How to Get a Drone Pilot Certificate
Do you want to become a certified, legal drone pilot? If so, then you have come to the right place. Now, more than ever, drones are becoming an invaluable tool for many businesses and industries — from construction and engineering to photography and filmmaking. Both amateurs and professionals enjoy having the liberty to fly a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) around the world, however, it does come with restrictions.
With an increase in drone use comes an increased need for professionals who can competently operate these machines safely and responsibly, which is now possible thanks to official licensing programs set up by governments worldwide.
Do You Need a License to Fly a Drone?
The short answer is Yes. Depending on the size and intended use of your drone, you will either need to complete the recreational UAS safety test or the FAA part 107 test.
If you intend to use your drone recreationally, you will not need a drone pilot license to operate, but a certificate instead. The recreational UAS safety test also known as TRUST is intended to educate and test potential drone pilots on regulatory and safety information. TRUST is a collaboration between the industry and the FAA, where the FAA decides on the material and the administrators provide testing.
Something important to take note of is the weight of your drone. If your drone weighs more than 250 grams (for example: The DJI mini Pro weighs under 249 grams and won’t need to be registered while the DJI Air 3 weighs 720 grams and would need to be registered with the FAA.) Drones can be registered at https://faadronezone-access.faa.gov/#/. Registration costs $5 and the same number can be used to register multiple drones.
Using a drone for any reason other than recreational use will require a drone pilot license. The FAA part 107 drone license is provided to pilots who qualify for and pass the part 107 test. The test requires a 70% passing score and is based on material that covers the various FAA rules, knowledge, and restrictions. The test costs $175 and is non-refundable; it is recommended to complete a course on part 107 before testing.
If you have determined that you will need a part 107 drone pilot license, continue reading below. If you intend to use your drone specifically for recreational purposes, please click here to view our guide on how to obtain a TRUST certificate.
In this article, we’ll look at nine easy steps that will help you get your drone license in no time.
So keep reading if you’re interested in gaining valuable insights into what it takes to become part of this exciting technology industry!
Step 1: Check if You Qualify
Before diving into the certification process, ensure you meet the basic eligibility criteria set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The very first thing you need to do is to verify that you are eligible to get your remote pilot certificate and BECOME a remote pilot in command.
There are three requirements that the Federal Aviation Administration has.
- You have to be 16 years old. This age requirement ensures a level of maturity and responsibility commensurate with the responsibilities of a remote pilot.
- You have to be able to read, speak, write, and understand English. As a remote pilot, effective communication in English is essential for understanding and adhering to aviation regulations, as well as maintaining clear and concise communication with air traffic control and fellow aviation professionals.
- You must be physically and mentally fit to fly a drone. This requirement underscores the importance of ensuring that individuals are in good health, capable of making sound decisions and managing the responsibilities associated with piloting a drone safely.
Step 2: Get Your FAA Number
Create an account on the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating System (IACRA) (https://iacra.faa.gov/ ) website to obtain your FAA tracking number (FTN).
Start by navigating to the homepage and click on “Register” in the upper-right corner. You’ll encounter several checkboxes; opt for “Applicant.”
Now, onto the personal details. Leave the “Certificate Information” section blank for now. In the other sections, provide your full name, email, date of birth, create a username and password, and complete the registration process.
Consider this number as your unique identifier throughout the certification journey, similar to a driver’s license for drones.
Make sure to write the FTN down or take a screenshot. You will need your FTN later on in the process.
Step 3: Study for the Drone Test
Prepare for the Part 107 exam, officially known as the Unmanned Aircraft General Small (UAG) exam.
This 60-question multiple choice test covers sectional charts, regulations, and weather conditions.
A passing score on this test is 70% or higher which means you need to answer at least 42 of the 60 questions correctly. If you fail the exam, you can retake the test after 14 days, but you will have to pay the registration fee again.
This test will be taken at an approved testing center. On the day of the test, the only essential item is your ID, preferably a government-issued document such as a passport or driver’s license.
You are also allowed to bring a magnifying glass. Some people may struggle with charts provided during the test as the printing may be unclear. Consider taking a magnifying glass with you if you struggle with small images or text.
Math on the test is straightforward, so a calculator isn’t necessary. If you can handle basic addition and subtraction, you should have the math skills required.
Questions typically involve scenarios like determining how high you can fly over a building by adding 400 feet to the tower height. If you can manage that, you’re set for the test.
Prohibited items include cell phones, iPads, and other electronics, though a basic calculator is allowed.
The test center provides chart supplements containing maps, weather reports, and graphs for reference.
You’ll also be given scratch paper and a pencil for jotting down notes during the test, but all materials must be returned once the test is over.
Three main areas that you need to focus on when studying for the test:
1. Sectional Chart and Airspace Questions:
A significant part of the Part 107 exam revolves around sectional chart questions and airspace queries.
The FAA will test your ability to determine if a particular location is drone-friendly, considering factors like altitude and whether prior FAA permission is necessary.
This section demands thorough preparation, especially when dealing with sectional charts – specialized maps designed for aviation purposes. Typically constituting around 40% of the test, this area requires focused attention to detail rather than guesswork.
