Part 107 Study Guide
How to Become a Certified Drone Pilot
Ever since the commercial drone began to disrupt the consumer market, people were immediately aware that regulation could inhibit market growth. Had the government whipped the industry and forced a strict framework for the usage of drones, there’s a large possibility the technology wouldn’t have the presence it does today. But that didn’t happen.
Instead, on June 21st, 2016, the FAA dropped Part 107, which was a new set of regulations and guidelines for small unmanned aerial systems (a sUAV—the government’s classification of a consumer drone). Within these regulations they also established a standard process to acquire a drone certification for commercial pilots. For the pilots that desire nothing but to use their sUAVs for recreational purposes, they also established a registration process for drones.
These regulations went live at the end of August, and continue to be in effect today. If you’re reading this it’s probably because you want to become certified. While at first glance the process may seem daunting, worry not. We’re going to take you through the process step-by-step. If you take the right preparation courses like what Drone Launch Academy offers, and if you make sure you follow all the steps beforehand, the certification shouldn’t be difficult to acquire. Let’s get started with this Part 107 study guide.
Is it required that I become a certified pilot?
No. If you’re going to use your drone specifically for recreation, then you need to do two things: register it if it weighs over .55lbs, and follow the guidelines under Part 107. A bit below you’ll be able to see the full set of guidelines the FAA has proposed, but we’ll summarize a few of the big ones here for reference.
- Fly only in daylight
- You have to have line of sight of your drone at all times
- National parks are prohibited
- You can’t fly above people(s)
- You have to conduct a preflight inspection before every flight
The guidelines go on and on and you’ll need to be familiar with each one before deciding to pilot. However, if you want to use your drone for any type of economic benefit (which is what the FAA defines as ‘commercial’), then you’re going to have to obtain a remote pilot certification. Part 107 regulates commercial sUAS operations exclusively.
In short, if you want to be a professional that profits from sUAV operations, then you’ll have to have your certification. If you just want to capture some photography for yourself, then follow the flight guidelines and register your drone (it only cost $5 dollars).
What sort of requirements does the FAA lay out for commercial pilots?
According to Part 107, there are a series of different action points commercial drone pilots are required to accomplish for their certification. We’ll list them here.
First off, you have to be at least 16 years old. If you’re younger than that, it isn’t possible for you to obtain a certification. On top of this, you have to able to read, speak, and write in English, prove that you’re physically and mentally healthy, and not have any impairments that could make flying a sUAV an unsafe operation.
TSA needs to sign off on you. This means you’ll have to go through a screening process, but this is standard procedure for any type of pilot license/certification.
You’ll need to have a Remote Pilot Certificate with a small UAS rating. These won’t ever expire, so once you have yours you’re good.
Here’s the big one: you’ll have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test conducted at one of the many FAA-approved centers in the US. Don’t worry about location, as there are over 600 of them. This is where the Part 107 study guide comes in handy, and what the Drone Launch Academy courses prepare you for. You don’t pass this test, you won’t acquire your certification. Then afterwards every couple years you’ll need to pass a recurrent test, to ensure you keep the knowledge fresh.
Once you have your license, you must always be ready to hand over your drone to the FAA. Sometimes they’ll want to inspect or test it, and just as well if they want to see your flight history then you’re legally required to hand over all your flight records and documents.
You’re required to report an accident within 10 days if it results in any injury/damage over $500. They want to ensure these reports are filed as early as possible.
You have to conduct preflight inspections. You’re required to make your sUAV safe for flight. This should occur every time before a flight.
While this is certainly a general summarization of Part 107’s requirements, it does simplify most of the requirements they implement. There are also strict guidelines for flight, and if you want to fly outside of those, you’ll have to go through an additional process for clearance. Take a look at this Part 107 summary to see exactly what sort of flying is permitted, and if you’ll have to obtain additional waivers for clearance outside of these guidelines.
What does this test entail exactly? How hard is it?
