Recently, I got in trouble with the law for flying an over 0.55 pounds drone without certification.
The incident got me thinking if I got in trouble while flying a drone for recreational purposes, how about those flying their drones for commercial purposes without a license? If so, what’s the process of how to get a drone license?
To get a drone license it only takes 3 simple steps. Study for the part 107 license, take the exam and apply to get the license.
- Do I Need a Drone License?
- How To Get a Drone License
- Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need a Drone License?
Any drone over 0.55 pounds (250 grams) in the US requires certification, whether flying for commercial or recreational purposes. The remote pilot certificate proves you understand the regulations, procedures, and operating requirements for flying drones safely.
Below I have outlined the differences between the recreational and commercial pilots and the required licenses in both cases. And just think, once you’re certified, you’ll be able to fly your drone to new heights (pun intended).
Recreational (Hobbyist) Drone Pilots
If you are planning to fly a drone for recreational purposes, you are not required to obtain a formal license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). However, it is important to understand that there are still safety guidelines and rules that you must follow when flying a drone for recreational purposes.
One way to demonstrate your understanding of these guidelines is to take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) offered by the FAA. The test is free and can be completed online in about 15-30 minutes. It covers a range of topics including airspace rules, weather, and aircraft performance, as well as specific requirements for operating drones safely.
Upon completing the test, you will be issued a certificate that you can use to show that you have a basic understanding of drone safety.
In addition to taking the TRUST, it is also required that you register your drone with the FAA on the FAA DroneZone website. This can be done quickly and easily online, and it ensures that your drone is properly documented and accounted for in the aviation system.
By registering your drone and taking the TRUST, you can help to ensure that you are flying safely and responsibly, and that you are not endangering yourself or others.
Commercial (Professional) Drone Pilots
If you are using a drone to earn money, whether it be for aerial photography, real estate inspections, or any other commercial purpose, then you are considered a commercial drone pilot.
In order to legally operate a drone for commercial purposes, you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate, also known as a Part 107 license, from the FAA.
This license allows you to fly drones that weigh less than 55 pounds (25kg) for commercial purposes, and demonstrates to the FAA that you have the knowledge and training necessary to safely operate a drone in the national airspace system.
Commercial drone pilots must be at least 16 years old and able to speak, read, write, and understand English to obtain a Part 107 license
You will also need to pass an aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center, which covers a range of topics including airspace rules, weather, and aircraft performance. With a Part 107 license, you can fly your drone for a variety of commercial purposes, such as providing aerial photography or inspecting infrastructure.
If your drone weighs more than 55 pounds (25kg), it is considered a standard aircraft and is not subject to the Part 107 regulations. Instead, it must be registered as a standard aircraft with the FAA and operated in accordance with the applicable rules and regulations.
Regardless of the size of your drone, it is important to always follow safety guidelines and rules when operating a drone, and to obtain the necessary licensing and certification as required by the FAA.
Either way, you will require a certificate for commercial or recreational purposes.
In case you feel you’re not eligible for a drone license, here are a few points to note:
- You don’t need prior flying experience on drones or other aircraft.
- You don’t need to be a present or past drone owner.
- You will not go through a medical exam.
The Part 107 license allows you to operate your drone in all US states and territories, but you should renew it every two years.
Before acquiring a license, be sure whether you want to use the drone for commercial or recreational purposes. Once registered for recreational use, you cannot change it to commercial use even though its weight qualifies for commercial use.
How To Get a Drone License
As I mentioned before, if you want to fly a drone for commercial purposes, you will need to obtain a drone license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This process involves passing a knowledge test and obtaining an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate.
Step 1 – Studying for the Exam
Several options are available when studying for the test. There are $5 apps with practice questions and $20 workbooks online, or you can prepare for the drone test by watching YouTube videos and online sample questions.
The FAA also has a free remote pilot study guide available online.
However, free drone courses are not as detailed and updated as those provided by professional organizations. A paid course has another advantage; if you fail, some institutions have a money-back guarantee, so you can use the refunded money to pay for the test again.
Step 2 – Taking the Exam
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 test is a comprehensive exam that covers a wide range of topics related to drone safety and operation.
The test consists of 60 multiple-choice questions that are designed to assess your knowledge of the regulations, procedures, and operating requirements for flying drones safely in the national airspace system.
The test is administered at over 690 testing centers across the United States, so you should have no problem finding a location convenient to you.
You will have two hours to complete the Part 107 exam, and you must score at least 70% in order to pass.There are a variety of study materials and resources available online to help you prepare for the test, including practice questions and sample exams.
You’ll be tested on topics such as:
- Regulations governing small unmanned aircraft privileges, limitations, and flight operations
- Airspace classification and operational requirements, as well as flight restrictions affecting the operation of small unmanned aircraft
- Weather sources in aviation and their effects on small unmanned aircraft performance
- Loading and performance of small unmanned aircraft
- Procedures for an emergency
- Management of crew resources
- Procedures for radio communication
- Drug and alcohol physiological effects
- Decision-making and judgment in aviation
- Airport management
- Procedures for maintenance and preflight inspection
- Nighttime operation
Upon passing the test, you’ll be issued a Knowledge Test Exam ID Number to use while applying for a license. If you fail the test, the test fee is non-refundable.
You can retake the exam after 14 calendar days, but you‘ll pay the exam fee again.
Step 3 – Applying for the Part 107 License Through the FAA
Before applying for the license, the basic requirements are:
- Minimum age of 16 years
- Be physically and mentally fit
- Ability to read, write and speak English
- Must have passed the Part 107 exam
Other requirements include passing a knowledge exam and a background check by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
A Tip From My Personal Experience:
Don’t forget about obtaining FAA Tracking Number (FTN). The FTN is a unique identification number that is assigned to you when you register for the FAA’s IACRA system, which is used to process pilot and aircraft certification applications.
