You’ve heard the term thrown around the drone community all the time, so what exactly is Part 107, who needs to know, and how do you get it? Here we answer all the questions you might have about Part 107, or send you to the resources you need for more help.
What is Part 107?
Part 107 refers to the regulations put out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) outlining the rules for commercial use of drones. The term Part 107 can also refer to the knowledge test that drone pilots must pass before being licensed to operate for commercial (money-making) purposes.
The most up to date fact sheet about Part 107 regulations can be found on the FAA website, but here are a few of the highlights.
- You must follow all operating requirements, or the rules of the sky, or have a waiver to operate outside the normal requirements.
- All operators under Part 107 must register each drone that they operate, and the registration number must be clearly visible on the drone.
- To operate for commercial purposes, you must be at least 16 years old, and you need to have a remote pilot certificate.
- You are responsible for ensuring that your drone is safe to operate, and must perform a preflight inspection before each flight.
- You must make your drone available to the FAA for inspection or testing upon request.
- You must report any operational mishap that results in serious injury, or property damage of at least $500 to the FAA within 10 days.
- Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without air traffic control (ATC) permission. Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace need ATC authorization.
What Does Part 107 Allow You To Do?
Having a Part 107 Certification, also known as a Remote Pilot Certificate, allows you to operate a drone for commercial purposes. In other words, if you want to legally charge people money for performing some kind of service with your drone, you must have a Part 107 Certification.
If you have your Part 107 Certification, there are many different ways you can use your drone to make money, including drone photography, building and utility inspections, surveying and mapping, agricultural analysis, public safety and first response, etc. For more ideas on how to make money with a drone, check out our article on the topic.
Who Needs a Part 107 License?
Anyone operating a drone for financial compensation must have a Remote Pilot License and follow all FAA Part 107 guidelines for operation of small unmanned aircraft. If you fly a drone strictly as a hobby, you do not need to have a drone pilot license.
However, if you’re a drone hobbyist, known as a recreational flyer to the FAA, with a drone that weighs over 0.55lbs, you must register your drone with the FAA. The registration process is very simple, requires no testing, can be done all online in a few minutes, and costs $5.
If you are a recreational drone flyer but are thinking of potentially selling a few aerial photos, or monetizing a YouTube channel with shots from your drone, in order to comply with FAA regulations, you should technically get a Part 107 license since you will be making money through your operation of a drone.
How Do I Get a Part 107 License?
There are several steps involved in getting your Part 107 Drone Pilot Certification.
- Study up on the Part 107 regulations and information that will be covered on the Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
- Go to the FAA DroneZone and create a profile, necessary in order to register for the Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
- Find a location near you, and schedule an appointment with a testing center to take your test. Be sure to bring a government issued ID with you to the test.
- Pass the knowledge test.
- 48 hours after passing your test, you can submit an application on the FAA website (with the profile you created previously), and obtain your temporary Remote Pilot Certificate.
- Your permanent Remote Pilot Certificate will arrive in the mail 6-8 weeks later.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Part 107 License?
You should plan to spend 1-3 weeks studying up before taking your Aeronautical Knowledge Test. You can register for a test at an approved testing center, with testing appointments being anywhere from 1 day to 3 weeks in advance.
After you pass your test, you may have to wait up to 48 hours before you can submit your online paperwork to receive your temporary Remote Pilot License. Then it can take 6-8 weeks for your permanent Remote Pilot License to arrive in the mail. The whole process from start to finish could take as little as 8 weeks, or as much as 3 ½ months.
How Many Questions are on the Part 107 Test?
The Part 107 test, or more accurately the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. In order to pass the test, you need to get a score of 70%, which means answering 42 of the questions correctly. In the test, you will be provided with a booklet of maps and reports to refer to. You will have 120 minutes to answer the questions.
The questions on the Part 107 test include topics such as:
- Airspace classification
- Operating requirements and flight restrictions
- Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on drone flight
- Emergency procedures
- Crew resource management
- Radio communication procedures
- Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
- Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
- Airport operations
- Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
- Night flight operations
Once you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, you will need to recertify every two years. Until now this has been done as a recertification test, but coming up January 2021, the FAA has announced that recertification will be handled as an online training requirement. There is no cost for recurrent online training.
How Much Does it Cost to Take the Part 107 Test?
The cost for taking the Aeronautical Knowledge test, also known as the Part 107 test, can vary slightly by the testing center, but is generally a flat rate of $160. The fee is paid directly to the testing center where you register for and take the test. If the testing center is owned by PSI, the test fee is $96.
There is no additional cost to file your application for a Remote Pilot License once you have passed your test. You will have to register your drone with the FAA under Part 107 once you have gotten your pilot’s license. The fee to register your drone is $5.
