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Asia's airports don't like exploding hoverboards any more than you do

Commentary: Airports in China, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand have strict guidelines concerning electronics that might explode, like battery packs and two-wheeling robots.


I planned to buy a hoverboard in China, just for the fun of riding around the streets on a motorized two-wheeler that could potentially catch fire beneath my feet. I'd relish onlookers' stares.

Well, I didn't see any of these contraptions rolling around in the wild, or in the market I later strolled through (but I did see a drone whizzing through the air). Hoverboards, which don't actually hover, were plentiful on Xiaomi's campus in Beijing, where I zipped around on a NineBot Mini (from the Chinese company that bought Segway).

I thought fleetingly about bringing one home, but I'd have never been able to get it past airport security. China has a strict policy concerning tech in airplane hulls and cabins that have a high explosion potential, and I can't blame them for that. I found out later on in my trip, that China isn't alone. South Korea, Singapore and Thailand similarly put the smackdown on batteries -- I had to carry them in my hand luggage, and couldn't have too many.

Still, it was the laminated signs at the check-in counter of my Asiana Airlines flight from Beijing to Seoul that explicitly warned (in Korean and English) against Mini Segways, "solowheels" and two-wheelers in addition to those loose batteries and external battery packs.

If a routine security scan reveals these items in your checked luggage, you could lose them forever (or perhaps get escorted back to the check-in counter to deal with it). Airport staff carefully sifted through battery packs at the security checkpoint as well, for all six airports in Asia I flew out of, counting the total power capacity of two external packs and a packet of Xiaomi-sponsored AA batteries that I carried in my hand luggage.

As I said, I'm happy with these safety precautions against allowing dangerous gadgets and batteries to fly along with me in a metal tube in the air, and I've made my peace with the fact that my hoverboard dreams won't come true during my grand gadget-seeking trek through Asia.

And that's OK. Because I'll totally just start collecting selfie sticks instead.

This article originally posted April 24, 2016 and was updated May 6 with details on other countries in Asia.