Last week we hosted a webinar—“How to Ace the FAA’s Part 107 Exam and Become a Certified Drone Pilot” (watch the recording here), and we were so inundated with questions that we promised to write a follow-up blog post to make sure they all got answered.
We’ve broken your questions down into categories to make the answers approachable and easy to find. You can use the following links to jump between sections:
Let’s get to the Q&A.
Is there a practical (flight test) exam for Part 107 Certification?
Interestingly enough, no there is not. In order to get a Part 107 Certification, you will need to pass the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test. There are 60 multiple-choice questions on the test, which will test your theoretical knowledge. There is no practical portion of the exam (such as a hands-on flight test observed by a proctor), meaning you can take and pass the exam without having flown a drone before.
Do we take the UAG – Recurrent or UAG – Small test to become Part 107 certified?
When you’re booking your exam through CATS, if you are not already certified and need to get your FAA Remote Pilot Certificate for the first time, you will select the “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small” test when booking. That’s the initial exam. If you’re going back to take your recurrent test to maintain your Part 107 certificate, which you would need to do every two years, then you’d sign up for the “Unmanned General – Recurrent” exam. Here’s more information about the re-certification process.
Is the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge a viable study aide?
The FAA offers multiple resources for self-study, including the Pilot’s Handbook for Aeronautical Knowledge. You can use this to prepare for the Part 107 test; however, many students find these materials too dense to parse through and difficult to understand on their own. And not only is it quite dense, but even if you read all 600+ pages of the handbook, there are still items that’ll be on your test that aren’t covered in there.
While there are other online and in-person drone training programs available on the market, Drone Pilot Ground School was specifically built to help you prepare for and to successfully pass your FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Our course covers all 120+ knowledge concepts, and breaks them down into focused lessons. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the information you’ll be tested on as you walk through our video-based lectures at your own pace.
What is the typical study time necessary to prepare for the Part 107 test?
How much time you spend studying is up to you, but we recommend that you spend 15-20 hours of studying. Our average student spends about 2-3 weeks getting through the course. Save time for taking notes, for reaching out to our instructor with questions, and for going through practice quizzes and tests.
Is there a fee for the test and actual certificate?
The cost to take the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test is $150. This is the test that you take in-person at one of over 600 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the U.S. The fee is paid directly to the knowledge testing center when you’re scheduling your testing appointment.
Once you pass the test, there is no additional fee to get your actual certificate. After you pass your Aeronautical Knowledge Test, you’ll need to wait up to 48 hours to apply for your Remote Pilot Certificate using the FAA’s online IACRA system. After you send in your application, you’ll go through automatic TSA security vetting, and then assuming you pass that, you’ll receive a temporary electronic Remote Pilot Certificate.
Here’s a short video of the process:
The FAA anticipates that, while it may take the FAA 6 to 8 weeks to issue a permanent Remote Pilot Certificate via snail mail, a temporary remote pilot certificate can be issued in about 10 business days. The temporary Remote Pilot Certificate will allow the certificate holder to exercise all the privileges of the certificate, thus significantly reducing the waiting period prior to being able to operate as a remote pilot in command under part 107.
How long is a Part 107 Certificate good for?
You’ll need to pass a Recurrent Knowledge Test every 24 months to keep your certificate in good standing. After passing the Recurrent Knowledge Test, you must be able to show a copy of your recurrent knowledge test report if asked.
What’s different about the Recurrent Knowledge Test compared to the original Aeronautical Knowledge Test?
The process for taking the Recurrent Knowledge Test will be similar to the first time you took the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, in that you will need to book a testing appointment at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center.
Also, you’ll need to achieve at least a 70% score to pass the test.
Here are the main differences between the Aeronautical Knowledge Test and the Recurrent Knowledge Test:
- Pilots won’t be tested on Weather or Loading & Performance Airmen Certification Standards. But all of the other knowledge concepts are up for testing, so make sure to brush up on your regulatory and airspace knowledge. Sectional Charts aren’t disappearing anytime soon, folks.
- The recurrent test will be 40 questions (instead of 60 questions on the initial exam)
- You will be given 1.5 hours to complete your recurrent test (instead of 2 hours during the initial exam)
Learn more about the Recurrent Knowledge Test and process here.
How much does it cost to take the Recurrent Knowledge Test?
