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Air travel with Lithium Batteries in the USA


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#1 spaceflight

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 05:52 PM


2-jan-2008 : added some batteries that are effected (cor)


The FAA has recently passed a new rule that limits what you can do with lithium batteries while traveling on airplanes in the US. This only applies to Lithium batteries, not to other types of batteries like NICad or NiMH.

Summary

Almost no one will be affected by these rules. The only people that could be affected are those traveling with large, professional grade, batteries. The only thing impacting everyone is that if you plan to take any extra lithium batteries (outside the device) you must take them in your carry-on. For a full breakdown read the details below.



Rules

The new rules are as follows:

  • You can not pack any spare lithium battery in your checked baggage outside the device
  • You can put a device with the battery installed inside it in your checked baggage (but not recommended)
  • You can bring spare lithium batteries with you in carry-on baggage
  • Any chargeable Lithium battery (normally called Lithium-Ion), no matter where it is, must have less than 8 grams of lithium content
  • You can bring two spare chargeable lithium batteries with up to 25 grams of aggregated lithium in addition to the rule above. (for instance, 2 of 12.5 grams)
  • Any non-chargeable Lithium battery (called Lithium metal battery), no matter where it is, must have less than 2 grams of lithium content.

Impact for divers and underwater photographers


Almost all batteries and devices that we as divers and photographers carry will not be impacted by this rule. This means you can still travel with them, but you must carry any spare batteries in carry on.

Lithium Content

The rules apply to a lithium content measured in grams. Most batteries do not carry their lithium contents on the label, but you can easily calculate it. To calculate you need to know the amount of Lithium cells in your battery. Lithium cells are always made as 3.7V. So you can first calculate the number of cells in your device:

Number of Lithium Cells = Voltage of battery / 3.7

Lithium Content in Grams = Ah * 0,3 * (Number of Lithium Cells) (approximation)

Example, Nikon D2x battery:

1900 mAh = 1.9 Ah. 11.1V battery, so this is 11.1/3.7 = 3 cells. (when in doubt, round up). Lithium content in grams is then 1.9 * 0.3 * 3 = 1.7 grams of lithium content. This is well below the 8 gram limit.



Some other example devices

laptop battery (Apple Macbook Pro) - 5500mAh = 4.95g
Sony FM70 battery - 2600mAh = 1.56g
Sony F970 battery - 7000mAh = 4.2g
Phone battery (Sony Ericsson) - 1100mAh= 0.33g

As you can see, this is all way below the limit of 8 grams.

Impacted batteries or devices

Batteries over 8 grams but below 25 grams. Two allowed with total lithium content under 25g per person: (NOTE: Member Ken Kurtis has contacted the DOT, and got to talk to the actual guy that wrote these rules. He says that you can bring a total of 3 batteries PER DEVICE, two spare, and one in the device. So, if you have two large video cameras, according to him you could take a total of 6 of these batteries, but it is unclear as of yet how the lithium gram content should be added. Please inform yourself with TSA before you need to travel with these types of batteries)


Anton Bauer Dionic 160WH
IDX Endura Elite 142WH
Red Brick (Battery for RED One): 140WH


Batteries over 25 grams (not allowed at all)

No known batteries



Regards,

Cor



Here is the link to the DOT website for a detailed explanation:

DOT battery regulations

Edited by Moderator. Thanks Joe for letting us use his post :excl:
Joe Holley

#2 Jules (Helioxfilm)

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 11:11 PM

I thought you guys might find this interesting, or just completely nuts, but I noticed this new regulation regarding spare lithium batteries in luggage.
DOT battery regulations

As if its not hard enough to decide what to take, this should make it even a little crazier for planning long trips.



Is it only in the USA? Or all over the world? Until now we have to fight with this stupid no liquid rule in the EU. I carry with me at least 10 LiOn batteries, for camcorders, lights and computer...

#3 jonny shaw

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Posted 28 December 2007 - 11:21 PM

Is it me or is the world going slightly bonkers!

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#4 Drew

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 02:35 AM

We should examine what the implications are for the videographer and photographer.
li ion battery packs for lights are now growing in popularity. With the new rules, we now have to carry the spare batteries as cabin luggage. Packing the battery pack separately from the light heads in checked bags is also not going to be a good idea due to this new regulation.
Lithium metal batteries (like those AA and AAA types) have to be hand carried. This is a good reason to stick with rechargeable NiMH. :excl:
I do think that this will become an international thing as lithium is flammable.

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#5 cor

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 03:20 AM

Im not quite sure what this means for my Nano Hartenberger. It has a 'Lithium manganese dioxide cell', but how I am supposed to know the exact lithium content.

