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How to Get a Drone Pilot License (Step-by-Step Guide)

Flying a drone commercially opens up many career opportunities, from working in the news to real estate, construction, and land surveying roles.

However, you need a license before you launch your drone for your first commercial project.

This guide will take you through the requirements of obtaining a Part 107 license, answering all your most burning questions along the way.

You’ll learn where to take the FAA exam, what you need to know to pass the exam, how long your license lasts, how to renew it, and more.

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Who needs a Part 107 license? What size drone requires an FAA license?

Let’s start with the basics.

All drone pilots require a license in the United States. However, it’s a different license for commercial versus recreational pilots.

Commercial pilots must take the Part 107 exam to earn a Part 107 license, which is also known as a Remote Pilot Certificate.

The FAA issues these licenses.

What size drone requires an FAA license? Your drone must weigh under 55 pounds to be eligible for flights in the US, so any drone under that size can only fly with a license.

» MORE: How I Passed Part 107 (And the Course That Helped Me Do It)

How (and where) can I take the Part 107 test?

The only thing lying between you and your commercial drone license is the Part 107 exam.

Let’s review the steps for taking the test so you can be one step closer to becoming an official FAA drone license holder.

Step 1 – Meet the eligibility requirements

First-time drone pilots must meet specific criteria laid out by the FAA.

You must be deemed in sufficient mental and physical condition to operate a drone safely. You must also have a full comprehension of English, meaning you can understand, write, speak, and read it.

Additionally, you must be at least 16 years old.

Step 2 – Get your FAA Tracking Number

Once you determine whether you’re eligible to enroll to take the Part 107 exam, you next need your FAA Tracking Number or FTN.

If you don’t already have an account, create one on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application website (link).

When registering on the IACRA site, select Applicant, then choose your instructors, certifying officers, and admin. You’ll also have to agree to IACRA’s terms of service when registering.

Step 3 – Schedule your test at a Knowledge Testing Center

The Part 107 exam is an in-person test. You can renew your exam online but cannot take the initial test online as of this writing.

You’ll have to find a physical testing center, also known as a Knowledge Testing Center, on the FAA’s approved list. You can peruse the list here (which requires an FAA login).

Once you find a Knowledge Testing Center near you, register to take the Part 107 exam at a date and time that works for your schedule.

You must have a government-issued photo ID to verify your identity, so pack that with you early, as you may forget on the day of the test due to jitters.

Step 4 – Take the Part 107 exam

The Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) test–better known as the Part 107 exam–is a 60-question quiz.

Each of the questions is multiple-choice, and you’re given three options to choose from: A, B, or C.

The Part 107 exam tests your proficiency in the entirety of the FAA’s drone laws, so the test questions leave no stone unturned.

Expect questions on these topics:

  • Nighttime drone operations
  • Preflight inspection procedures
  • Drone maintenance
  • Flight judgment and decision-making
  • The physiological effects of alcohol and drugs on drone flight
  • Small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Communicating on the radio
  • Managing crew resources
  • Emergency procedures
  • Drone loading and performance
  • How weather affects drones
  • Drone operating requirements
  • Airspace classifications
  • Flight restrictions

You’re given two hours to complete all the questions on the exam. Any questions you don’t answer will be marked incorrectly.

You must score 70 percent to pass the Part 107 exam, which means answering 42 of the 60 questions correctly.

Since you can only get up to 18 questions wrong if you want to pass, manage your time well. and study in advance. We’ll have a whole section on studying for the exam coming up.

Step 5 – Apply for your license

Once you pass the Part 107 exam, you must then apply for the certificate. You’ll again log into IACRA to do this.

After logging in, select the Start New Application option on the website. Choose Application Type, then Pilot, then CertificationsRemote Pilot,” Other Path Information, and Start Application.

You’ll then fill out FAA Form 8710-13 via the application prompts. You will have to enter your Knowledge Test Exam ID, which is 17 digits.

You will have to wait at least 48 hours after taking your test to obtain this ID, as it can take that long for your test results to show up in the IACRA portal.