Once you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must keep your knowledge and your certificate current with online training every two years. Previously (until December 2020) this recertification process required a test at a testing center, but now can be done entirely online, with no registration fee.
How Hard is it to Pass the Part 107 Test?
Unless you’re already a pilot, the knowledge base needed to pass the Part 107 test is unlikely to be common sense information that you just happen to know out of hand. That means you need to spend some time studying before going in to take the test, and not just wing it. The FAA offers a free study guide on their website, or you could find a $5 app, or buy a book on Amazon for $20, for the low budget options.
Or for a more guided, sure-fire approach to passing the test, there are some really good options for online training courses. See our resource page for our recommended Part 107 Training courses. These courses will not just help you cram to pass a test, but actually teach you the aviation background knowledge you need, and help you retain it for use in your career as a professional drone pilot.
Whether you opt for free resources or a guided course, you should plan to put in 20-30 hours of study time before going in to take your knowledge test. If you’re studying part time on the side, that will probably mean spending 1-3 weeks of advance preparation.
Where to Take the Part 107 Test?
When you are ready to take the Part 107 test, or more accurately the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, you can register to take it at an approved FAA testing center. The registration is through the PSI website, which has a listing of all approved testing centers. You can look up testing centers near you based on your zip code within a certain radius. To search for testing centers you will need to enter which test you are looking for, and in this case it’s the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG).
What to Bring to the Part 107 Test?
You won’t need your number 2 pencil, as the Part 107 test is administered on a computer at the testing center. But make sure to bring a copy of your test registration information, a government issued ID, and a method of payment to cover the testing center fee.
Just like with any test, it’s a good idea to come well rested and without any other stressors on your mind, so that you will be able to think clearly and perform at your best.
Can You Take the Part 107 Test Online?
You cannot take the Part 107 test online. You can register online, but must take the test in person at an FAA approved test center. Starting in January 2021, however, you will be able to update your Remote Pilot Certification with an online training session rather than having to take a recurrent knowledge test at a testing center.
Even though you can’t take the test online, it’s a good idea to use online resources and training courses to help you study and prepare for the Aeronautical Knowledge Test to make sure you pass the first time around. See our recommended training courses here.
What is the Part 107 Test Like?
When you get to the testing center where you registered to take the test, the first thing you’ll do is show your ID and confirm your registration information, then pay the testing center fee. After paying, you will be taken to a room with a few computers in it, and they will give you a booklet with sectional charts in it. You will begin the test at one of the computers, and can refer to the charts, figures and diagrams in the booklet for the relevant questions. There will probably be cameras in the room to monitor you.
You have 2 hours to answer 60 multiple choice questions. Once you have finished answering all the questions, you submit your test and your results are displayed immediately. If you pass the test you will get a code that you will use after you go home and submit your application for the remote pilot license.
What Score Do You Need to Pass the Part 107 Test?
In order to pass the Part 107 test, you need a score of 70%. There are 60 questions on the test, so that means you need to get 42 of the 60 questions correct. Since the test is done on a computer, the final score is available as soon as you finish the test, so you will know right away whether or not you passed.
If you don’t pass the first time around, you can register to take it again. If you passed, go home and submit your online application for a Remote Pilot License, and the temporary document will arrive in the mail in 10 business days. Your permanent license will get to you within 6 to 8 weeks.
What Do I Do If I Fail the Part 107 Test?
First of all, don’t lose heart, if you failed the Part 107 test. It may be disappointing, but you’re not the first. It’s a challenging test, and if you haven’t put in the study time beforehand, failing it the first time around isn’t a shocker. Even if you have put in the study time, it can still be a challenge to get your head around all the terms and aeronautical jargon. But keep at it, chances are you’ll pass the next time around.
If you should happen to fail your Aeronautical Knowledge Test, which means getting a score of less than 70%, you can sign up to take it again, but you will have a 14-day waiting period before you will be able to register. This 14-day waiting period is intended for you to spend time reviewing the knowledge that you were weak on. After the 14-day waiting period is up, you can register online for the test again.
If you fail the Part 107 test, you will receive a notification by mail, in addition to the immediate result that will show at the end of your test. The purpose of the notification is to outline the knowledge areas where you performed poorly. Use this information to help you focus your study. If you used study materials the first time around, try using some different study materials, as a different take on things will probably be helpful.
Unfortunately you will need to pay the testing fee of $160 dollars again when you go to retake the test. Also, take with you the notification you received about your failed first attempt, as the test administrator will want to see it.
How Many Times Can You Take the Part 107 Test?
There is no official limit to the number of times you can retake the Part 107 test if you fail it. Most people are able to pass their test the second time around. If you should be unlucky enough to fail it on your second try, you can register to take it a third time, after another 14-day waiting period. You will need to pay the $160 testing center fee each time you take the test.
