Drone License: Do I Need It and How Do I Get One?

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Drone License: Do I Need It and How Do I Get One?

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?

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 certificate proves you understand the regulations, procedures, and operating requirements for flying drones safely.

If flying for recreation, you don’t need a license, but you should take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) and register with the FAA on the FAA DroneZone website. The test takes 15-30 minutes and is free. You will be issued a certificate for completing the test.

You need to acquire a Remote Pilot Certificate, also known as a Part 107 license, from the Federal Aviation Administration if your drone weighs less than 55 pounds (25kg) and you’re flying it for commercial purposes.

Drones weighing more than 55 pounds don’t fall under unmanned aircraft and are registered under standard aircraft.

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

Here are the steps involved.

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 part 107 course on their website. They also have 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 FAA test contains 60 multiple-choice questions. You have two hours to complete the FAA exam and must get a 70% score or higher to pass. There are over 690 testing centers where you can take the exam.

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).

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 certificate in 10 days. The Remote Pilot Certificate allows you to exercise all the original certificate’s rights.

You’ll receive a permanent 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s on the Part 107 test?

The Part 107 test covers topics such as:

  • Drone laws and FAA regulations
  • National Airspace System
  • Drone flight operations
  • Small UAS loading and performance
  • Weather and Micrometeorology

How much does a 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 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 permit while waiting for the permanent one.

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.

Summary

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.

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AUTHOR

Keith Moreau is the founder and chief editor at Flyver.co. His aim? Simple. Cut through the jargon and help you fly better and safer with your drone.

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