The lightweight, ultraportable nature of drones, combined with the high-quality photos and videos they can produce, make them ideal for documenting travels of all kinds. They are absolutely worth the slight inconvenience of packing your drone for a flight, and the need to learn the drone laws at your destination.
In this extensive guide, we’ll first outline the pros and then the cons of using a drone on your travels. By the time you’re done reading, you can confidently decide whether your UAV will be your new BFF the next time you travel.
The Pros of Traveling with a Drone
First, let’s begin with the multitude of benefits you can enjoy should you decide to bring your drone with you on your travels.
1. Drones are a more convenient way to take selfies and photos
When you visit a new part of the world, you’re taking photos almost nonstop. From landscape shots to photos of passersby and even a few selfies thrown in for good measure, you just can’t help it. You want to capture as much of the atmosphere and the moment as you can.
If you only have a camera, or – worse yet – just your smartphone to take photos, the setup time is quite inconvenient. You need to erect a tripod to get angled or elevated shots. Maybe you strap a GoPro to your head or your body, which makes you look very much like the tourist you are.
With a drone in your pocket, you can ditch the tripod and the GoPro. Your drone can take photos at your height, lower to the ground, or dozens of feet above your head. Many of today’s drones will shoot photos (including selfies) simply with a hand gesture or a voice command.
UAV technology has also become automated enough that you can set your drone to follow you or fly in a pattern or direction of your choosing, taking photos or videos along the way. That’s the only way to capture a dramatic photo of yourself in the distance. Well, besides, asking a stranger to use your phone or camera, that is.
You have to remember, while you’re traveling to a new place and seeing it for the first time, for many of those around you, this is simply where they live. The less you’re in the way when taking photos and videos, the better. Using your drone will allow you to quickly capture the footage you want and then continue your travels.
2. A drone makes it easy to capture footage from a unique vantage point
People do crazy things nowadays to get the perfect shot. You see girls use their boyfriends as camera people. Others will stop traffic (literally, even though it’s illegal to do so) to take a photo for their Instagram.
More people still will suspend their smartphones from a tree branch using a flexible tripod to take an over-the-head shot. It’s a lot of work, but what else are you supposed to do? After all, the average camera or smartphone cannot just hover wherever you want it to.
That’s one advantage your drone definitely has. As we alluded to in the paragraphs above, your drone can remain suspended at nearly any height you command to it (provided it’s legal to fly your drone at that height, of course).
The best part is that you don’t have to rig up anything. All you have to do is press a few buttons on your drone remote (or even on your phone’s touchscreen if your UAV uses an app) or map a custom flightpath and voila, you get all those unique vantage points that the average person struggles with so much.
Now you can capture photos and videos of tourist attractions and other unique sights that stand out from everyone else’s footage. When you post your drone photos on social media, people will gawk and gush, wondering how you took such an awesome shot.
3. Today’s drones are ultra-portable
Traveling with a drone used to be like having a cellphone in the ‘90s: it was cool, but it sure was bulky and inconvenient more than anything else. Fortunately, drone technology has rapidly evolved and continues to do so, and today’s drones are easier to bring with you anywhere and everywhere.
Drones are ultra-lightweight these days. Toy drones weigh about two ounces, although those aren’t the kind of rough-and-ready drones you’ll travel with. Your travel companion will most likely be a consumer drone, which weighs as little as 0.5 pounds up to three pounds.
Your UAV will be practically featherlight, which sure eases your ability to travel with it wherever you plan to go.
Also benefitting your travel is that more and more of today’s drones can fold and compact when not in use. Whether you have a dedicated carrying bag for your drone or you tote yours around in a backpack or a shoulder bag, it will take up very little space. Talk about convenience!
4. Drone footage is a great way to build your portfolio
Are you an aspiring photographer or videographer? Perhaps you want to get into real estate, land surveying, or even travel photography. In any of those roles, you need a portfolio showcasing the breadth of your work.
Traveling with a drone is a great way to quickly fill your portfolio. You can create a photo and video documentary of sorts showcasing your experiences visiting exotic locales around the world or even within your own country.
Having a full and varied photography/videography portfolio can help you attract more traffic to your website and even grow your clientele if you’re interested in using your drone to make money.
You could have interested buyers reach out to you about contracting your photos or videos for the news or for website use. They could want to buy prints of some of your work. You never know!
If you plan to make money with your drone photos or videos, you need to have a commercial drone pilot license. Learn more about what’s involved in our article »
5. A drone takes high-quality videos and photos, unlike your smartphone
The reason your portfolio will sing if you shoot with a drone is that a good camera drone is outfitted with some of the highest-tech cameras and tech available.
For instance, the DJI Air 2S boasts a CMOS sensor that’s an inch in size (Amazon link). The drone can capture video in 5.4k quality at 30 frames per second or 4K quality at 60 frames per second. Photos come out in crisp 20 MP quality with a rich variety of colors.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro includes a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera with 2x optical zoom (Amazon link). The camera has Hasselblad Natural Colour Solution or HNCS technology built-in so your photos come out in gorgeous 20-megapixel quality. The one-inch CMOS sensor also encourages your best videography in HDR or 4K quality.
Is your smartphone comparable? Not really. Even the latest iPhone 13 Pro Max can only take photos in 12 MP whether you’re in front-camera or rear-camera mode. The phone is easily eclipsed by what a DJI drone’s camera can do.
The Cons of Traveling with a Drone
As wonderful as drone travel can be, to make this article balanced and to encourage an educated decision on your part, we must discuss the downsides of bringing your drone with you as you venture across the globe.
