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UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches fire

Posted: Oct 10 2015 12:04am
by voicecoils
Please don't travel by air with your hobby lipo or other haphazardly constructed battery packs!

http://www.flightsafetyaustralia.com/20 ... ks-mayday/
After the fire, the passenger, who was a certified remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operator in Australia, was located and asked whether there were any batteries in his checked luggage. The passenger replied that there were none. Further inspection of the passenger’s checked luggage by the Australian Federal Police revealed ‘19 batteries intact and additional 6-8 batteries that had been destroyed by fire’.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 10 2015 7:08am
by Punx0r
What a twat

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 10 2015 7:34am
by Ykick
Never in checked luggage….

I often fly with good condition RC Lipo in carry on bags.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 5:07am
by voicecoils
Ykick wrote:Never in checked luggage….

I often fly with good condition RC Lipo in carry on bags.
What might you do with the carry on bag if it starts smoking?

I really wish people wouldn't. The quality of RC lipo is just too inconsistent - in other words, untrustworthy. I know this from my own experience buying various Hobby King packs and finding some defective cells. Even many users suggest buying extra packs or cells just to cover the duds. These cells have higher risks of unexpected sudden fire including manufacturing defects of the cells themselves and/or poor construction of the cells into larger packs.

Reputable 18650s on the other hand are likely to be more consistent and reliable on the cell level, they're produced in the billions and cell-to-cell variability is quite low. Pack construction can still be dangerous of course!

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 6:13am
by justin_le
voicecoils wrote:
Ykick wrote:Never in checked luggage….

I often fly with good condition RC Lipo in carry on bags.
What might you do with the carry on bag if it starts smoking?

I really wish people wouldn't. The quality of RC lipo is just too inconsistent - in other words, untrustworthy.
I agree 100% with voicecoils here. I've mentioned before that on occasion in the past I'd traveled with RC LiPo batteries because they were the only things I could get under the 100 Wh carry-on limit, and man was I ever nervous as hell stuffing my overhead bags in the bin, thinking wouldn't it be lame to be "that person" who had a smoking mess of lithium batteries to evacuate from a passenger plane and result in even more restrictive measures? It's not just the cells that are inconsistent and untrustworthy, but also the fact that the pack assembly has all the unfused balance leads brought out and no BMS to protect against any inadvertent external shorts. Even with copious tape and bubble wrap, you just never know.
Reputable 18650s on the other hand are likely to be more consistent and reliable on the cell level, they're produced in the billions and cell-to-cell variability is quite low. Pack construction can still be dangerous of course!
Indeed these should be the only pack types that people bring with them on planes. And nowadays there are many power tool batteries in the 36V and higher range with 18650 cells and enclosed casings and BMS protection which you can bring aboard with much less concern. So please people heed voicecoil's advice. RC LiPo packs may be legally within the 100 wh carry-on rules, but we should know better that they shouldn't be, and not force the issue with another incident like this one.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 7:01am
by Ykick
I hear you guys and agree it’s a nerve racking practice/potential and it’s almost always best to stay outta the evening news. We all now know hobby cells can suffer potentially serious problems just laying there.

Just be aware, even if I/we know better and refrain from carry-on RC Lipo, there’s more and more amateur photographers and FPV hobbyists flying with significant volume of this stuff.

But due to this recent card-reader event, FAA will likely lay down more stringent carry-on rules…

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 8:23am
by voicecoils
Ykick wrote:Just be aware, even if I/we know better and refrain from carry-on RC Lipo, there’s more and more amateur photographers and FPV hobbyists flying with significant volume of this stuff.
Thats a good point and the user base is really rising fast.

Endless-Sphere readers are probably some of the best educated lithium ion users out there, best equipped to appreciate the risks and act appropriately based on them. I hope others will follow suit.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 10:04am
by Punx0r
As Liveforphysics recently pointed out - there are now 18650 cells that offer sufficient performance and superior capacity for UAVs, so the market might soon switch for non-acrobatic flyers.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 1:25pm
by liveforphysics
Punx0r wrote:As Liveforphysics recently pointed out - there are now 18650 cells that offer sufficient performance and superior capacity for UAVs, so the market might soon switch for non-acrobatic flyers.

I recently tested and now am building with the LG MJ1 cell. It's a real 3.5Ah capacity at 10A discharge (4.3v to 2.5v), makes a usable ~12Wh/cell in my usable application.

It's energy density makes most all RC LiPo look silly for flying on multi-rotors, IF your application doesn't demand beyond 3C discharge rates (most of my stuff flys over an hour).

