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I and my team will fly from the Czech Republic to New Mexico, USA for the Roborave competition (http://roboquerque.org) and we need to transport our fire-fighting robot. Any tips for it?

I know it will be highly suspicious for airport-security staff. What can we expect and how to prepare for it?

EDIT: Robot consists of motors, central unit, fan, removable battery and various sensors, its body is made from plastics and metal. We will also have a lot of spare parts with us.

  • 1
    Are there any lithium batteries in your robot? – Spehro Pefhany Mar 21 '14 at 22:13
  • Yes, but they can be removed easily for charging – Rfilip Mar 21 '14 at 22:55
  • I assume you are planning on checking the robot in your luggage? – Mark Mayo Mar 22 '14 at 2:21
  • Probably yes, we must figure how to pack all nessary things. – Rfilip Mar 22 '14 at 10:51
  • Have you considered FedEx/DHL/other air express service? – kdgregory Mar 22 '14 at 16:06
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It's not necessarily suspicious, but the airport staff are trained to look more closely at anything unusual. As you may suspect, a big device with wires and batteries will likely garner some additional attention.

The best thing to do is to be prepared. Make sure that you've checked the airline's list of prohibited items (the one with guns, grenades are obvious, but there's also the batteries etc). Make sure none of the prohibited items are carry-on, so that you'll be checking everything in the hold. That gets rid of half their concern, if you won't have access to it during the flight.

Then, bring documentation. Have a print out of the competition details, hopefully your entry form, details of where you built it, a letter perhaps from your company/university where it was built detailing the purpose.

Also include print outs of your accommodation, and any correspondence you have with organisers of the competition.

When it comes to the security check, what the staff are generally doing is looking for answers to questions that your robot will raise. Is it a bomb or benign? Is it dangerous? What are all those spare parts? If you can answer those easily and clearly, with documentation, then they've done their job and will be at ease with it.

Every day people travel with equipment, devices, and more and more these days with wires, batteries and cables, so they're becoming more knowledgeable and understanding.

One last tip - get there early, and check in and go through security as early as possible. This reduces your chance of encountering a stressed agent (at departure, anyway) and also in the event of extra questioning, or inspection of your device by an expert, reduces the risk of you missing your flight.

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    He may be better off removing the batteries and taking them in carry-on (properly packed and with terminals insulated). tsa.gov/traveler-information/safe-travel-batteries-and-devices – Spehro Pefhany Mar 22 '14 at 2:50
  • @SpehroPefhany true. And perhaps that's not a bad thing to discuss with the check-in agent, as they may have up-to-date suggestions. – Mark Mayo Mar 22 '14 at 2:51
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    I'd suggest contacting the airline in advance. They might have some ways to expedite the process. Of course, you might also get an airline rep that doesn't want to deal with you. If using a travel agent, they might also be able to help. – kdgregory Mar 22 '14 at 16:06

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