battery safety and transporting guidance that is a great reference to those of us involved in UAVs and needing to ship lithium batteries.
Lithium batteries have become the preferred energy source to power a wide variety of consumer goods ranging from mobile phones to children’s toys to e-bikes. Though widely used, most people are not aware that lithium batteries are dangerous goods and can pose a safety risk if not prepared in compliance with the transport regulations.
To help with their compliance requirements, IATA has developed guidance information for shippers, freight forwarders, ground handlers, airlines and passengers.
Lithium metal batteries transported as cargo will be restricted to Cargo Aircraft Only from 1 January 2015. The prohibition on the carriage on passenger aircraft only applies to lithium metal batteries when shipped by themselves, and does not apply to batteries packed with equipment or contained in equipment.
Full details can be found here.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 250 airlines or 84% of total air traffic. They support many areas of aviation activity and help formulate industry policy on critical aviation issues.
LIPO (LIthium POlymer) batteries generally don’t like cold temperatures, when things start getting under 10C or so. While the cold weather does not harm the battery, it does cause an effective loss in performance, lowering the effective C rating and reducing flight times. The cold slows down the chemical reaction process and thus the effectiveness of the battery.
There are a few tips you can use to help maximize LIPO performance in colder weather:
- Keep the LIPOs in a warm location until just prior to use, at around normal room temperature. Keeping them in the car, your inside pockets, or a cooler with some warming device such as hand warmer or hot water bottles can help keep the batteries and optimal temperature. Be careful with any heating devices that they do not get too warm and cause potential LIPO damage.
- Wrap the LIPOs in light insulation if possible on the aircraft to keep them out of the cold airflow. A cover/canopy can also help to keep the blast from the props off the battery which can cool it quicker.
- Use higher C rated batteries in colder weather. This will help with the voltage sag under load from the cold dropping the effective C rating somewhat and keep you in a safe amp draw range for the battery.
- Monitor flight voltage closely and expect to have reduced flight times in cold. Adjust flight timers lower accordingly.
- Be careful of snow getting into the LIPO connectors and causing a short or corrosion.
- Do not charge LIPOs in the cold, ideally charge at normal room temperature. Charging at colder temperatures can reduce the life of the battery.
- Be sure to put your LIPOs in storage charge when not in use for extended periods.
With the flying season in Canada all but over in most areas, or at least on a much reduced basis, you want to make sure you take proper care of your LIPO (LIthium POlymer) batteries during these long down periods.
Avoid keeping LIPOs at full or low charge levels for extended periods of time as it causes the chemistry to break down faster and thus reduce the lifespan of the battery. Storing your batteries at the proper voltage level is one of the simplest thing you can do to lengthen their life.
Typically it is recommended to store LIPOs at around 3.8V per cell or 40-60% of their capacity. A fully charged cell is 4.2V.
Most chargers have a “Storage Mode” to set the LIPOs to their optimal storage voltage, reducing or increasing the charge as needed to get to this level. The actual storage voltage can vary slightly from brand to brand of chargers but they are typically with the 40-60% capacity range.
Keep your storage charged LIPOs in a cool dry location, ideally away from flammable materials and protected from any potential damage. Around 3-5C is often considered the ideal storage temperature but any cool temperature above freezing is generally fine.
For batteries such as the smart LIPOs in the new Phantom 2 and Vision there is no built in means to set them to storage via the charger. In those instances the simplest means it to fly the packs until they are in the 40-60% range which will be the general voltage for storage.
As always, take care when charging LIPOs, never leave them unattended in case of potential shorts/overcharges that could result in fire.