Include your electronic signature on FAA Form 8710-13 and submit it. You’ll receive a confirmation email when you do that and comply with the TSA background check.

The confirmation email has instructions on printing a copy of your IACRA remote pilot certificate.

This is only a temporary license, as the real one will come in the mail from FAA after the organization processes your application.

In the meantime, you can use the IACRA certificate like the real Remote Pilot Certificate.

How do I study for the Part 107 test?

It’s not free to take the Part 107 exam. You’ll pay $175 to the Knowledge Testing Center before your test.

If you fail, you’re free to retake the exam. There’s no limit on retest attempts, but for the sake of your wallet, you’ll want there to be.

That’s why we recommended studying in the last section, and we’ll reiterate the importance of studying now.

Fortunately, there exist several excellent drone resources for prepping for the Part 107 exam. Here are four of our favorites.

Pilot Institute

Pilot Institute has a top-notch Part 107 exam prep course. More than 65,000 students have used Pilot Institute to prepare for the FAA exam as of this writing.

» MORE: How I Passed Part 107 (And the Course That Helped Me Do It)

The instructors at Pilot Institute divide the content into 15 hours. It’s all video content, so you can start it, pause it, and resume it as your schedule allows.

The videos are short so you can easily digest the information, and of course, you can rewatch the content as needed.

To further help you prep, Pilot Institute offers 20 quizzes that mimic what you’ll see on the real Part 107 exam.

You can also take an unlimited number of practice exams. Altogether, these quizzes and practice exams have over 300 questions.

We recognize that it’s costly on top of the price you’ll pay to take the Part 107 exam, but you own the materials for life.

Plus, Pilot Institute promises you’ll pass the FAA test the first time around, or they’ll refund you in full and issue you $175 to go toward your next test attempt.

Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot License Course

All courses offered by Pilot Institute are taught by remote pilots, flight instructors, FAA commercial pilots, and other certified professionals.

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Drone Pilot Ground School

Drone Pilot Ground School is another option to consider if you’re interested in Part 107 prep before you sit down to take the exam.

This drone school has a combination of text-based and video lessons, with more than 70 available.

Drone Pilot Ground School curriculum was created through the collective knowledge of a former Part 141 flight school chief pilot and a Gold Seal-certified flight instructor.

After absorbing the video and text content at your own pace, you can prep for the upcoming FAA exam with five practice tests and lesson quizzes. The questions include real FAA content used on Part 107 exams.

Drone Pilot Ground School also offers a cram sheet with 12 pages of takeaways to review on test day.

If you need extra help still, you can search the Q&A database, the Drone Pilot Knowledge Center, or contact Drone Pilot Ground School for one-on-one support.

You’ll have access to your materials for a lifetime after paying. Drone Pilot Ground School has a success rate of over 99 percent but still offers a money-back guarantee if you don’t pass the FAA exam.

You’ll also receive $175 from the school for your next test attempt.

Drone Pilot Ground School by UAV Coach

Become an FAA-certified drone pilot to fly for commercial use. Pass your FAA drone exam on your first try or your money back.

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Peltier Remote Pilot Training

Another great option to help you prep for the Part 107 exam is Peltier Remote Pilot Training. John Peltier leads the training.

He also offers photography courses if you’re interested!

For $139, Peltier’s course will take you through 10 hours of Part 107 training spread out into 37 video lessons. Each lesson includes text outlines.

The course also includes a printable study guide and instructor support with John himself through email and live chat.

Take a practice exam that includes questions FAA used on past Part 107 exams.

Review Peltier’s test-taking tips, chat in the Pilot Lounge community, and follow the post-test walkthrough and certification steps so you do everything correctly and get your license in hand fast.

Peltier Photo Courses

Peltier was a part of the U.S. Air Force as an F-15E flight instructor for a decade making him qualified to teach drones courses.

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Drone Pro Academy

Do you want to learn drone basics quickly to prepare for the Part 107 exam? Drone Pro Academy is the choice for you.

Its FAA Part 107 bootcamp has two hours of lessons broken into several modules for easily digesting the materials.