And my D2x also has Li-Ion batteries, and I ofcourse always carry spares. No li contents written on them.

Oh, my fix light also carries Li-Ion.

Maybe we should start a page somewhere with all batteries and devices and their lithium content in grams. Id be willing to keep it up to date as data about actual lithium content comes in. Man..i foresee long discussions with TSA people about this....

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#6 cor

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 03:35 AM

Ok, I did a little bit of research, and I think most of our stuff will be ok. Here's the deal.

First of all, the difference between the 2gram and 8gram rule has to do with them being lithium metal or lithium ion batteries. Lithium metal batteries are the non-rechargeable batteries, while lithium ion are rechargeable ones. So most of us will have to deal with the 8gram rule. If you have non-rechargeable batteries, remember the limit is 2grams!

How do you calculate your lithium content.

You multiply the amp-hour rating of your cell times 0.3. So a 1900mAh (1.9 Ah) Li-Ion cell would have a 1.9 * 0.3 = 0.5 gram content. You can see if your battery contains more than 1 cell by checking the voltage. Normally a Li-Ion cell gives 3.7V, so my 11.1V Nikon D2x battery has 3 cells, so in total this battery contains 3 * 0,5 = 1.5 grams of Lithium, well within the 8 gram rule.

If there is any interest, like I said before, I can start a new thread with the first post containing the Lithium content of all underwater gear devices and batteries we have, with green color being ok, and red being not ok. I will not actually search for it, but post your stuff and we'll update. Im not sure if this may be way too much work, as i cant really tell how many devices we're talking about, but we'll see.

Drew? Whatcha think?

EDIT: I dont think we actually need to do this. It looks like almost every device out there that is used for diving and photography and computing falls well within the 8 gram limits. And you can even bring 2 items with upto 25 grams. If anyone feels their item is impacted by this rule, post in this thread and I'll fire off a new thread with items that are actually impacted and keep that updated.

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#7 Drew

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:14 AM

Cor
Thanks for that indepth posts. I think if we leave the formula for the calculation of content and list a few items, it'd be a great service to any one carrying a camera within/to the US.
It's good you differentiated the battery content types:

Lithium Metal : non-chargeable batteries like the common AA/AAA used by photographers in strobes.

Lithium Ion: rechargeable and most common form of battery content for rechargeable camera batteries. Also used in underwater lighting systems.

Lithium Polymer: most common battery content (cellphones, ipod) A few video lights manufacturers also use them in their battery packs.

Most if not all photography equipment using Li products will be under 8g.

For those guys with big camera batteries for the HD cameras, you are allowed to have up to 25g of lithium equivalent AGGREGATED. That means your battery lithium content is added up for combined content.

I'd like to see the passenger line when a production team goes through TSA now. :excl:

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#8 TheRealDrew

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:21 AM

If there is any interest, like I said before, I can start a new thread with the first post containing the Lithium content of all underwater gear devices and batteries we have, with green color being ok, and red being not ok. I will not actually search for it, but post your stuff and we'll update. Im not sure if this may be way too much work, as i cant really tell how many devices we're talking about, but we'll see.



Good details and thanks for help bringing down the shock


I'd like to see the passenger line when a production team goes through TSA now. :)



LOL. I can deal without having toothpaste or shampoo while on a dive trip, but now this has gotten out of hand. :excl:

Most of my batteries are NiCad/NiMH except for the laptop, but I can see them looking at each set of my NiMH "AA" for the strobes and the rest. Between this and the weight limits I think I will take up tennis and give up diving and underwater pursuits.

It may be a good idea to start carrying photocopies of manuals or packages for these things. Though of course someone may want to the original package then.

#9 shawnh

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:30 AM

Insanity...how in the world is your average TSA worker going to figure this all out...no way. Can you say long lines and lots of head scratching.

Here is my plan:
-Print out TSA "guidelines" and carry with me.
-Label all of my batteries with Li content.
-Print inventory sheet of all batteries carried with, Li content and total, showing compliance with TSA.
-If I run into any issues at TSA checkpoint, I show them my inventory sheet and guidelines.