It costs $150 to take the Recurrent Knowledge Test, which is the same as the cost of the original test.
Do you need to be a U.S. citizen to take the FAA Part 107 test and obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate?
No, you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to take the test FAA Part 107 test and obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. Anyone over the age of 16 who is interested in becoming a commercial sUAS/drone pilot can take the test. You must also be proficient in English and in a physical and mental condition to safely operate an sUAS.
Is the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate only valid in the U.S.?
Yes, the Part 107 Certificate is only valid in FAA airspace throughout the U.S. and its territories.. Some drone pilots in other countries choose to get Part 107-certified if their country does not offer its own certification process. An FAA Part 107 Certificate can communicate your professionalism no matter what country you’re in, but as far as we know, there’s no reciprocity with other countries. If you plan to travel to another country with your drone, look into our Drone Laws Guide to do some preliminary research.
Once I pass the Part 107 test, I would like to do work with golf courses. Are the employees of the golf course considered “people” by the FAA, and if so how difficult is it to get a waiver in that situation?
Part 107 prohibits a person from flying a small UA directly over a person who is not under a safe cover, such as a protective structure or a stationary vehicle.
Here’s the exact ruling:
§ 107.39 Operation over human beings
No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft over a human being unless that human being is:
(a) Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft; or
(b) Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.
Let’s unpack each of these points:
“Directly participating in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft.”
This includes the remote PIC, perhaps a person manipulating the controls, a VO, and any crewmembers who are directly necessary for the safety of the sUAS operation, as assigned and briefed by the remote PIC ahead of time.
There are several ways that the remote PIC can comply with these requirements, such as:
- You can adopt an appropriate operating distance from people who are not directly participating in the operation of the sUAS.
- You can have a plan of action that ensures the small UA remains clear of people who may enter the operating area, remain indoors, or remain under safe cover until the small UA flight has ended.
“Located under a covered structure or inside a stationary vehicle that can provide reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.”
These rules are telling us that if there are people you’re flying over who are not directly part of your flight mission, they need to be protected from harm if the small UA were to crash by either 1) being underneath a covered structure, or 2) inside a stationary vehicle.
Two more things.
- A lot of people ask if there’s a specific distance you should be flying away from someone to be in a safe operational zone. And my response is that there’s no clear answer here. I tell remote PICs to use good judgement. The rule clearly states not to fly over people. You can interpret that and your own level of risk mitigation as you see fit.
- A lot people also ask if they can fly over moving vehicles, like trains or cars. It’s noteworthy that the FAA chose to use the term “stationary” when describing vehicles. This indicates to us pilots that unless we have special permission to do so, we shouldn’t be flying over moving vehicles.
What is the demand out there for drone pilots?
There are dozens of ways drones are being used in work settings, from aerial cinematography to surveying to fire fighting. Here is an overview of where people are finding work.
Source: Skylogic Research
For more on jobs for commercial drone pilots, check out our Drone Jobs Guide.
To actually find work, you often have to create the opportunity for yourself.
Many successful commercial drone pilots we’ve encountered who are working for themselves have seen their role as educators when it comes to finding new clients. They’ll offer a shoot for free to a realtor in order to demonstrate the value aerial services can provide, and then work from there to establish a client base.
Read about how Derrick Ward built his business, Hot Shots Aerial Photography, from free flights to a point where he can charge up to $250 an hour here.
Should I register my new drone as Part 107 even though I do not have my Part 107 yet?
You must register your drone according to the rules you follow when you fly. If you are flying for hobby or recreation only, you must register as a “modeler” under Section 336. If you are flying for recreational, commercial, governmental, or other purposes under Part 107, then you must register under Part 107. Each drone must be registered at a cost of $5.00 and registration is valid for a period of 3 years.
If you’ve purchased a new drone, and plan to use it for commercial purposes under Part 107 (or if you plan to fly it both recreationally and commercially), then you should register it under Part 107 at https://faadronezone.faa.gov.
Also, make sure you avoid these drone registration schemes.
What is the most suitable drone for commercial projects?
The most popular drone manufacturer in the commercial setting at this time is DJI—the company dominates a 72% of the commercial market according to a 2018 report.
However, there are many options out there. We’ve narrowed it down to some of he best, most reliable drone brands (including DJI) and highlight some of their best models for commercial drone pilots in our guide, “The Top Professional Drones for Serious Commercial UAV Pilots.”