The first module covers drone rules, which you’ll be tested on during the Part 107 exam, and the second module is all about crew resource management.

The third module covers aircraft performance, the fourth is about weather, and the fifth module goes over VFR charts and airspace rules.

Once you wrap up, you can take a practice exam. There’s also an included section on how to complete the post-exam IACRA form.

More than 15,000 drone pilots have chosen Drone Pro Academy to pass the Part 107 exam.

Drone Pro Academy

When you take the test, you’re protected under the Drone Pro Academy’s pass guarantee. Easily pass your FAA Part 107 exam.

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How many hours does it take to study for the exam?

There is no right amount of time to study for the FAA Part 107 exam. It all depends on how you learn and retain information.

If you enroll in one of the drone prep courses we recommended above, you’ll spend at least 10 hours on the course material.

You’re also encouraged to use cram sheets and practice quizzes on your own time.

That doesn’t mean you only have to study for 10 hours, of course. You can double or triple that time if you want.

A good rule of thumb is to spend at least an hour studying for the exam per day. This way, you can juggle your Part 107 exam prep with other obligations like work and school.

The sheer amount of studying you have to do also won’t feel so overwhelming.

The more time you study, the more well-prepared you’ll feel for the FAA commercial drone exam. That will put you in a better position to pass so you don’t have to pay to take the test again.

How much does it cost to become an FAA drone pilot?

This is another question that’s difficult to answer. Rather, it’s more complex.

If we’re talking only about the cost of taking the Part 107 exam, that’s $175. Assuming you pass the first time around, you’ll only have to pay that fee once.

However, there are other associated fees with becoming a commercial drone pilot, including the following:

  • Purchasing a drone ($50 to $2,000 and up)
  • Drone registration ($5 per drone)
  • Drone prep course
  • Drone insurance
  • Filming and photography permits (cost varies)

Is becoming a drone pilot difficult?

Yes, becoming a drone pilot is difficult. The FAA wants to ensure that only the most qualified pilots take to the skies.

After all, drones may just be toys to some people, but they’re still aerial vehicles, and flying them is a great responsibility. 

The most difficult part of the entire process by far isn’t registering with IACRA or filling out paperwork but passing the Part 107 exam.

That’s why studying and preparation pay off so much, as goes getting a good night’s sleep the night before the test (as good a night as you can muster, anyway) and eating a filling meal the day of.

How long is the FAA drone license good for?

Whew. You enrolled in an online drone prep course and passed the Part 107 exam. It was difficult, but you did it. You couldn’t be happier, and you’ve used your drone every day since.

Enjoy your Remote Pilot Certificate while you have it, as it’s not valid forever. The license expires two years after it’s issued to you.

The FAA does this intentionally. Unmanned aircraft guidelines and rules change all the time. The FAA ensures you’ll stay current on those changing guidelines by requiring you to recertify your license every two years.

How do I get my drone pilot license if I already have a manned pilot’s license?

Are you a manned pilot looking to get into flying unmanned commercial aircraft to earn some extra money on the side? If you hold a Part 61 certificate, the methods for obtaining a Remote Pilot Certificate differ.

Let’s go over what you need to know.

Step 1 – Meet the eligibility requirements

Pilots with an existing Part 61 certificate must have a license issued according to 14 CFR Part 61 standards. Further, you must have had a flight review in the past 24 months.

Step 2 – Make a FAASTeam account

If you don’t have an existing FAA Safety Team or FAASTeam account (link), create one now.

Step 3 – Take an online training course

Next, you’ll take the Part 107 Small UAS Initial (ALC-451) test (link), an online course that goes over the following subjects:

  • Nighttime drone operations
  • Preflight inspections
  • Drone maintenance
  • Small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Crew resource management
  • Emergency procedures
  • Drone loading and performance
  • How weather affects drones
  • Flight operations
  • Drone limitations
  • Unmanned aircraft system ratings privileges

Step 4 – Request your certificate

If you don’t have an IACRA account, follow the link from earlier in this guide to sign up. Otherwise, log into IACRA and fill out Form 8710-13.

