by Mike Dolan Issue 110 - February 2016
For any location production, organization and pre-planning is key. This mantra goes beyond thinking of shoots and equipment placement to actually how your equipment will get from point A to B. This is particularly crucial when selecting batteries for air travel due to the set limit on lithium ion (Li-Ion) batteries. This can be a challenge as many popular cameras and other equipment require a high current draw more than the air travel regulations will currently allow. There are existing and emerging solutions available and, combined with proper planning can ensure that your shoot will run at full power.
Beyond current draw and runtime, capacity is the most important thing to keep in mind when choosing the right battery pack for air travel. Battery capacity represents the maximum amount of energy that can be extracted from the battery under certain specified conditions. The maximum capacity of Li-Ion batteries allowed for air travel is anything less than 99Wh (watt hours). For example, if you own a battery pack with a 98Wh capacity, you are able to travel with as many of them as you would like. This is a major benefit for users who spend a great deal of time on the go with their equipment. Not having to worry about limits and restrictions on batteries makes traveling less of a struggle.
In the past, this would mean simply packing several 98Wh batteries and changing them as needed, but that isn't the case anymore. Battery packs that are acceptable for air travel are now being constructed to specifically address such travel regulations. In order to meet battery capacity requirements, industry-changing designs are being created to make flying with equipment easier. Some of these designs include a two-part battery, which can be separated into two 98Wh pieces for legal transportation without restrictions under IATA, ICAO, and UN regulations. When not travelling, the pieces can be assembled back together; a high capacity, high voltage battery is created, resulting in a wider discharge cycle range and greater runtimes. This battery model allows users to travel with a high-powered Li-Ion safely thanks to a simple yet effective innovation.
Even with the latest technologies, how the battery is packed can also affect performance and a safe arrival. Each battery should be packed individually and separated from its associated device. When packaging up for travel, there should be cushioning material between spare batteries to prevent them from damaging each other. When selecting packaging material for the battery, it should be non-conductive and either be the original retail packaging, a plastic bag, a battery case, or taping the battery terminals
With battery technology advancing, camera operators now have more options for travel while still meeting high draw needs.
Mike Dolan is a staff engineer at Switronix, a leader in battery and charging solutions for the Digital Cinema and Professional Video industry.