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 2:29pm
by Harold in CR
On Yahoo news, a flight attendants card reader started smoking while sitting on a table. They smothered it with fire extinguisher after dumping it in a trash can.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 3:10pm
by neptronix
Be aware of one thing with pouch cells.

If you make a major altitude change with them, they will naturally expand a little, sort of like how a chip bag will puff up due to the difference in density of air while driving up a big mountain.

I moved from Portland, Ore ( almost sea level ) to Colorado Springs, CO ( 6500 ft. above sea level ) and all of my lipos puffed up a bit and one of my magicshines just died.

I can't imagine what happens at multiple thousands of feet, but the air pressure system in airplanes might help counteract that some.. i dunno.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 3:33pm
by markz
And nowadays there are many power tool batteries in the 36V and higher range with 18650 cells and enclosed casings and BMS protection which you can bring aboard with much less concern.
Another reason to go with Ego 56V 7.5Ah power pack. Which I still cant find what kind of cells they are, to figure out their discharge current.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 3:55pm
by justin_le
neptronix wrote:Be aware of one thing with pouch cells.
If you make a major altitude change with them, they will naturally expand a little, sort of like how a chip bag will puff up due to the difference in density of air while driving up a big mountain.
I moved from Portland, Ore ( almost sea level ) to Colorado Springs, CO ( 6500 ft. above sea level ) and all of my lipos puffed up a bit and one of my magicshines just died.
I can't imagine what happens at multiple thousands of feet, but the air pressure system in airplanes might help counteract that some.. i dunno.
Interesting observation and theory for sure as it relates to the original story here. At first I thought that the checked baggage hold was not pressurized which could very much play into things with this instance, although more reading shows that's incorrect and the checked baggage compartment in a plane is pressurized the same as the cabin. But it's typically pressurized to about 8000 ft. equivalent, so if you noticed an effect and a failure going from sea level to 6500 ft, then for sure taking aboard a plane would be even more pronounced.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 4:23pm
by Ykick
Unpressurized cargo holds date back to a time when we had to slacken guitar strings to haul in cargo. Commercial modern Jet aircraft pressurize to around 8-10k’ ASL.

I recently drove with my Quad from San Diego up to White Mountains of Arizona around 6500ft ASL and none of 6qty 2.2Ah bricks exhibited any noticeable puffing. However, they’re in very good shape.

While I have flown with RC Lipo unlike the person referenced in OP I’ve also followed all applicable TSA guidelines. I never try to hide them and I would never, ever, bring any puffers on board AC. Puffers would never be a good idea to haul anywhere.
“What might you do with the carry on bag if it starts smoking?"
Probably same thing if it were a laptop, tablet, phone, power brick, tool battery, etc., that started smoking in carry on bag. Quickly evaluate the situation, notify flight crew and follow their directions. If reasonably possible maybe attempt to move it to a lavatory?

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 4:32pm
by justin_le
markz wrote: Another reason to go with Ego 56V 7.5Ah power pack. Which I still cant find what kind of cells they are, to figure out their discharge current.
Well not if you plan to fly with them, since that's a 420 watt-hour battery which is well above even the limited 160 Wh carry-on battery limit. It looks like Ego does have a 58V 2.5Ah option though, so you could design a system to use two of those in parallel.

Figuring out the cell type is easy, you buy the battery, bust open the casing, and see what's printed on the side of each can!

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 4:41pm
by Lurkin
“What might you do with the carry on bag if it starts smoking?"
Probably same thing if it were a laptop, tablet, phone, power brick, tool battery, etc., that started smoking in carry on bag. Quickly evaluate the situation, notify flight crew and follow their directions. If reasonably possible maybe attempt to move it to a lavatory?
Can they just be bought on arrival/ bought ahead of time, shipped to destination and assembled on arrival? Seems crazy to me to risk this including how it could be interpreted by the relevant authorities/the fines, compensation, lawsuit one could be up for.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 6:37pm
by markz
Why didnt the airline do an xray of all bags, carry-on or otherwise?

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 8:39pm
by Voltron
I feel nervous enough with my 18650 pack putting my bike in the under bus compartments on the local commuter bus. It does seem like one would be dragging a lot of others into your personal risk circle doing it on a plane...especially oceanic flights.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 13 2015 9:51pm
by markz
Thats why proper screening of all bags going onto airplane is a must.

Re: UAV pilot travels with lipo in commercial jet, catches f

Posted: Oct 14 2015 12:17am
by zombiess
I believe the pouches are in vacuum in brand new state. The off gassing due to xyz causes pressure within the cell; now there is something for pressure differential to effect.