Thoughts?
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#10 cor

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:40 AM

I think this is pretty easy for TSA. Almost nothing is actually impacted by this. You need some pretty large batteries to fall under this rule. So if they screen on weight, it'll be pretty close. Basically, pass all laptops, phones. cameras, small spare batteries, etc. Larger/heavier ones that you dont recognize, screen them. Im not sure how they'll do that in practice, if they actually have a little calculator there or not :excl:

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#11 Drew

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:14 AM

Very true. The only people affected are those who use disposable Li-Ion batteries instead of NiMH batteries and of course those who carry big li-ion batteries like those on big cameras and nowadays the big light setups.
They won't have calculators. I think they would rather use their 'instincts' :excl:

I think the real impact is to cabin bags. It'll just get heavier. It's a good workout anyway. :)

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#12 RogerC

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:29 AM

All this math is real nice, but the mouthbreathing felons at the TSA just don't care. Until this sets in for a while, and they get the training to smooth over the bumps, I'd expect the usual random idiocy. In other words, the only people affected are those flying. Longer lines, more random confiscations for everyone.

I'm traveling next week, for work. I usually carry 3 or 4 laptop batteries (they've gotten old, my flights are long). I'll bring along a camera and a spare battery for it. We'll see how it goes. I'll be under the 25g, and all carryon.

I have had the TSA take things from me that they should not, and I have filled out a claim form and gotten paid. Maybe I'll get some new laptop batteries out of this next week.

#13 cor

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:44 AM

I dont think it'll be bad at all. Maybe there is a misconception as well. You can bring a thousand lithium batteries as long as they're each under 8 gram. There is no adding of grams involved for normal items like spare batteries, phones, laptops, etc. So even for TSA people, this is really easy. Everything that they recognize is allowed, period.

Cor

ps: there is only 1 time that adding is involved, and that is if you want to bring items with more than 8 grams. You can only bring 2 items more than 8 grams lithium, and combined they cant be more than 25 grams. But for a battery to contain more than 8 grams it needs to be seriously big. Nothing you mentioned will apply.
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#14 Drew

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:55 AM

I think what Cor has done is prove that it's unnecessary to panic over this. You can carry spare batteries, as many as you like. It seems to affect very few products.

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#15 newmediasoup

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 04:21 PM

So my MacBookPro batteries + backup battery would need to be in my carryon.
My Canon Batteries for the Camera would need to be "in my carry on".

None of our typical batteries are too big, but we need to carry them on.

Right?

Not too big a deal as long as we don't forget to bring them all on.
It's sort of backwards thinking from the swiss army knive or fingernail clippers getting checked and "not" being in the carry on.

Thanks for the info on this!

#16 cor

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 04:29 PM

You have 2 choices:

1) leave battery in the device it belongs. In this case you can check it or carry it. Example: you have a gps with a lithium battery, you can check the gps with the battery inside it.

2) if you take the battery out of the device, you must carry the battery on. You may not leave spare batteries separated from the device in your checked luggage (lithium only)

I would be careful with doing 1). Even though it is according to the published rules, if there is going to be any hassle I bet it is with checked batteries. Im going to leave my batteries inside my hartenbergers in checked luggage when I travel in a week and let everyone know :excl: Im not going on a dive trip so I can afford to try things out.

Stupid rules.

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#17 manatee19

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:30 PM

Can someone in the know explain why TSA is coming up with this rule?

Must have to do with the logic of the toothpaste and lens cleaning fluid allocated on board; but I fail to understand how someone can make a bomb or some other dangerous device out of a bunch of Li-Ion batteries. Also, why Li-Ion and not NiMh...

We must have a chemist that does u-w photography somewhere, unless those two things are mutually exclusive?

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#18 Scubatooth

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:50 PM

its because the FAA made the rule and TSA is the one that has to execute it, but they will use it for even more mission creep like checking IDs to see if there real or not.

To think that TSA wont foul this one up hasnt traveled recently because TSA cant do the job it was originally set up to do, but yet they can find a water bottle at a mile out and tell the difference between liquids 3 oz and/or 100ml or less like no other. Then because they make the rules up on the fly and lie, cheat and steal from people all the time this new rule will be fubar from the start as there seems to be a lacking of Logic and Common Sense in DHS/TSA.

I give this one less then a day before professional organizations start pressuring there congress critter just like the last lithium ban that was handed down a decade ago and have it removed or modified to nothingness.

#19 cor

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 03:12 AM

This is the result of a fire in a cargo plane that was seemingly caused by lithium batteries. Ever since the FAA has stricter rules on transporting lithium in planes.

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#20 Drew

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 04:17 AM

Also don't forget that recall on laptop batteries bursting into flames. To force people to carry on instead of checked is a good safety precaution. There will be people around to put out the fire unlike in the cargo hold. Despite fire suppression systems in there, it's just more controllable in the cabin.
I think this time with the limitations on lithium content within normal realm, it should stay and perhaps even become an international standard. I mean, that 100ML rule has now gone to a few Asian countries as well. More plastic in the waste bins.

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