1. It can be a hassle to get a drone through airline security
In most parts of the world, your drone should be able to board a plane with you, but the whole process can induce anxiety.
We outline some of the particulars of traveling with a drone in this blog post »
First, you must have proper storage for your drone so it doesn’t get jostled around. You can usually bring your drone as a carry-on, but you need a bag designed for a drone that also passes the carry-on requirements.
For larger drones, you’ll have to check the drone in your checked luggage, and that means it can’t fly by your side. You’ll likely worry about your drone the entire flight, as you don’t want it to get damaged or broken by the luggage handlers.
You should bring drone batteries, but the batteries can’t be more than 100 watt-hours if you want to be able to take the batteries with you in a carry-on bag. Even still, that 100-watt-hour requirement might not apply across all airlines, as some airports might have greater restrictions or fewer impositions on watt-hours.
Planning a trip is stressful enough as it is, especially an international venture. Now you have quite a bit of additional pressure with all the rules about packing and checking in and traveling with your drone and its batteries.
Of course, if you’d rather skip all this hassle, you can always leave your drone at home and buy a new one when you arrive at your destination. This method too presents some problems.
First, it’s needlessly expensive. The average price of a quality drone is at least $400 but can sometimes be twice that and even higher. That’s a lot of money to have to shell out after you’ve already spent so much on airline tickets, lodging, and other related travel expenses.
Plus, the issue then becomes this – what will you do with the drone when you go back home? You don’t want to leave it behind, as that’s like flushing money down the drain. So either way, whether you’re coming or going, it’s hard to avoid the hassle of getting a drone through airline security unless you resolve to not use a drone on your travels.
The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with a Drone: know how to travel safely with them, and comply with the rules and regulations for drone flight wherever you happen to be going. Read more »
2. Not all countries allow you to fly a drone
Before you buy a bag for your drone and pack it up nicely so it will get through the airport security checkpoint, you should check to make sure that your drone is allowed in your destination country. Many countries ban drone use outright, including Uzbekistan, Slovenia, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, India, Cuba, Barbados, and Argentina, among others.
It doesn’t matter if you want to capture some picturesque landscapes with your drone or make money with it, you can’t bring your drone to the above countries. Exceptions might exist if you have a permit, but we say it’s not worth even trying to bring your drone into a country with a ban.
3. You have to learn different drone rules wherever you go
You know the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA rules like the back of your hand. Here’s the thing, though. The FAA only mandates aircraft usage within the United States. Once you leave the country, you’re potentially playing by a whole new set of rules.
Here are the drone flight rules in Canada courtesy of their government website. If you compared those to the US drone flight rules, you’d surely notice some differences. By comparing the drone rules to a third country still, more and more differences would emerge.
When you travel, you have to study up on the rules in the country you plan to visit before you ever power on your drone. This way, you can be sure that you’re not breaking any of the rules. After all, getting in legal hot water in a foreign country can be very scary stuff.
4. Long battery charging times can hinder your adventures
The longest flight time you can expect of current drones on the market is about 30 minutes. Can some fly for longer? Yes, but they’re few and far between.
You never realize how fast a half-hour goes by until you’re visiting an exciting destination with your drone and videoing it. Before you know it, your drone comes back to land because it’s out of juice. The whole rest of the time you’re at the destination, you’re forced to rely on your phone to take photos and videos. It just isn’t the same.
When you get back to your hotel, you now have to wait hours for the drone batteries to fully recharge. Some drone models can recharge their batteries in about 60 or 90 minutes, but others need two hours, and more still need around three or four hours.
That’s a lot of down time to have to wait around if you wanted to fly your drone again right away. Sure, you could always go do something else, especially activities in which drones aren’t required or allowed, but now you have to rearrange your entire itinerary.
You could always charge your batteries overnight, but you’re not supposed to leave the drone batteries on the charger for longer than necessary.
Thus, there’s no way to get around the time it takes to charge your drone batteries. You’ll have to plan for the downtime, and that can put a real kink in your travel plans.
5. You might be required to register a drone in another country
If you thought you were only subject to the local rules when flying your drone in another country, think again. Many of the same requirements the FAA mandates have to be followed in other countries as well by their respective governing bodies.
For example, in Ireland, if your drone weighs more than 250 grams (which most are), then you have to register it in Ireland to fly it in Ireland, even if you’ve already registered it in your home country. That’s also true of all drones with a sensor or camera, so you’d have no choice but to register your drone.
Now that’s more time, paperwork wrangling, and potential expense you must deal with.
Is a Drone Worth It for Traveling?
Weighing all those pros and cons, is a drone worth bringing with you on your travels? That’s something that only you can decide for yourself, but we say yes, it is worthwhile.
You might have to spend more time in the airport security line, and you will have to read up on the drone flight rules in the country you’re visiting before your flight takes off. After taking care of what are ultimately minor inconveniences, you can then augment your travels with your drone at your side.
The photos and videos you capture along the way are like free souvenirs you can always look back on. Your footage will instantly evoke a feeling or a memory in a way that a chintzy keychain never could.
Not only that, traveling with your drone gives you the freedom to capture a new world in a way that you cannot do with a camera or a smartphone. You’ll make priceless memories and have footage you can fondly look back on.
That said, you must always ensure that you’re following a country’s guidelines on operating your drone. Remember that in many countries, drones are completely illegal and that in many more, enforceable rules govern their usage.
We hope this post inspired you to take your drone with you on your travels!