GPS and Airport X-Ray
Pat emailed me a question today which might be on the mind of several people as they start to embark on summer trips.
I would like to bring my GPS System [on vacation] with me. Is there any danger in going through the security check points at the airport with the system? Could it be corrupted in any way by going through the xray machines? What is the best way to travel with it by air?
The short quick answer is no, the airport x-ray equipment won’t be a problem. However if you want a longer explanation as to why –
Electronic devices which have difficulty with x-ray machines are typically anything that is susceptible to damage by magnets or the x-ray itself. A prime example of this is camera film which can be damaged by the x-ray. Old 3.5 inch floppy disks can be damaged by magnets in the x-ray. None of this should cause any trouble for GPS receivers though.
Make sure you have at last a small bit of charge in the battery of your GPS in case security asks you to demonstrate the device is functional.
The component you might be worried about is the memory. GPS receivers use either flash memory or hard disk based memory. Flash memory is often found in small electronic devices like mp3 players. These devices have no trouble with airport x-ray equipment. The same goes for hard disk based GPS receivers. The same hard disk that powers your GPS also powers laptops. Laptops also don’t have trouble with airport x-ray equipment.
Take care of your GPS just like you would any other piece of expensive electronics while traveling. If you must put the GPS into your checked luggage, pack it very, very well. Perhaps in the original packaging and box if you still have it. Be especially careful of anything which might impact the screen.
If you carry your GPS along with you on the plane make sure it is also packed well. You don’t want to crush it yourself when stuffing your back in the overhead bin or step on it “stowed safely under the seat in front of you.”
Another tip I use while traveling with expensive electronics is to place the expensive items on the belt of the x-ray machine last; this reduces the chances someone ahead of me could grab my items.
Lastly, you may want to consider a carrying case specifically for your GPS if one is available and one didn’t come with your GPS.
Update: – One more thing I forgot to mention. When you turn on your GPS it typically uses its last known location to help determine the current location. Therefore when you turn a GPS receiver off, move it a considerable distance, and turn it on again it can take longer than normal for it to determine its location.
Additionally, GPS receivers never work well (or at all normally) in parking garages. This can be a double edged sword as the GPS receiver won’t get a signal in the airport parking garage and then will take a longer time to acquire a signal after you leave the garage.