What drone do you recommend for a beginner?
We often suggest starting off with a less expensive system. This is so you can hone your skills before moving on to more sophisticated (and expensive) models.
To help beginners choose a drone, we’ve put together a Cheap Drones for Beginners Guide.
The models listed don’t have all the bells and whistles of higher-end drones for sale, but you’ll be surprised at how advanced their features can get.
Do I need a Part 107 certificate to fly for fun?
No, you do not need a Part 107 certificate if you are flying for fun or hobby only. However, there are still some important rules you’ll need to follow for flying as a hobbyist:
- Register your drone with the FAA if it weighs more than 0.55 lbs.
- Fly only for fun or recreation.
- Fly at or below 400 feet when in uncontrolled airspace (Class G)
- Fly within visual line-of-sight, meaning you as the drone operator use your own eyes and needed contacts or glasses (without binoculars), to ensure you can see your drone at all times.
- Never fly near other aircraft.
- Never fly over groups of people, public events, or stadiums full of people.
- Never fly near or over emergency response efforts.
Do I need a Part 107 certificate if I already have a manned pilot’s license?
Great question. If you:
- Hold a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61; and
- Have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months,
Then you do not need a Part 107 certificate. Instead, you need to complete a (free) online training course called “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.
After you successfully complete that course, you then complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate), validate your applicant identity, and make an in-person appointment with your local FSDO, an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) to sign your form.
More details on all of that here.
How do I get a waiver to fly my drone at night?
The specific section of Part 107 that covers daylight operations is 107.29. Although we’ll generally refer to a 107.29 waiver as a “night waiver,” the actual name of the waiver is a Daylight Operation waiver, since technically, when you ask permission to fly at night, you’re asking to have the Part 107 rule that requires sUAS pilots to fly only during daylight hours temporarily waived.
To request a night waiver, you should fill out the FAA’s online Part 107 waiver form over at their FAADroneZone website, which you’ll have to register for. It’s the same place you register your drone commercially, apply for airspace authorizations, and submit incident reports if needed. After submitting the form, the FAA has 90 days to respond.
Learn more about applying for a night waiver here.
What are the rules for flying around airports and heliport if you have a Part 107 Certificate?
If you’re flying as a certified drone pilot under Part 107, it doesn’t matter how close or far you are to an airport. What matters is if you’re in controlled vs. uncontrolled airspace. Even if you’re right next to a heliport, for example, if you’re in Class G uncontrolled airspace and there are no other special airspace considerations to factor in, the only thing you have to worry about is conducting a safe and responsible flight mission.
You can’t impede (and should absolutely yield to) any existing manned aircraft operations, particularly low-flying helicopters. While it’s not required to get clearance / permission, it my be helpful to establish communication for stronger situational awareness.
How should UAV pilots be prepared for a ramp check?
We offer a checklist of items you should have on hand during any commercial drone flight, especially in the case of a ramp check, here.
How do you use LAANC to request airspace authorization?
LAANC automates the application and approval process for airspace authorizations. Through automated applications developed by an FAA Approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS) pilots apply for an airspace authorization. For a list of approved service suppliers, visit this page of the FAA’s website.
Do I need insurance for my drone?
In the U.S., drone insurance is not currently required for either recreational or commercial RC drone use at the federal level. However, some states do require proof of liability insurance, and getting drone insurance is a smart move if business is being conducted. If you’re making money with your drone, or you plan to in the future, insuring it could save you a lot of money down the line if an accident happens.
Getting drone insurance may also help you close clients (who may not want to work with you unless you’re insured). If anything, you’ve got peace of mind knowing that you’re covered in the unlikely event of an accident. Learn more in our Drone Insurance Guide.
We’d like to offer a huge thank you to all those who registered for our webinar (over 1,300 of you!) and to those who submitted questions during our webinar. We hope we’ve provided the answers you needed, and that we have helped you take another step toward becoming a Part 107 certified pilot.
If you still have questions, please reach out to us at support[at]uavcoach[dot]com, and we’ll make sure to get back soon.
We also recommend that you post your questions in the UAV Coach community forum. It’s a community of thousands of drone pilots, and a great place to learn more about anything and everything related to flying drones.