You may have heard of this little thing called a drone or remote pilot license. The remote pilot or drone license is part of the FAA’s new rules for drone flight and was created to improve airspace safety. This might shock you if you are thinking about buying a drone or have already purchased one. After all, who wants to deal with paperwork when they can fly a drone outdoors?
It is important to remember that not all drone owners need it. This may still be confusing. We have a detailed explanation of who should get a drone license.
What Is A Drone License?
Quick Answer: Only commercial drone pilots need a drone license at this time. This remote pilot certificate is known as the Part 107 certificate. However, in April 2021, two new FAA regulations were added recreational pilots may need to pass a TRUST test depending on the weight of their drone.
The FAA’s 2016 implementation of 14 CFR Part 107 regulations led to the creation of the drone license. Also known as remote pilot certificate, it was one of the requirements for the new drone license. Part 107 was created to provide legal guidelines for commercial drone flight in the United States.
Aside from requiring that commercial drone pilots earn drone licenses, Part 107 also enforces certain constraints on drone flight. These restrictions include the prohibition of flying drones above moving vehicles or crowds, the restriction that they must fly within a visual line of sight, and the requirement to yield the right-of-way to crewed aircraft. Part 107 rules are constantly evolving and have been subject to several rounds of revision and review in the past few years.
Part 107’s most important component is the drone license. A drone pilot must meet a few requirements, pass a Part 107 knowledge test, and vet TSA. This imposes a minimum level of proficiency on all commercial drone pilots. It also ensures that they are familiar with the Part 107 restrictions and procedures. This allows the FAA to document these commercial drone navigators and helps them make informed decisions.
How Do I Get A Drone License?
If you are interested in obtaining a drone license, there are a few steps to follow, a few hundred dollars to spend and a wait of about two months. This is a guideline for the certification process. We have detailed articles on the subject on our website.
Here are the basic qualifications required by FAA before you can apply for a drone license.
- At least 16 years old
- Be able to read, write, understand, and speak English.
- Flying a drone requires you to be physically and mentally fit
- After passing the 60-question multiple-choice exam, submit your application to FAA
Before registering for the knowledge exam, you need to obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN). This is a unique code that is assigned to all pilots. This number will be with you for your entire aviation career.
You can take the Knowledge Test at any of the over 700 FAA-certified testing centers in the US. Computer-Assisted Testing Service is responsible for administering the test. You will need to pay a $160 non-refundable testing fee.
We won’t discuss the details of how to prepare for your knowledge test. There are tons of online study materials, both paid and non-paid.
You must get at least 70% correct to pass the knowledge test. All items are automatically chosen from a larger number of questions to ensure that each set is unique. The test will take 120 minutes.
After passing the test, you will have to pass a background check by the TSA before applying for the drone pilot license. It could take up to a week, but it can also take two months, depending on the backlog. After that, you don’t need to do anything other than wait for the results.
When you receive your temporary certificate via e-mail, you’ll know you have passed the background check. You can now fly your drone commercially by printing this document and carrying it around. The temporary certificate is valid for now, but your permanent certificate should be arriving via regular mail.
Can I Fly My Drone With No Drone License?
When it comes to the drone license, the keyword to remember is “commercial.” Only those who wish to fly drones for profit or promote any business are required to have a drone license by the FAA. Drone pilots who fly for pleasure or recreation are exempted from this requirement.
If a drone pilot plans to fly without a license, they must be careful not to cross the line. In addition, the drone pilot must not get any compensation for their work. However, the output from the operation cannot be used to promote any business. This includes using a drone for advertising purposes, drone-based monitoring of a business, or data collection by drones to manage the health and condition of crops on a farm.
While recreational drone pilots do not need to obtain any license, they must follow specific rules set forth by the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018. Many of these rules are similar to the Part 107 regulations, including the limitation against flying over people, in controlled airspace, and beyond visual line-of-sight.
You’ll need to adhere to other guidelines and rules depending on where you are located. Because of concerns about privacy, safety, and security, some states and cities have their own rules for drone flight. Some places where people gather, like parks, might also have drone flight restrictions. It is essential to do your research and speak with the authorities before you fly that drone.
You have two options if you want to fly commercially but do not possess a drone license. Either you can fly under the control of a licensed pilot or hire a licensed pilot to fly your drone. Of course, you will need to follow Part 107 rules in both cases.
What is Considered Commercial Drone Use?
A drone license is required for commercial drone use. Drone operations that are lead to direct compensation or advance any business are considered commercial. These activities are easy to spot – taking photos at weddings or surveying construction sites are two examples of commercial drone usage.
There may be some circumstances where it is more difficult to make this distinction. You can’t take aerial photos of your house to market it online if you are trying to sell it. If you are a contractor and need to use a drone for surveillance, the same applies. Even Law enforcement can’t be exempted as they must also have a licensed drone pilot to employ drones for surveillance or search and rescue.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the FAA requires the intention of drone operations to be clearly defined before the drone takes flight. You cannot take aerial photos while flying recreationally and then sell them to someone else later. If you monetize such images, you cannot also post them on your social media accounts.
Even if you have a drone license and fly under Part 107 rules, it is still essential to know local drone laws. Even though some laws in these states or cities are not consistent with FAA regulations, it is still a bad idea for anyone to be caught in such a conflict.
Both recreational and commercial drone pilots must register their drones. This rule only applies to those flying exclusively for fun if your drone (and any payload) weighs 0.55 lbs or more. For commercial drone operators, though, this rule applies regardless of the weight of your drone.
Registering is done through the FAA DroneZone website. Register by creating an account and filling out your personal information. A single registration number is sufficient to register multiple recreational drone pilots. Commercial drone pilots must register each drone individually. They all will get a unique registration number, and they will have to pay $5 for each one.
You will then need to mark your drone with their respective registration numbers in a manner that is easily visible upon visual inspection. This will allow you to trace the drones back to their owners in the event of an accident or if they are used for illegal activities. You can do this using a permanent marker or some stickers.
Are recreational drone pilots going to be required to pass a knowledge test?
Funny question, because one of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 mentioned that recreational drone pilots need to pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test before flying drones. This provision was not implemented even though it was passed in 2018 after a few updates.
The FAA issued a Request for Information in September 2019 to all stakeholders interested in working with them on developing the test. Many organizations responded to the request, including drone flying schools, drone manufacturers, hobby flight communities, and the Drone Racing League. Each organization submitted recommendations to FAA to reach a favorable outcome for both the regulatory environment and recreational drone flying communities.
The FAA assured the public that the new knowledge test would be simple, easy, and user-friendly. The knowledge test must be administered online according to Section 44809 of the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act. Those who pass the test will be given documentation to present it to FAA representatives and local law enforcement.
Beyond the September 2019 update, there has been no word yet on the progress of this initiative or when we can expect it to be implemented. However, we will keep you informed of any developments as soon as they are available.
Part 107 remote pilot certificates, also known as drone licenses, have been one of the most critical changes in drone aviation over the past few years. However, it was mostly a positive change.
The improvement of skills and expertise of commercial drone pilots as the knowledge test requirement turned out to be very advantageous, especially in airspace safety. Based on the fact that there are now hundreds of thousands of licensed drone pilots, it’s safe to say that this change has been a welcome one.
Although the regulation of recreational drone flight remains very limited, this may not be the case for long. The FAA is pursuing initiatives to create a knowledge test for recreational drone pilots. It may not be possible to open up a drone and fly it within a matter of minutes. The idea has already been met with resistance, but perhaps the changing times demand such an overhaul.