Transporting Pneumatics

For worlds, we are planning on transporting our robot there by having it registered as checked baggage for one of our students, and just fly it there with us. However, we are also using a pneumatics system on our robot, and are concerned about transporting it, or to how airport security may treat it. Any suggestions?

I moved this thread out of the VEX-company-only forum into here. The community has LOTS of experience shipping robots to World Championship.

We took our robot as checked bags pat year from Arizona to Anaheim for the All-Stars Competition.

The TSA actually opened both robot boxes to make sure they weren’t bombs. I guess the metal, wires, battery, computer and wireless transceiver set off some flags. They were fairly careful, honestly. They popped off some tank treads, but it was an easy fix. It probably didn’t help that I had the paired controllers in my carry-on bag. They asked me to take them out, along with my programming cables, and laptop and explain what we were doing. It wasn’t a big deal, maybe 2-3 minutes. It might have just been the guy at the terminal being curious.

So, if you put EVERYTHING in crates and store those beneath the plane you probably won’t have a problem. If you bring the controllers along with you, be prepared to answer some interesting questions.

you should be fine. I would disconnect(just at one point) and depressurize the pneumatics. Put everything in the checked bag. And you should be fine. The tsa may look at it but they shouldn’t do anything they can’t be quickly fixed.

When I recently flew to the New England Championship I just undid a few key connections on the pnuematics to make sure the different air pressure wouldn’t cause any problems. I think Jack said he flew with all his pistons hooked up without an issue but I would undo some connections just to be safe. Once you tell TSA your a high school robotics team and open the crate and show them the robot they should be pretty nice and helpful and let you on your way. A few years ago one TSA guy was scared acid would leak out of the batteries so he had us put tape on the connection were it goes into the cortex. If you have something completely absurd like this I would suggest just nodding understandably and doing what they say because that same TSA guy could make you unpack everything if he is mad at you.

At all costs, be nice to the TSA guys!!!

My team usually takes off the reservoirs and puts them in a tool kit and leaves everything else hooked up. Make sure all your crates are easy-open because they will open and inspect, peacefully, or with a sledgehammer:D.

If you’re taking an air compressor (most don’t, i’m lazy), bring lots of bubblewrap.

Robots get hand inspected because the box is to big for machine inspection. it will have yards of isnpected by TSA tape closing it back up.

My question is… are you able go watch them inspect it if you get to the airport early enough? Also same applies would you be able to verify they load it onto the plane? Aka watch the bag boys load it?

Also what about the box… do you recommend attaching standoffs to a 1x5x35 hole channel then in turn screwing that plate into the bottom of your crate? Or just taking the wheels off and letting it slide around with some foam?

From my past experience of flying a while ago (5 years ago) they didn’t let us watch my dog crate get inspected and when we came back my mom tried to fix it, only to lead to another search… Things may have changed since then, but always make sure the TSA are happy with you, and always smile and say thank you!

Just disconnect the pneumatic as stated above and check the bag. Make sure they can open it because they will. Usually you can not be present when they inspect the baggage. They shouldn’t give you too much trouble. Leave the wheels on and just pack the robot with lots of foam to keep it from sliding around in the crate.
Hope this helps!

Short answer
No and no.

We have always been allowed to watch the TSA guys check over our robots, and even talk to them during the process… is it just us? Once we were lucky enough to find one of the few we could share a laugh with! One of our team members had been cable tied as a joke, and the TSA guy had coincidentally also had a cable tie attached to him xD

I should also add we have been pretty lucky with TSA, it wasn’t as bad as the looks we got when we were unpacking our hack saws, hammers and wrenches at the check in desk to get the weight balanced. :smiley:

Be nice to the TSA, its their job.

As for the pneumatics, we have never unplugged our pneumatics before, but its a good idea and can cause no harm i suppose.


I have discovered if you put a ton of bright colored stickers that say VEX Robotics and some sponsers names and maybe some school stickers they dont even open them, and they are even treated better by the airline as well. The more noticable and freindly the box is the better becasue then it is not “just another box” to them.

You guys are lucky, becasue you are coming from out of country they dont check them till they are in the country generally, here in the US we have to give them to the airline first, and then they give them to TSA befroe they are put away underneath the plane, meaning we dont get to actually see them processing the box, it just leaves our hands, and we pray it makes it with us to LA… its a scary few minutes watching for it at the baggage carosel and hoping.