2. Drone Regulations (14 CFR Part 107):
Get ready to dive into the United States Code of Federal Regulations, specifically 14 CFR Part 107.
This section of the exam assesses your familiarity with drone-related regulations, covering everything from registration procedures to accident reporting and limitations on altitude and speed.
3. Weather Understanding:
You need to grasp how diverse weather conditions impact drone flights. Additionally, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with reading METAR, an aviation weather report consisting of a string of letters and numbers conveying information about the weather at a specific location.
You’re going to need to know about other aspects that make up a lesser portion of the exam like weight and balance calculations, emergency procedures, physiology, crew resource management, radio communications, airport operations, maintenance procedures, and nighttime operations.
Step 4: Schedule your test
Schedule your exam with PSI (https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login ), the FAA’s testing partner.
There is a $175 fee to take the exam and it goes directly to the testing center.
If you fail the test, you’ll have to pay $175 to retake it. So do your best to be ready on the first try. It is important to properly prepare for the test. If you want help studying for the Part 107 exam, we have a prep course that has been used by over 25,000 people with a 99% pass rate. You can find our part 107 prep course here.
You will need to go to faa.psiexams.com and create an account. Now, remember that FAA Tracking Number we got in Step 2? You’re going to need that here.
Create an account with PSI by using your FTN and fill out all the required fields.
Step 5: Take the test
Arrive at the testing center with a government-issued ID, and keep in mind that cell phones and electronic devices are not allowed.
You will have up to 120 minutes to finish all 60 questions. Out of 25,000 people who have used our prep courses to date, we’ve never had one complaint about someone running out of time, so you should be able to finish the test without worrying about the time limit.
PSI offers a range of accommodations, including but not limited to a reader (with a separate testing room if needed), approved breaks, a quiet testing space, alternate mouse options, a 50%-time extension, sign language interpreter, standing/rising desk, specific mouse/keyboard preferences, provisions for food/drink/blood sugar supply, and medical equipment. Additionally, there is a provision for other accommodations as requested.
The results from the test will be provided upon completion, stating whether you passed or failed the exam.
Step 6: Fill Out FAA Form 8710-13
After completing the exam, review your results and insights provided in the Knowledge Test Report (FAA Form 8710-13). This report not only reveals your score but also highlights areas where improvement may be needed. Even if you have passed the test, it is recommended that you go over materials to improve areas where you scored poorly.
FAA Form 8710-13 is essential paperwork to formalize your certification.
Navigate to the IACRA system here to initiate the application process for your remote pilot certificate.
Log in and choose “Start New Application.” Additional personal details such as eye color, height, and weight may be required, as mandated by the FAA for the issuance of an “airmen certificate,” which includes the remote pilot certificate.
After updating this information, navigate to the “Start Application” option again. Select “pilot,” then “remote pilot,” and proceed with the auto-filling sections. Respond to inquiries about English proficiency, criminal history, drug history, and in the “Basis of Issuance” section, enter the knowledge exam test ID from the testing center report along with your identification details. The final questions pertain to previous pilot certificate denials or disqualifying medical conditions.
Following these steps, review and submit the application.
Step 7: Wait for the Background Check
Following the submission of your application, patiently await a background check conducted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Typically taking about 48 hours, this step ensures that applicants do not pose any security risks. If you do not pass the background check, you will not be able to get your remote pilot certificate.
Step 8: Get Your Temporary Certificate
Upon TSA clearance, return to the IACRA system to view and print your temporary airman certificate (FAA Form 8060-4). You will receive the digital copy of your certificate through email, but make sure to print it out and carry it with you when you are flying your drone.
This document serves as immediate proof of your certified remote pilot status, allowing you to legally operate your drone. Be sure to keep this paper on you any time you’re operating your drone. If you get stopped by law enforcement, you will want to be able to show them. You will need to keep a temporary certificate until you receive your permanent card, which could take up to a couple of weeks. The temporary certificate is valid for 120 days.
Step 9: Get Your Permanent Card in the Mail
Be patient as the FAA processes your application and mails your official Remote Pilot Certificate (FAA Form 8060-12).
This physical card, resembling a driver’s license, may take several weeks to arrive but signifies your official entry into the ranks of certified drone pilots.
Once you have this card, put it somewhere you won’t lose it and can have it on you whenever you’re flying your drone. Keep it in your wallet or if you only fly one drone, you could keep it in your drone case.
One of the requirements for having a valid remote pilot certificate is completing recurrent training every two years. This involves a free online course provided by the FAASTeam, updating you on new regulations and ending with a short quiz (FAA Form 8710-13). This step ensures you stay informed and legally compliant in an ever-evolving industry.
Getting your drone pilot certification might feel like jumping through hoops, but it’s all about keeping the skies friendly and safe for everyone.
If you want help studying for the Part 107 exam, check out our prep course which has been used by over 25,000 people.
Drone Launch Academy has a 99% pass rate and is backed by numerous positive reviews. We stand by our commitment – if you don’t pass on your first attempt, we’ll refund your entire course fee and cover the $175 testing center fee. It’s a fail-proof approach to success.