Full of fear, I nervously packed the first Calliope test build into my carry-on badge and made ready to fly from DC to San Francisco. Would the TSA (airport security) people allow me to ship a liter-sized array of PCB boards stuck together with PVC separators?
This 'Traveling with DIY Electronics' article has good recommendations for international travel, where there exists customs forms and other niceties. However, I was traveling domestic, and there isn't really a 'this is not a bomb' form I can fill out in advance.
In my favor was an absolute lack of electronics. This is the same rig featured in my test build report (sans cat). Any idiot can tell that, without electronics, it's just a satellite model.
The prototype, pictured here at The Stinking Rose restaurant in San Francisco.
However, in previous flights TSA had confiscated fake magicians handcuffs ('because someone might think they are real', even though it was pre-9/11) and repeatedly re-checked one pair of my shoes, which used to set off metal detectors and (apparently) give off a strange signature in X-ray. The risk with carry-on is, if they say no, your only choice is usually 'throw it away', an expensive proposition for a satellite made with real flight PCBs.
The long and short is, although the TSA screener ran my bag through twice to try and figure things out, I was:
a) not grilled about what it was
b) not hassled or asked to open my bag
c) frankly, ignored
A proper experiment would be for me to slowly add electronics, to see what the threshold of TSA is. Pending a $10K grant to do so, however, I'll just accept that TSA are not a heavy risk for local DIY travel, if you show a little sense.
But being contrary, I enjoy the comments of woe on the article linked above. If you've had a DIY device confiscated, let us know!
Launching Project Calliope, sponsored by Science 2.0, in 2011
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Getting A Satellite Through Airport Security