The world of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, is rapidly growing and expanding every day in ways that some people never thought possible.
Whether you’ve been flying drones recreationally for a while or you are just starting out with your first drone, you have probably started asking others or searching the internet with a plethora of questions about drones, like what’s legal or how you can make money while flying drones.
» MORE: How To Make Money With A Drone
Somewhere along that deep dive into the rabbit hole, you have probably read or heard others mention that you need your Part 107 to be compliant with the FAA’s rules and regulations before you can go any further with what you want to do with your drone.
Passing the FAA Part 107 is required to legally become a certified commercial drone pilot.
Finding the right method of study in order for you to successfully pass your part 107 starts with learning the basic requirements the FAA has set in place and then engaging in either self-study or taking part in a ground school program that will help educate you with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the exam with 70% or better.
By now, you should know that the FAA is in control of all airspace in the United States.
Whether you already have a drone or plan to get one, and plan to fly it anywhere outdoors in the US, there are rules you need to follow.
The safety and security of all persons in and around an area where drones may be flown is the number one reason why the FAA requires all drone operators to have some level of knowledge and to take responsibility for their craft and the damage it may cause.
Therefore, depending on your drone, where you plan to operate it, and the reason for flying, you may be required to gain prior authorizations before you can operate it in a specific area.
For recreational drone operators, the FAA has started requiring that recreational hobbyists acquire the TRUST Certificate before they operate their drones.
TRUST is a collaboration between the FAA and industry to provide TRUST and educational safety material to Recreational Flyers.
If you wish to take photos or videos with your drone to be used in your social media posts, YouTube videos, any type of real estate, or in trade for any kind of compensation, this is considered as operating commercially.
As the drone operator, you are required to have your part 107 license, as well as properly registering and labeling the drone with its registration number.
You should also be aware that the FAA will require drones to have an RFID starting September 16th, 2023. This means that drones must emit radio signals that transmit identifying information while in flight.
If this sounds overwhelming to think about, please know that you are not alone. I was feeling overwhelmed many times as I studied and prepared for my FAA Part 107 exam.
Thankfully I was able to pass my exam with a 91%, and you can too.
This is where finding the suitable method of study for you to successfully pass your part 107 begins with learning where to start, whether you choose to self-study or find a ground school or online program that will help educate you with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the exam with 70% or better.
To become a certified drone pilot, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requires that an applicant must be:
- At least 16 years old
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
- Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam, also known as the “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG)”
The following test topics are designed to help ensure that you have a good understanding of the rules/codes set forth by the FAA, for both manned and unmanned pilots, and that you will abide by these rules in order to fly safely and responsibly at all times.
The knowledge exam covers the following topics:
- Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation.
- Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation.
- Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance.
- Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance.
- Emergency procedures.
- Crew resource management.
- Radio communication procedures.
- Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft.
- Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol.
- Aeronautical decision-making and judgment.
- Airport operations.
- Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
- Operation at night.
Those who choose to self-study will need to obtain the most current version of both:
- The Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, Remote Pilot and Private Pilot.
This handbook is the official FAA Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, Remote Pilot, and Private Pilot FAA-CT-8080-2H.
- And the Remote Pilot Test Prep, which includes an online link with 5 test prep quizzes for you to practice on before scheduling your actual FAA exam.
In addition to these books, you may find it helpful to look for credible YouTube videos to help supplement your learning in ways that will help you better understand concepts that you might not fully understand through reading alone.
Some of you may be interested in learning from an online-only course through programs like Pilot Institute or one of the other Top 10 Part 107 Online Test Prep Courses that we recommend.
Going through one of these established and accredited online courses can improve your success rate when taking your FAA exam.
For those of you interested in learning through an established ground school, or college program, this is a great option if you are interested in gaining hands-on skills in addition to being able to pass the Part 107 exam.
As a beta tester and student in the first class put on by the Sonoran Desert Institute (SDI), I was one of several students that successfully completed a Certificate in Unmanned Technology – Aerial Systems.
I was able to complete my studies online in the comfort of my own home, and I had access to all of my course information to go back and review at any time if I needed a quick refresher.
The instructors are readily available to answer any questions you might have at any time during the course, and I found them all to be quite knowledgeable in each of their respective fields.
After passing the online portion of the course, I felt ready to start the process of scheduling the actual FAA exam.
SDI made it easy to help me navigate through the process required to schedule the exam, take the exam, and then apply for my physical pilot’s license.
For those studying on your own, the FAA helps you navigate the process of becoming a drone pilot by giving you these steps to follow.
- Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile prior to registering for a knowledge test.
- Schedule an appointment with an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center. Be sure to bring a government-issued photo ID to your test.
- Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG).
- Complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA)*.
- A confirmation email will be sent when an applicant has completed the TSA security background check. This email will provide instructions for printing a copy of the temporary remote pilot certificate from IACRA.
- A permanent remote pilot certificate will be sent via mail once all other FAA-internal processing is complete.
- Have your Remote Pilot Certificate available whenever you fly your UAS. The license is only valid for 24 calendar months and must be renewed prior to the last day of that 24-month period.
Follow the process
After I had successfully completed this process and obtained my Part 107 Pilot License, I flew to Arizona with the other members of my Search and Recovery team to take part in several days of in-person, hands-on learning and program application provided by SDI that we needed to learn as part of our goal of creating a successful Drone operator program for the Fowler-O’Sullivan Foundation (FOF).
The FOF is dedicated to assisting families of hikers who have gone missing across the US and have not been found. This is one example of how drones are shaping the world around us and why obtaining and maintaining your Part 107 is essential.
At the end of the day, knowing the process of how to study for, pass, and obtain your Part 107 Drone Pilot License will not only help you feel more confident about taking and passing the test, but it’s the start you need to help build your credentials as you move forward with your goals and dreams of becoming a commercial drone pilot.
Learning the rules of how, when, where, and what permissions you need to apply for are all part of the process you need to follow with each and every flight you take.
This all adds up over time, and the experience you gain from this process becomes your marketability.
The last piece of advice I can offer is to stay up to date on each new year’s rules and changes that the FAA implements, as it is crucial to maintaining your understanding and ability to fly legally.
Joining drone groups and organizations are a perfect way to network and gain opportunities to learn more as you grow and progress on your path forward.
I wish you all luck and success as you move forward on your journey.