If you have all the requirements, visit the IACRA website and complete FAA’s Form 8710-13.
After applying, the TSA will check your background. You’ll then receive a temporary remote pilot certificate in 10 days. The Remote Pilot Certificate allows you to exercise all the original certificate’s rights.
You’ll receive a permanent remote pilot certificate in your mailbox six to eight weeks later, valid for two years. When you receive your drone license, you are required to:
- Register your drone every 36 months and carry the card whenever flying the drone.
- Update your license by passing a Recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge test every 24 months.
- Report to the FAA any accidents involving your drone. The injury or damage to property should be over $500 and reported within ten days.
- Conduct particular aircraft and control system checks on your drone before flying.
- Avail your drone to the FAA for inspection and testing upon their request.
Keep a paper or digital copy of your license whenever you fly your drone because federal, state, and local law enforcers may ask for your registration documents.
The Part 61 Certificate Shortcut
If you’re already a licensed pilot of manned aircraft, you’re in luck!
You don’t have to go through the hassle of taking the Part 107 exam or completing a separate training course. Instead, all you need to do is complete a free online training course called “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.
After you’ve completed the course, you’ll need to fill out FAA Form 8710-13, which is a certificate and/or rating application for a remote pilot certificate. You’ll also need to validate your applicant identity and make an in-person appointment with an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI). They’ll review your form and, if everything checks out, they’ll sign off on your remote pilot certificate.
So if you’re already a licensed pilot, becoming a certified drone pilot is a breeze! Just don’t mix up all of your licenses!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here, you will find answers to some of the most common questions related to obtaining an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate, which is required to fly a drone for commercial purposes.
What’s on the Part 107 test?
The Part 107 test is a comprehensive exam that is designed to assess your knowledge of the regulations, procedures, and operating requirements for flying drones safely in the national airspace system. To be eligible to take the test, you must be at least 16 years old and able to speak, read, write, and understand English.
Here is a more detailed list of the specific topics that are covered on the Part 107 test:
- Drone laws and FAA regulations: This includes knowledge of the rules and regulations governing the operation of drones, including requirements for operating drones in different airspace classes, obtaining authorization to fly in specific areas, and obtaining waivers for certain rules.
- National Airspace System: This includes knowledge of the different types of airspace, how they are designated, and the rules that apply to each type of airspace. It also covers the procedures for obtaining authorization to fly in specific areas and the requirements for maintaining situational awareness while flying.
- Drone flight operations: This includes knowledge of the principles of flight, aircraft performance, and the effects of weather on drone operations. It also covers the requirements for maintaining visual line of sight, operating at a safe distance from people and property, and avoiding collisions.
- Small UAS loading and performance: This includes knowledge of the factors that affect the performance of small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), such as weight and balance, powerplant limitations, and the effects of wind and weather. It also covers the requirements for determining the safe loading of a drone and the procedures for conducting pre-flight checks.
- Weather and Micrometeorology: This includes knowledge of the principles of meteorology and how weather can affect drone operations. It covers topics such as temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, winds, and cloud formations, as well as the effects of weather on aircraft performance.
Overall, the Part 107 test is designed to ensure that drone pilots have the knowledge and skills necessary to safely operate drones in the national airspace system. By studying and preparing for the test in advance, you can increase your chances of success and become a certified drone pilot.
How much does a FAA drone license cost?
The Part 107 exam of the drone license costs around $175.
You’ll also pay a $5 registration fee valid for three years. If you enroll in a study course, you’ll pay about $149 for the class. No other charges will be included when the remote pilot certificate is issued.
How long does it take to get the FAA drone license?
After passing the exam you can expect your license to be out in six to eight weeks, but you will be supplied with a temporary drone pilot license while waiting for the permanent one.
Is it hard to get FAA drone license?
Obtaining a FAA drone license, also known as a Part 107 remote pilot certificate, is not necessarily difficult, but it does require some effort and study.
To be eligible for the certification, you must be at least 16 years old, be able to speak, read, write, and understand English, and pass a aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved testing center.
The test covers a range of topics including airspace rules, weather, and aircraft performance, as well as specific requirements for operating drones.
It may be helpful to study and prepare for the test in advance to increase your chances of success.
Is it worth getting a drone license?
Obtaining a drone license, or Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 107 remote pilot certificate, can be a worthwhile investment for those looking to use drones for business purposes or for personal enjoyment.
With a license, you can legally operate a drone for a variety of purposes, including aerial photography, real estate, agriculture, and more.
Additionally, having a license may make you more competitive in the job market if you are looking to work in a field that utilizes drones.
It’s important to note that the FAA requires that all drone pilots follow safety guidelines and rules when operating drones, and obtaining a license demonstrates that you have the knowledge and training to do so.
How much can I earn with an FAA drone license?
You can earn about $33K – $79K per year on full-time salaried positions. You can also earn cash as a freelancer by browsing for work through drone pilot directories. Freelance drone salaries bring in around $200 – $300 per project.
Every qualified drone needs certification, whether it’s for commercial or recreational purposes.
You’ll need to study and sit for the Part 107 license to get the drone permit. You must also obtain a minimum score of 70%. The good news is that if you pass the exam, you can enjoy your right to fly your drone even while waiting for the license to be released.
Don’t worry, getting a commercial license isn’t rocket science (unless you’re using your drone to inspect a rocket, of course).
With some study and preparation, you can earn your wings and become a successful commercial drone pilot. Just be sure to follow the rules and always fly safely!