Drone License 101: Is Acquiring a Part 107 Drone License Right for You?
You’ve finally decided you want to fly. You’ve chosen the perfect drone. Now what? It is time to figure out where, when, and what missions you can legally fly to avoid large fines and ensure drone safety. And if you haven’t chosen a drone yet, don’t worry! Head over to our blog post on Top Camera Drones.
In order to properly learn the rules and regulations administered by the Federal Aviation Administration, our licensed drone operators believe that the Part 107 Certification is an absolute must for any drone pilot that is flying commercially in any capacity.
Step #1: Familiarize Yourself With The FAA Rules & Regulations
Up until August 29, 2016, the rules and regulations regarding flying unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the U.S. were mostly unstructured. Since then, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has made great strides in making flying drones legal and far more safe. Although these regulations bring a solid structure to the drone arena, we still receive many questions on whether the average drone operator actually needs an FAA Part 107 license.
The FAA has done a great job separating the commercial drone pilots from the hobbyists, but the information can be hard to find, so we decided to help clear the air. If you own or operate a UAV, you have two options: you can enjoy the technology and fly for fun OR you can fly drones for commercial applications. Either way, there are some regulations you should know. We hope you will be confident in flying after taking a look at this breakdown.
Step #2: Know the Difference Between Recreational Vs. Commercial Drone Regulations
The FAA is very clear that there is a distinct difference between recreational and commercial drone pilots. If you meet either of these two definitions, you can classify yourself as a recreational pilot:
•Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) use as a hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”
•UAS use for recreation is “refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or diversion.”
Flying as a hobby and for recreation will place you in the first option outlined below. It does not require a Drone License, although there are some guidelines that need to be followed.
Step #3: Assess The Guidelines for Flying Legally and Decide What Type of Pilot You Are
If you are a drone pilot in the U.S., you have two options to fly your drone legally.
Option #1: Fly under the Special Rule for model Aircraft (Recreational; Section 336).
This rule is for hobby or recreation ONLY. You must:
• Register your model aircraft
• Make sure your drone is under 55 pounds unless certified by a community- based organization
• Fly within visual line of sight
• Notify air traffic control if you are within 5 miles of an airport
• Never fly near other aircraft
Option #2: Fly under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Commercial; Part 107 License).
Becoming a Licensed Drone Pilot means you now can fly drones for recreational OR commercial use, but you still must stay within some guidelines, requiring you to:
• Register your drone
• Acquire your Part 107 Drone License from the FAA
• Fly a drone under 55 pounds
• Do not fly in controlled airspace without FAA permission
• Fly only during daylight or civil twilight, at or below 400 feet above ground level (AGL)
These rules are very serious. You can face significant fines if you fly commercially without an FAA Part 107 Drone License.
Step #4: Get Started Preparing for the Part 107 Test
Okay, you’ve read though the regulations and decided you want to become a commercial drone pilot to start making money and helping people with this awesome technology, so how do you go about receiving your Drone License? In order to be eligible to take the Part 107 Test and receive your Drone License, you must:
• Be at least 16 years old
• Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if you are unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
• Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
• Pass the initial Aeronautical Knowledge Exam at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center
Step #5: Understand the Specifications of the FAA Part 107 Exam
To receive a Part 107 Drone License, the FAA requires all pilots to first pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. The exam is a 60-question, multiple choice test with three answer options (A, B, C). Some questions will require you to reference airspace maps and weather charts provided by the FAA testing center.
To pass, you must receive a score of 70% or better. In other words, you have to get 42 out of the 60 questions right to become an FAA pilot.
Step #6: Know What Sections/Material to Prepare for the Exam
Here is a breakdown of the questions by category:
1. Regulations: 15%-25%
2. Airspace & Requirements: 15%-25%
3. Weather: 11%-16%
4. Loading and Performance: 7%-11%
5. Operations: 35%-45%
Total: 60 Questions
Please, please, please don’t read this and think, “Oh, this might be too hard for me.” IT’S REALLY NOT THAT HARD. Using the Altitude University Part 107 Training Course or any other online training course allows you to breeze through the studying in nearly 10 hours. I know you have put that amount of time into a test or big project at some point in your life, and we bet you didn’t come out of that event being a Certified FAA Drone Pilot. It’s worth it.
Read our Step-By-Step Guide to Receiving Your Part 107 Drone License next for more information about how to study, schedule your test, and maintain your status as a commercial drone pilot.