The test itself must be taken at one of the FAA approved facilities. You can take a look at the entire list of facilities to find one that’s near you. There are two companies that actually administer the test: CATS and LaserGrade. They’re not exclusive to all locations, meaning you’re going to have to call them and figure out which company administers a test at a facility near you. Just as well there’s not much of a difference between the two, and both are generally easy to work with.
You’ll have to bring a government-issued photo ID with you to the center. United States passports work, too. Then you have to schedule an appointment. There usually isn’t a huge waiting line for the aeronautical knowledge test, but we recommend scheduling your appointment well ahead of the date you actually want to take it. This is to ensure you have more than enough time to study, as you won’t want to go through this process twice.
In terms of the branch of knowledge this test covers, the below is taken directly from the FAA’s website. There are all the test areas it covers.
- 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
The test itself is multiple choice, with three possible answers for each question. It’s objective, so you won’t have to fill anything on your own. Just as well the answers are never exclusive. That means if you answer one question a certain way, it won’t ever affect a separate question’s answer. Each question stands alone.
The types of questions stretch from written, to visual reference. These can range from airspace maps, charts, and certain symbols you need to identify. To pass the test, you need to receive a score of 70% or more. You have a total of two hours to complete the test, so do expect to be timed. As you can deduce from this Part 107 Study Guide, you’ll need to study for this test.
What’s the best way to study for this test?
While you can do the research on your own (like reading through the voluminous Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge), we highly recommend you take a course like what DLA (Drone Launch Academy) offers. Not only will it reduce the time and workload of the initial studying, but this platform was created by pilots that have a collective 75+ years of experience. That means all the information is streamlined by practiced pilots who have taken the test themselves, and is tailored specifically towards the aeronautical knowledge test.
The Drone Launch Academy administers a program that consolidates nearly 1500 pages of information into one educational interface. This interface is engaging, fun, and highly interactive. This means they’re not just highlighting a textbook for you, but allowing you to learn via games and animations online. They have experts in each field that help you through the knowledge, and it covers every branch needed to pass the test and obtain your remote pilot certificate.
Their program offers HD video lectures, over 200 practice questions (which includes actual FAA drone questions), and a 75+ page downloadable E-book Part 107 Study Guide. You can print it out, make corrections, and even share it amongst other pilots trying to become certified as well. While studying for Part 107’s test on your own is admirable, there is no easier way to prepare than Drone Launch Academy’s study course.
You can enroll in this course for $150 (the test will be another additional $150), which is less expensive than buying all the books the FAA recommends to prepare you for the test. If there’s anything you should take from this Part 107 Study Guide, it’s that the Drone Launch Academy is immensely helpful in the preparation process, and will help you pass the test in flying colors (the most important part of the process). Especially being that for most non-pilots that ‘branch of knowledge’ list the test covers is can be quite overwhelming.
But aside from that it’s important to note that being a dexterous pilot and having a remote pilot certification are not mutually exclusive. The Drone Launch Academy also offers various different courses that will allot you the proper tools to improve your skills. Quite obviously, if you’re going to be generating income by piloting a sUAV, then the better you are at piloting the more likely you’re going to qualify for certain projects. Being that their team is composed of veteran pilots, they can assist you well outside just preparing you for the knowledge test.
What else should I know before the test?
Now you know the range of knowledge the test covers, how to apply for it, and the tools Drone Launch Academy provides for you to study. But aside from that there are a few things you can do on your own (although these too are covered in the courses) to prepare.
Familiarize with Drone Acronyms. In the test, you’re going to see tons of drone acronyms that could be strictly jargon to you currently. There are plenty of free platforms online that will guide you along ‘mock tests’ in so that you begin to familiarize with these acronyms.
Familiarize with aviation terms. You’re going to need to know a lot of these aviation terms if you’re going to pass this test. Remember, this is an aeronautical knowledge test, and while it’s drone-specific, the entire flight dynamic applies. That means part of the knowledge applies to pilots across the board. To point you in the right direction, here are some terms organized alphabetically that you should know before taking the test.
