UAV Law – Be LiPo Wise

Be LiPo-Wise

“… in no event shall the liability of ***** exceeed the individual price of the Product on which liability is asserted” – the most common statement in liability disclaimers by LiPo battery manufacturers all over the world.

The majority of UAV/Drone pilots are currently operating aerial vehicles which are powered by Lithium Polymer batteries, better known as LiPos. LiPos, more correctly lithium-ion polymer batteries are rechargeable batteries which use lithium-ion technology. These types of batteries have been around for a very long and have been a mainstain powering the remote control (RC) hobby world. Lipos are THEE main reason why the UAV industry has quite literally taken flight.

LiPo’s provide high energy storage to weight ratios, are capable of fast charge/discharge times, and are configurable in a variety of formats, shapes and sizes. These benefits have led to widespread adoption of LiPo batteries to power just about any electrical-based ‘unplugged’ device you can think of. Lap tops, cell phones, and credit card readers are just a few which come to mind.

As UAV/Drone Operator, the LiPo is akin to your business’s life-blood. If you can’t power up your “tools of the trade”, you cannot perform/provide the services for which you have been contracted. So, you get hired for a job, pack up your “tools”, book that flight to get on-site for performance of your services contract, get on that flight with your “tools” stowed away in storage, you arrive on-site, perform the flight operations required by the client, turn over the essential intelligence requirements (EIR) for the client and head home. Job well done, Right?

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has rules regarding air travel with LiPo batteries. LiPos are actually considered hazardous materials (HAZMATS), and as such, there are restrictions regarding the “life-blood” of your company’s business. As far as the FAA is concerned, airplanes and LiPo batteries don’t mix. Lipos, if left unattended, could overheat and burst into flames. In the confines of a cargo hold, a battery fire could spread so quickly that it coule overpower existing fire-suppression systems, and possibly rupture the hull of the airplane.

The LiPo threat is real and it is immediate. As a result, the FAA is pushing for an international ban on Lipos as cargo on passenger airlines. Several airlines such as American, Delta, United, British Airways, and Lufthansa are already voluntarily banning LiPo cargo. The FAA is currently providing investigations and research into restricting and possibly banning LiPo batteries on passenger flight. Restrictive rules or an outright ban on LiPos can severaly hamper travel arrangements for UAV/Drones As A Service providers. A variety of logistics will need to be put in place to ensure that you will have your “tools” to provide your services.

Travel planning and logistics aside, there is no doubt that LiPos do pose a credible safety threat. LiPo batteries have even set owner’s cars and houses on fire. The Law of UnIntended Consequences will be hard at work should your LiPo’s burn down the place, or worse still, cause personal injury to someone.

This document/post/article is not to be considered as legal advice. Content and information contained herein is subject to changes, modifications, and may contain inaccuracies or out-of-date information. As with any legal matter or other matters of importance, consultation with an attorney or professional is the best course of action.

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