Do I need to pass a test to fly a drone?
If you are flying a drone for recreational purposes, that is, not for commercial or business purposes, the FAA now requires you to take a test. As of June 22, 2021, all recreational drone flyers are required to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test in order to operate a drone.
For those operating drones for commercial purposes, you are required to pass the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) knowledge test in order to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate. This is more commonly known as the Part 107 test. For more questions about the Part 107 test, read our article here.
Unlike the Part 107 knowledge test, which must be taken in-person at an approved testing center, and required hours of training and preparation in order to pass, the test for recreational drone pilots can be taken online, and for most people can be completed in under 30 minutes.
What is the TRUST test?
The TRUST test (The Recreational UAS Safety Test) is the FAA’s aeronautical knowledge and safety test required of all recreational drone flyers as of June 2021. The TRUST test covers basic safety topics and FAA regulations that all drone operators need to know in order to safely operate a drone.
The topics covered on the test include a basic understanding of airspace restrictions, knowing where you can and cannot fly a drone, how to safely operate your drone, understanding of safety guidelines and community-based organization regulations, and how to abide by FAA drone regulations.
The TRUST test is available for free from various organizations online. Once you have completed the TRUST test, you will be issued a certificate by email, which you will have to print and keep on hand whenever you are flying your drone.
Who is required to take the TRUST test?
Anyone who is flying a drone recreationally, that is for fun or as a hobby, is required to take and pass the TRUST test. Even if your drone is under the weight limitation (0.55 lbs or 250g) and does not require registration, the recreational pilot is still required to pass the TRUST test and have the certificate on hand whenever they are flying the drone.
This includes drone pilots of all ages, as there is no age limitation for taking the online test. If as a parent you bought a drone for your child, I recommend sitting down with them to go through the test together to make sure both you and they are aware of all of the safety regulations and responsibilities they have as a drone operator.
Visitors to the USA that plan to operate a drone recreationally also need to take the TRUST test before flying a drone here. There is no nationality requirement, and no proof of ID is required in order to take the test or get a certificate.
How to pass the TRUST test?
According to the FAA website, “You cannot fail the test. If you answer a question incorrectly you will be provided with information on why the answer you chose was incorrect and will be prompted to try again.” It might be better labeled as a training course than as a test.
The point of the test is to famliarize all drone pilots with the basic safety procedures and regulations to keep the skies safer for all. The test is not designed to trip people up or make you proficient in all the laws and rules for drones. The FAA wants everyone flying a drone to at least have a basic awareness of how to fly it safely.
With this as the goal, everyone who sets out to take the test can and will pass it. Even if you know nothing at all about drones and drone rules, you can and will pass the test the first time through, just by reading the information provided and answering or reanswering the questions as you go through.
There’s no need to do any particular studying ahead of time, or take a practice course to prepare for the test, as you would for the Part 107 knowledge test for a commercial drone license. Having some general knowledge of drones and drone regulations may help you get through the test faster, but it’s not necessary in order to pass and get your certificate.
There are 4 sections to the test, and each section has several pages of informational text related to different aspects of safely and legally operating a drone for recreational purposes. At the end of each section, there are several questions to make sure you have read and understand the information in the section. There are a total of 23 questions across all 4 sections.
Once you’ve completed the test, you will be issued a certificate of completion. Some platforms will have the certificate available on the site for download and printing. Others will send the certificate document to the email you provided, where you can download and print at your convenience.
Just a word of experience on this though: some of the testing platforms may send the certificate as a link that can only be accessed for a limited time. The first time I took the test I didn’t open the email right away, as I wasn’t ready to print the document. By the time I opened the email, the link had expired.
Unfortunately that meant I had to re-take the test, as the certificate could not be reissued. I could have avoided this by opening the link right away and downloading it to print at my leisure.
If you happen to lose your certificate, it cannot be reissued. Instead you will have to take the test again and get a new certificate reissued. Although it may be a minor inconvenience, it’s not that big a deal, just a matter of 15 minutes or so to take the test and print out your new certificate.
The simple reason that your certificate cannot be reissued is that neither the FAA nor the test administrator sites save any of your personal identifiable data online.
How long does the TRUST test take?
For those with no prior knowledge or background understanding of drones and the FAA regulations surrounding the use of drones, it may take up to an hour to read all of the information and answer all of the questions contained on the TRUST test. For most however, the test can easily be completed in 30 minutes or less.
For those who are very familiar with drone regulations, you can breeze past all of the informational reading in the test, and just get straight to the questions. If this is your approach, you can expect to finish the whole process in 10 minutes or less.
Where to take the TRUST test?
The TRUST test is an online test. It is offered through a number of different FAA approved administrators. All of them should be offered for free. If there is a charge to take the test, be suspicious that it’s not an approved TRUST test administrator.
Here’s a complete list of where you can take the TRUST test:
- Chippewa Valley Technical College
- Community College of Allegheny County – West Hills Center
- CrossFlight Sky Solutions
- Drone Launch Academy LLC
- Drone Trust
- Drone U
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU)
- HSU Educational Foundation
- Lake Area Technical College
- New College Institute (NCI)
- Pilot Institute
- Proctorio Incorporated
- Tactical Aviation
- The Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)
- The Boy Scouts of America
- UAV Coach
- University of Arizona Global Campus
- Volatus Aerospace Corp
Certain of these platforms will require you to register or login in in order to complete the test, while others will not. All of them will require your full name to put on your certificate, and an email address to send the certificate to once you’ve completed the test.
The different entities may have slightly different formatting in terms of what the test looks like and how you progress through the sections. However, they all provide the same information on drone safety and regulations, and they all ask the same 23 test questions. So no matter where you take the test, you’re essentially getting the same training, and it’s not going to be harder on one site than another.
I took the TRUST test with UAV Coach, and then once I had “lost” my certificate by not opening the link soon enough, I decided to see how the testing looked on another site, so I took it through Drone Launch Academy. Both were great, and I’m sure any of the sites above offer a very similar experience.
Do I need to take the TRUST test if I have Part 107?
If you fly a drone commercially, you are required to hold a Remote Pilot Certificate under FAA Part 107 regulations. If you hold a Part 107 license, you are not required to take the TRUST test. The simple reason for this is that the Part 107 knowledge test is much more in-depth and comprehensive than the TRUST test, so you’ve covered that ground.
If you do have a commercial drone license but often fly your drone simply for recreation, you can still show your drone license to law enforcement agents if asked. It will more than cover your bases.
Some pilots for one reason or another make a hard distinction between different flights, whether they are commercial or recreational. If you are holding to a hard line that a given flight is strictly recreational, even if you also have a Part 107 license, in order to toe the line you will need to have a TRUST certificate on your person.