Select Start New Application, Application Type “Pilot,” then Certifications “Remote Pilot,” Other Path Information, and Start Application to find the form.

Sign your name electronically on the form and submit it.

Step 5 – Validate your identity

Here’s where things diverge. You must next validate your identity through an airman certification representative, FAA-designated pilot examiner, or an FAA Flight Standards District Office.

You’ll need an online course completion certificate, photo ID, proof of your latest flight review, and Form 8710-13.  

Step 6 – Get your application signed

The representative you go through will sign the application and administer a temporary airman certificate for drone operation.

The FAA will later send your real certificate in the mail, but it will take a few weeks.

You can use the temporary airman certificate the same way you would a commercial exam.

I’m not flying drones for money – Do I still need a license?

What if you’re not aspiring to become a commercial pilot but only want to use your drone for fun? Even hobbyists must have a drone certificate under FAA law.

However, you do not need a Remote Pilot Certificate. Instead, the certificate for recreational drone pilots is the TRUST license.

The FAA administers The Remote UAS Safety Test or TRUST exam to hobbyists. This exam differs from the Part 107 exam in several substantial ways.

For one, you don’t have to pay to take it. Second, you don’t have to take the TRUST test in an FAA-approved testing center.

You can sit down and answer the questions wherever you like, as the test is online, not with paper and pencil.

You don’t have to answer as many questions, either. The TRUST test has about 20 questions versus the 60 on the Part 107 exam.

It’s also far easier to pass. Anytime you answer a question on the TRUST exam, you can see whether you got it right or wrong.

Further, if you answer a question wrong, you can change your answer then and there before moving on to the next question.

It’s impossible to fail the TRUST exam!

The last difference is the duration of the license. The TRUST certificate never expires. Do be aware that if you misplace your TRUST certificate, you must take the exam again. 

My drone pilot license is about to expire – How do I renew it?

Recalling that commercial drone licenses are only valid for two years, the time will inevitably come when you have to renew yours.

The FAA used to require pilots to take the Part 107 exam again, then again and again every two years for as long as they wanted a valid license. Now the policy has changed.

You can renew your drone exam for free by taking an online test. Here are the steps to get started.

Step 1 – Sign into your FAA Safety account

If you don’t already have an account on the FAA Safety website, register for one now. Next, log into your account.

Step 2 – Sign up for the renewal course

On the FAA Safety website, choose Activities, then Courses, Seminars, and Webinars. The available courses are highlighted in blue.

Keep scrolling until you see ALC-677. Enroll in the course.

Step 3 – Take the training course

Set aside two hours for FAA training. The course has six lessons or modules, including an introduction.

Step 4 – Take the test

After going through the training materials, you should be ready to take the FAA commercial renewal exam.

The test consists of 45 questions, all multiple-choice. You’re given 90 minutes to complete the exam.

Like the TRUST exam, the FAA commercial renewal exam displays wrong answers while you’re taking the test.

Make sure you correct any answers you got wrong, as you must pass the renewal exam with a 100 percent score.

We detailed all the steps for renewing your commercial exam in more detail here.

» MORE: Renewal of Your Part 107 Certificate (5 Steps)

How can I see if someone has a license with the FAA to fly drones?

You have options for looking into them if you’re curious about someone else’s drone flight credentials. You can use an FAA site called the Airman Inquiry (link).

You must know their last name and certificate holder, but all other information you can input is optional. That includes the pilot’s first name, date of birth, city, state, and parachute seal symbol.

After typing in this information, the Airman Inquiry site will find you the pilot in question.

Drone Launch Academy

To help you apply the knowledge you’ve gathered, you can take a practice test that has more than 200 questions. DLA culled those questions from real FAA exams.

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A commercial drone license is mandatory for legally flying in the US.

Since the hardest part of the process is passing the Part 107 exam, take as much time as you need to study, then register for your test. Good luck!

» MORE: How to Pass Part 107 (Step-by-Step Guide)