If you fail the test on your first attempt, you should seriously consider using a Part 107 training course to help you study. Some of these guarantee that you will pass, and to back up their guarantee, will pay your testing fee if you fail. We recommend these courses.
Once you have successfully obtained your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must keep your certification current every two years. This used to be done with a recurrent knowledge test that required in-person testing similar to the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. That has now changed, and keeping your license current can be done through online training, so once you have passed the test once, you won’t have to take it again.
What is the Best Way to Study for the Part 107 Test?
The best way to study for the Part 107 test is the way that will get you to pass the first time around. If you have some aviation background knowledge, you may not even need to study all that much. If you come with no prior aeronautical knowledge, you would be well advised to take an online training course that will walk you through all the knowledge areas you need to know for the test, and give you plenty of practice tests to make sure you’re fully prepared before you go in for the test. See our recommended training courses here.
There are plenty of free study resources out there that are quite helpful, and if you’re on a tight budget, or are a good self-directed learner, these could work for you. But if you don’t want to risk failing the first time around and needing to pay the $160 testing fee a second time, a study course is the best bet.
Whichever study method you choose to go with, plan to put in at least 10-20 hours of study time. For most people, this is best done a couple hours at a time, so that will probably mean that you need to study for 1-3 weeks before you plan to take the test.
How Many Part 107 Pilots Are There?
According to the FAA website, as of January 2021, 208,010 Remote Pilots have been certified. What’s not clear is how many of those part 107 pilots have kept their certifications current.
The Part 107 certification process was implemented by the FAA in 2016, so presumably, the number listed is all of the certifications issued since then. We’re now four years out from that, and pilots certified in 2016 would have had to take their recurrent knowledge test twice to stay current. The FAA site does not have numbers posted about how many recurrent certificates have been issued, and one can only assume that not all of the pilots who originally got certified have kept current, so the number of actual current Part 107 Pilots is most likely somewhere less than 200,000.
What Are Sectional Charts on Part 107?
Sectional charts are like a road map, only for airplane pilots and in the case of Part 107, unmanned aircraft operators. They provide detailed information on geographical and man made obstructions, as well as outlining different classified airspaces.
Prerequisite to being able to make sense of a sectional chart is being familiar with the legend, called the Sectional Aeronautical Chart. It contains all of the symbols used on sectional charts. You are pretty much guaranteed to have questions requiring you to refer to sectional charts on the Part 107 test, so it’s important that you learn how to read them.
It’s not just for passing the test, either. As a commercial drone pilot, you need to be aware of what the different classes of airspace are, and what’s happening in them. If you need to operate in a restricted airspace, you can usually do that through a waiver, but first you need to know what the airspaces are, and what the levels of restrictions are. Bottom line – reading sectional charts is an important part of being a professional drone pilot.
What is a Part 107 Waiver?
Commercial drone pilots operating under the regulations provided for in Part 107 may find that they have a need to operate outside of the restrictions for a specific purpose. In these cases, they can apply for a waiver that will allow them “regulatory flexibility”, or an opportunity to operate in a safe and legal manner outside of the normal restrictions.
Waivers are granted based on the specific regulation that a pilot needs to be able to work around. At the time of writing, the Part 107 restrictions are under revision, which also means that the waiver requirements are currently in flux as well.
Restrictions for which a pilot can get a waiver include:
- 25 – Operation from a moving vehicle, boat, or aircraft
- 29 – Operations only at daylight or twilight*
- 31 – Operations within visual line-of-sight
- 33 – Visual observer
- 35 – Operation of multiple small unmanned aircraft systems by a single pilot
- 37 (a) – Yielding the right of way to manned aircraft
- 41 – Operation in certain airspace**
- 51 – Operating limitations for small unmanned aircraft
*This regulation is going away for commercial drone pilots, so a waiver will no longer be required.
**Airspace waivers have for the most part been replaced by the LAANC system for shared airspace in nearly real time. It’s faster and simpler.
In order to get a waiver, a drone pilot must submit an application to the FAA. This is done through the FAA website on the DroneZone portal. If you need waivers for multiple regulatory items, you will have to apply for each one separately. On the application, you will need to provide a description of your proposed operation, and a description of your operational risks, and how you plan to mitigate them.
The FAA advises a lead time of 90 days for waiver approval, which means if you’re planning to take a job that requires a waiver, you need to plan accordingly, and communicate to your clients accordingly as well. The waiver process can be lengthy and tedious, but it can be worth it for the right project at the right price.
Once you’ve been through the waiver process at least once, it becomes a little bit easier to navigate, so stick with it the first time around, and you’ll have a useful skillset under your belt.