Drone ownership, which includes hobbyists and professional drone operators, has increased over the last few years. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of registered drones surpassed one million in 2018.
As a new drone owner, you may assume that once you register your drone you automatically have a license to fly when and wherever you please or even for extra income. Becoming a commercial drone pilot requires specific certification.
This article will walk you through the process and give you all the information you need to obtain your FAA 107 commercial drone license.
What Is The FAA 107 Commercial Drone License?
If you’re new to flying drones, there’s a good chance you don’t know much about certifications or the regulations to fly. The FAA 107 commercial drone license, which is also known as Part 107, is a requirement for individuals who have a drone that weighs less than 55 pounds and intend to use the drone for work or business.
Every state has different regulations regarding drone use, so it’s important to familiarize yourself with state drone regulations before you decide to get a commercial license.
In short, if you want to make a profit from using your drone, an FAA 107 commercial drone license is a must. Some drone operators, who have no plan to use their drone for income, get their commercial license for certain access privileges, but it’s important to note that there are strict guidelines (as well as restrictions) to follow with this type of license.
Not sure if you qualify or need to have a Part 107 license? Check out the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) online identification tool.
FAA 107 Requirements
If you qualify for a commercial license, here are a few more requirements to consider before deciding if a Part 107 license is ideal for you as a drone pilot:
- You must pass the FAA’s knowledge test and retest every two years
- At least 16 years old
- Physically and mentally able to fly an unmanned aerial system (UAS)
- Understand, write, and speak English
- Provide proper documentation or are available for inspection upon request
- Conduct a preflight inspection to ensure your drone is safe for operation
- Report any incidents that result in injury or property damage (over $500) to the FAA
View the complete requirements for obtaining your FAA 107 commercial drone license.
It’s also important to note that some operations may require a waiver and are not covered by the commercial license. For a complete list of examples that are subject to waiver, contact FAA directly. Here are a few common examples, where you may need a waiver when operating a drone:
- Operating from a moving vehicle
- Operating over people
- Operating more than one small UAS
- Operating in certain airspace
Prepping For The FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test
As with any licensing or certification test, you are more likely to pass the first time if you take the time to prepare. More importantly, you need to understand all of the information to the best of your ability (not just enough to pass the test).
If you memorize the minimum knowledge needed to pass the Part 107 test, you are more likely to encounter issues that you won’t know how to resolve as a drone pilot. Since “knowledge is power,” there are a few things you can do to help you better prepare for taking and passing your drone pilot test.
Drone Pilot Courses
There are a variety of online and in-person drone pilot courses that you can take that will better prepare you for getting your commercial license. Think of these courses as the driver’s education courses of the drone world.
The price and length of these courses vary and if you’re more of a visual or hands-on learner, you will probably benefit more from an in-person course. If you live in an area where in-person drone courses are difficult to find, online courses are a great option.
If you want to gain as much knowledge as possible, especially if you plan on becoming a professional drone pilot, it’s not a bad idea to take an in-person and online course.
As you search for courses, look for certified instructors and programs that are designed to help you pass the FAA Knowledge Test. Checking out online peer reviews can help you decide which program is best for you. You may also want to ask other drone pilots what programs they used.
If you want to take a practice test, look for courses that offer the practice test as part of the course offerings. I personally recommend www.kingschools.com, the training is solid and this is the go to school for manned aviation ground school. If you go to your local Flight Business Office (FBO) they will literally charge you $300 and then make you watch King Schools videos. I’ve provided a link below.
The Official FAA Handbook
An inexpensive study option is purchasing or downloading the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge. This official FAA handbook is a great tool for learning general knowledge and some drone-specific information, but it may not give you everything you need to prepare for the license test.
Taking The FAA Knowledge Test
There are currently over 600 testing centers throughout the U.S. Even though there are several testing centers in one city or state; you should plan ahead when scheduling your test (we recommend at least a week ahead of time).
Don’t forget to bring your government-issued photo ID. The test costs around $150 but contact your local testing center for full details.
Some test topics that you can expect on the FAA knowledge test include, but are not limited to:
- Regulations regarding small UAS
- Flight restrictions and operating requirements
- Weather and small UAS performance
- Emergency and radio communication procedures
- Decision-making and judgement
- Airport operations
The knowledge test is a multiple-choice format with 60 questions. None of the questions are related to previous questions on the test (each one is independent). Keep in mind that your test will be different from your practice test and tests taken by other drone pilots. You may be asked to answer questions related to maps or charts.
To pass your test, you must answer at least 70 percent of the questions correctly, and you have two hours to complete the test.
Getting Your Remote Pilot Certificate
After you pass the test, you need to obtain your remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application). To get the certificate, follow these steps:
- Register by using the FAA IACRA system
- Login with your username and password
- Start a new application by choosing “pilot” application, a “remote pilot” certification, other path information, and then start your application
- Follow all application prompts
- You will be asked to enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID (keep in mind that it may take up to 48 hours from your test date, for the system to be updated)
- Using an electronic signature, sign your application and submit
After you submit your application, you will receive a confirmation email after you have completed the TSA security background check. You will also receive instructions for printing a temporary copy of your remote pilot certificate.
Once the FAA is done processing your certificate, you will receive a permanent certificate in the mail. You should always have your certificate available and with you when you operate your drone.
Registering Your Drone
The final step after you get your commercial drone license is to register your drone with the FAA. Registration is valid for three years and costs $5. To create an account and register your drone(s), visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107.”
You should always mark your drone with your registration number in the event that it is lost or stolen.
FAQ about FAA 107
Here are a few commonly asked questions that other drone operators ask when wishing to obtain their FAA 107 commercial drone license.
How long does it take to get certified?
The total time it takes to become certified as a commercial drone operator may vary, depending on processing time and whether or not you take drone pilot courses.
You can expect to wait up to eight weeks to receive your permanent certificate, but keep in mind you can start to operate your drone as soon as you receive your temporary certificate.
I want to sell aerial photos that I take from my drone. Do I need a commercial license?
Yes. If you sell photos or videos taken from your drone or provide contract and professional services (using your drone), you need a commercial license.
Do I need to pass a medical exam before receiving my commercial license?
While you need to be mentally and physically able to operate your drone, you do not need to pass a medical exam to receive a license.
How do I renew my certificate?
Every two years, you are responsible for renewing your commercial drone license. You can take a recurrent knowledge test within two years of your initial test. Contact your testing facility for more information.
Flying with Your Commercial Drone License
There are plenty of money-making opportunities for drone operators, and you may feel like there’s no limit when it comes to flying your drone, but you need to be a licensed pilot.
If you plan to make a profit with your drone, a commercial drone license will not only make you a legal drone pilot but also a safe and smart one.
Spending time and money on your FAA 107 commercial drone license is a worthy investment if you’re a drone operator who wants to become a professional drone pilot.