Last week we hosted a webinar entitled How to Ace the FAA’s Part 107 Exam and Become a Certified Drone Drone Pilot, 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.
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.
Questions about FAA Certification and What It Allows You to Do
Question: In what scenarios is FAA-certification required for flying drones?
Answer: The FAA requires a pilot to be certified in order to perform any type of commercial drone operation. We had many people ask specific questions regarding when one should be certified, and what activities constitute commercial drone work.
Basically, if you’re asking the question at all, you’re probably flying in a way that the FAA would define as commercial.
To make this simple, it’s helpful to look at the FAA’s Getting Started webpage. There the FAA defines hobbyist flying as “educational or recreational flying only.” So if you’re flying in a way that is not educational (for you, not for others) or just for fun, you’re flying commercially.
Here are some examples of types of flying that may seem to fall in a grey area, but the FAA would still define as commercial:
- Flying as a trade with someone for goods or services
- Flying as part of your real estate operation
- Flying as a teacher in a high school or college class
- Flying as part of a demonstration
Question: What does the FAA require for certification?
Answer: Here is what the FAA requires (taken from the FAA’s Fly for Work/Business webpage):
- Must be at least 16 years old
- Must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center+
- Must be vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA)
Many people asked about additional requirements, such as whether a medical exam, driver’s license, flight proficiency, or college degree were required. There are no additional requirements beyond the ones listed above, although you will need some form of valid identification in order to take the Part 107 test.
There is, however, an exception to the above for pilots with current certificates:
A person who already holds a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61 and has successfully completed a flight review within the previous 24 months can complete a part 107 online training course at www.faasafety.gov to satisfy [the testing] requirement.
Question: Where and how can I fly if I am FAA-certified?
Answer: Once certified, the FAA allows you to fly a drone weighing less than 55 pounds with these restrictions (taken from the FAA’s Fly for Work/Business webpage):
- Must fly in class G airspace* (i.e., completely uncontrolled airspace)
- Must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)*
- Must fly under 400 feet*
- Must fly during the day*
- Must fly at or below 100 mph*
- Must yield right of way to manned aircraft*
- Must NOT fly over people*
- Must NOT fly from a moving vehicle*
Question: Are there any exceptions to these restrictions?
Answer: Yes. The FAA does issue airspace authorizations, which allow drone pilots to fly in controlled airspace (addressing the first bullet in the list above), as well as Part 107 waivers, which allow drone pilots to fly in one or more of the ways listed in the other bullets above (Beyond Visual Line of Sight; above 400 feet; at night, etc.).
Here are some additional resources:
*Note: Night waivers are the most common types of Part 107 waivers issued by the FAA. Waivers for other Part 107 restrictions can be obtained, but they are less common. The FAA keeps a public record of all Part 107 waivers issued, which can be found here.
Question: Will my FAA certification expire, and what is the process to renew it?
Answer: The FAA has stated that recertification will be required every 24 months, but has not yet issued the specific process that will be required for recertification.
Question: What is the process around getting clearance from heliports? On some DNF maps they show up while they do not on others.
Answer: Many DNF maps don’t take into account the Part 107 regulations.
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.
Question: I work for a fire department. Are permanent nighttime flight waivers available for public safety agencies to perform search and rescue operations?
Answer: Yes, this is know as a Public COA. More information can be found on the process for obtaining a COA here.
Question: Who has jurisdiction over airspace right now, the federal government or local governments?
Answer: Officially, the federal government has jurisdiction. However, many states and local governments are passing laws related to flying drones.
A recent court case in Newton, MA recognized the FAA’s authority, and struck down parts of the town’s law that encroached on the FAA’s jurisdiction. That being said, you could still potentially be jailed or fined for breaking local laws related to flying drones (even if you’re operating in compliance with FAA regulations), so it’s important to be aware of them.
Work Related Questions
Question: What kinds of jobs are available as a commercial drone pilot, and how can you find work doing them?
Answer: 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:
For more on jobs for commercial drone pilots, check out this article on where people are making money in the drone industry and this master list of U.S. certified drone pilot directories.
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.
Question: How should I price my drone services?
Answer: This question is hard to answer, because pricing is generally tied to the specific location you’re in, type of work you’re doing, competition (or lack of competition), and level of skill you’ve developed.
For some good advice on pricing for real estate marketing, check out this article.
Derrick Ward of Hot Shots Aerial Photography has this advice:
People should evaluate their own work and the amount they charge for it by how busy they are.
If you’re really busy, and you have people knocking down your door to hire you, then you don’t need to offer free services to find clients since they already understand the value of your work. And if you’re incredibly busy then you should probably consider raising your prices.
On the other hand, if you’re not very busy, then it’s worth considering tactics like offering lower prices or free shoots to bring in new clients, until things start to pick up.
Question: Do you need drone insurance to start your own drone services business?
Answer: It’s probably a good idea, but it’s really up to you. For an in-depth take on drone insurance, check out this free guide on the subject.
We had dozens of questions about which drone to buy. The truth is that different drones are good for different jobs, so it will often depend on what you plan to do.
That being said, we’ve got some guides to different types of drones that can help you get started when it comes to finding the right drone for the job.
Here they are:
We also had a lot of questions about software and photo/video editing in general.
Here are the guides we’ve created to help you when it comes to finding the right software for your drone operations:
Still have questions?
Email us at support[at]uavcoach[dot]com, or post them in the UAV Coach community forum.