I'm flying out for vacation, and I want to take some of my half-done arduino projects with me to work on. I'm concerned that aiprort security might mistake my devices for something sinister or at bare minimum 'suspicious' and be confiscated.

Has anyone ever had any negative experiences taking arduino-esque wiring projects through airport security?

  • from a technical point of view you should also be careful that the x-ray scanners and metal detectors use EM fields and ionizing rays, which could possibly harm your arduino (espessialy if it's wired to some circuit which could act as an antenna). – nonchip Jul 13 '14 at 7:05
  • @nonchip: As long as it's not hooked up to any power, it should be fine. Right? – Paul Jul 13 '14 at 12:29
  • unless it or parts of it get powered by the radiation. – nonchip Jul 13 '14 at 22:12
  • Unfortunately, this is a one of those case-by-case things. If that particular inspector got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning, or didn't like the way you parted your hair, or who-knows-what, you could get the PCS (punitive cavity search) for no good reason and never get an explanation. And on the other hand, you can get waived through without a second glance. "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the <insert favorite unaccountable organization here>!" – JRobert Jul 14 '14 at 19:27

I personally haven't taken my Arduino through security, but here are a few things I'd look at before flying:

  • International flights might be more secure, so keep that in mind.
  • (Like already mentioned) check your bags whenever possible
  • Go extra early in case you do have to explain to the TSA (or equivalent). You don't want to miss your flight!
  • Take it out of your bag so it doesn't look like you're hiding anything. The more open you are about it, the less suspicious they'll be.
  • Bring any original packaging for your Arduino/parts.

A few other things I've read to do:

  • Take tickets if going to some event like a Maker Faire, especially if they can look it up online. If they seem skeptical, you could always pull it up on your phone.
  • Don't make it look like a bomb (i.e. don't be stupid!)
  • Don't take tools unless needed
  • Be patient and calm if they stop you. You have nothing to hide from them (Right? Right?)

It will depend on your particular country of course. Check the rules on cabin baggage.

In Australia, Arduino boards should pose no problem. It is best to not take any batteries or tools with edges (screwdrivers) or heavy tools (wrenches). In case they do want to have a look, place the boards at the top of your bag for easy access.

I have traveled to Europe from Australia with half a suitcase full of large PCBs with no problem. The only time my bag was opened was when I was carrying a tea pot stand, which was in the shape of a tea pot. Apparently it looked like a gun.

  • Ever had any problems taking a soldering iron with you? – Paul Jul 13 '14 at 12:30
  • 1
    I've never taken one, but if it has a sharp tip they might not let it through. If you are taking the whole workshop you might have to check in the baggage. :) – geometrikal Jul 13 '14 at 12:35
  • Indeed... it's probably best to check in that item. – Paul Jul 13 '14 at 12:37

I don't think that is a problem. I have taken my arduino several times with me when I travel by plane and have never had any problems. I have even carried an oscilloscope and I only was warned about the pointy probes. I have taken international flights with it without any problems. However, always verify the airline baggage restrictioins.


Real world example:

I have just flown from JFK - New York to GRU - Sao Paulo (Brazil) (October 2016) with this 'RIAspire UNO R3 Master Beginner Starter Kit for Arduino DIY Discovery - 25 Sensors with RFID, Ultrasonic, Temperature, HC 05 Bluetooth, ESP8266 Wifi' on my hand luggage.

There were a lot of wires, detectors and everything.

Nothing happened.

  • That's actually quite bad. – user400344 Oct 11 '16 at 7:07
  • @user400344, why is that quite bad? I'm not sure I understand. – sa_leinad Oct 11 '16 at 15:42

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