- Aeronautical Charts
- Air Masses
- Alert Area
- Atmospheric Pressure
- Atmospheric Stability
- Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS)
- Control Station
- Controlled Airspace
- Controlled Firing Areas
- Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS)
- Exhaust Plumes
- Global Positioning System
- Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR)
- Local Airport Advisory
- Lost Link
- Military Operations Area
- Military Training Route (MTR)
- Nautical Mile
- Non-Towered Airport
- Remote PIC
- Restricted Area
- Rough Air
- Seaplane Bases
- Situational Awareness
- Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
- Stable Air Mass
- Station Identifier
- Statute Miles (SM)
- Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF)
- Towered Airport
- Information Briefing Service (TIBS)
- Uncontrolled Airspace
- Visual Flight Rules (VFR)
- Warning Area
We suggest you do a bit of research on basic terminology, as this will make the language a bit more digestible when you’re first studying.
Anything else I should bring to the test?
Definitely bring a calculator, pen or pencil, and paper. You can’t have any advanced calculators or electronic devices in the room (this includes your phone, or calculators that can store data, meaning you could have answers saved), nor can you bring a dictionary. This should go without saying, but it’s not an open book test so you can’t bring any manuals with you.
You’re allowed to use materials that are referenced. Along with that you can bring:
- Navigation Computers
- Log sheets
If I pass the test, what then?
Upon completion of the exam (and having passed it), you’ll have to apply for a UAV Operator Certificate. You will need to provide proof that you passed the exam, and your certificate should arrive anywhere from 6-8 weeks. This is done using FAA’s online IACRA system. This certificate never expires.
What is a 333 Exemption?
If you see this in reference to being a drone certified pilot, know that this is part of the old sUAV certification process. Believe it or not, you actually had to have a manned pilot license (for an actual aerial vehicle) before receiving the exemption, which handicapped the market immensely. While 333 Exemptions are still active, they’re not the one and only way to legally fly a drone commercially. It’s no longer required that you have a manned pilot license to operate a sUAV, hence why we’re even writing this Part 107 study guide.
I want to become a certified pilot, but what can I use my drone for to generate income?
The answers to this question keep expanding. Since drones technology continues to evolve, it’s allowing for sUAVs to become utilities in multiple different industries. While aerial photography is the principal commercial use of drones, their application continues to grow.
The most common type of aerial photography is currently specific to real estate. Now drones can create an immersive first-person-view showcasing of a property. Since the cost of aerial photography has been greatly reduced due to the rise of the commercial drone, brokers are hiring drone pilots to produce creative and immersive video tours of certain properties. There are now multiple lucrative businesses that offer drone photography specifically for real estate.
Aside from that, the second runner up is agriculture. Many pilots use their drones not for aerial photography, but to gather aerial data. In this vein, they also use their drones to offer inspections for certain energy companies, usually specific to their infrastructure.
But the drone world is prolific. A quick Google search can show you tons of other ways pilots are using their drones to generate income, and these utilities will only continue to grow in number as the tech evolves and more pilots become certified.
What if I already have a pilot license?
If you already hold a license, you don’t need to take the test. Instead you have to complete a free training course called ‘Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems ALC-451,’ which is available here. Upon completion you then have to fill out FAA Form 8710-13, prove your identity, and make an appointment to have either a DPE, ACR, or CFI sign off on your form. In this case, this Part 107 study guide doesn’t apply to you.
All in all?
Hopefully this Part 107 study guide helped simplify the certification process. Truth be told, to non-pilots the amount of information needed to pass the test and acquire a certificate can be incredibly overwhelming. That’s why we advocate using Drone Launch Academy, as they’ll give you the tools to understand the language, prepare for the test, and improve your skills as a pilot.
The FAA has gone ahead and created an avenue for non-pilots to become certified sUAV pilots. This only gives more leverage to the industry, as now (feasibly) anyone can become a commercial drone pilot. However, they haven’t given that certification as a handout, and a lot of work is required to ensure that these sUAV pilots are qualified, responsible, and diligent.
If you’re currently in the process of acquiring your remote pilot certificate, then good luck! Hopefully we helped you out a bit. If you’re already a pilot, then happy flying!