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The pros and cons of having a Part 107 license

The next question in our Ask Drone Girl series has to do with the advantages of a Part 107 license. But it has nothing to do  with how to get one — but rather IF you should get one. Turns out that — while most people should get a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate — there are some cons too.

What are the advantages to having a FAA drone license versus recreational use other than making a profit? Are you allowed to fly the drone in more areas?

While having a Part 107 license is essential if you want to use your drone to make money, there are some cases where it’s okay to not have one.

For the uninitiated, the Part 107 license is like a driver’s license for commercial drone pilots. To get one, you must pass a written test proving knowledge of the airspace. Once you have one, you must also agree to  a strict set of rules, including that you will not fly in controlled airspace without getting LAANC approval, will only fly over people and/or at night for flights operating under the guidelines of the FAA’s Operations Over People and at Night rule, will register your drone, and more.

And if you want to make money off your drone, whether it’s teaching someone else, selling your photos, or even performing in an exhibition, it’s imperative that you have a license.

But what if you have no interest in making money? Here are the best reasons to absolutely get the license, and a couple reasons to not get one:

Pro of having a Part 107 license: Advantages to fly in more spaces, including the ability to fly near airports, if in uncontrolled airspace. 

Hobby pilots still need to follow the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (P.L. 112-95, Section 336). Under those rules, a drone operator is required to provide notice to the air traffic control tower if flying within five miles of an airport.

For commercial pilots, distance from airport has no impact on where the drone, but rather what type of airspace the drone is flying in.

“The biggest advantage for hobbyists like me to having a 107 certificate is the ability to fly within 5 miles of airports in uncontrolled airspace (Class G) without notifying the airport manager/air traffic control,” said drone pilot and attorney Loretta Alkalay. “I have a home that is within 5 miles of an airport in Class G airspace so having a 107 has made it easier for me to fly there.”

What’s more, if you do have a Part 107 certificate, you can also fly under the rules of LAANC, which stands for Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability. It’s a system for drone pilots to gain access to fly in controlled airspace through an automated approval process, allowing you to fly in controlled airspace too.

Con of having a Part 107 license: It costs $150

You have to take the test at a physical test center — and that costs money. There’s the proctor’s salary, there’s rent and more. Alas, most test centers charge a fee of $150 to take the test. If you fail, you still owe $150 — and you’ll have to pay a retest fee if you want to try again.

Here’s a list of locations where you can take the aeronautical knowledge test. Applicants need to schedule the testing appointment in advance and bring a government-issued photo ID.

Pro of having a Part 107 license: Knowledge is power!

Do you know the difference between a cumulonimbus cloud and a stratiform cloud? If an aircraft is landing on runway 16, do you know which direction it will land in?

The $150 price tag to take the test is probably a drop in the bucket compared to your already expensive hobby of drone flying.

And the information you learn while studying for the test is quite similar to what you’ll see on manned aircraft tests as well. Want to get your Sport Pilot License? With your newfound knowledge, you’re nearly there.

That knowledge can play in your favor. It could help you land a job in the drone industry, and may even help lower your drone insurance rate, depending on the drone insurance provider.

Plus, you’ll boost your credibility in the drone world, with other people you meet taking you a bit more seriously.

Con of having a Part 107 license: Is it really worth the effort anyway?

The Part 107 license process is not impossible, but it is certainly somewhat time-consuming. Taking the test alone will likely take at least one hour, not to mention studying time, which varies based on prior knowledge. We already mentioned the Part 107 testing fee, but the test isn’t exactly common sense. You’ll likely need to register for a Part 107 online training course to learn the info you need to pass the test. Most Part 107 training courses cost about $200.

And for all that effort, many drone pilots suspect the FAA isn’t actually cracking down on whether commercial businesses have licenses. Clients don’t seem to care either, they say. If other businesses are operating without a license, some say it may be almost worth the risk to not have one either. (Editor’s note: Drone Girl does not endorse this strategy!)

“Mostly it has not gotten me any advantages in the marketplace,” said drone pilot Flo Minton. “Everyone hires unlicensed people here.”

Pro of having a Part 107 license: Boosts your credibility

But for the struggles Minton mentioned above, she still says it’s worth it — particularly in using her knowledge to gain credibility with other people, especially law enforcement.

Minton was flying her drone on a beach in Boca Raton, Florida last weekend when a lifeguard approached her.

“Before he could tell me I could not fly there, I flashed my FAA card and told him I had permission to fly from the Boca ATC (air traffic control) and his local ordinances were invalidated July 1 by the new Florida state law that says only the State can regulate drone use,” she said. “After he stuttered an apology, he said, ‘sorry, there are a lot of jerks that come down here to fly’ I told him I appreciated his oversight of unlicensed pilots.”

Even if your social circle doesn’t care about drones, for pure bragging rights alone, the Part 107 license is worth it — not to mention the physical license  looks nifty in your wallet. The advantages far outweigh the cost and time loss. In most cases, you’ll recoup those losses in not too long once you’re able to take your drone business to new heights with your new license.


  • KG says:

    I don’t live in the 5 mile radius of the airport but still my area comes under Class B airspace and drones are restricted (according to the B4UFly app). It’s not a the same case in other apps like hover and Airwatch, which one should I trust?

    Also, taking the 107 license will allow me to fly in the Class B airspace?

    • Tom says:

      I’m an FAA license private pilot. If you’re not within 5 miles of your airport, are you sure you’re in Class B? I ask because Class B airspace is shaped like an upside down wedding cake. Close the to airport, it goes from it’s ceiling down to the ground. The further away you get from the airport, the higher the floor of the Class B airspace is.

      Regarding flight in actual Class B, I honestly don’t know the rules but I can’t imagine you’d be approved. A Mode-C (Position, Altitude and code) transponder is required for aircraft to maintain separation. Class B is usually so designated because “heavy iron” aircraft, carriers and the like, are typical users. A small, non-transponder drone would be quite a risk.

      • Daniel Sabrowski says:

        Having a 107 certification with a small SUAS rating allows you to apply for an airspace waiver to fly in that class Bravo airspace ?..approval isnt guaranteed but is highly attainable if you do your research when filling out your request for waiver.

  • bob says:

    This isn’t true. You aren’t bound to operate by the part 107 rules by getting the license. You’re still allowed to fly as a hobbyist with all the same rules that apply to hobbyists, as long as you’re not getting paid for it.

    • Russ says:

      Bob is absolutely right. You are a hobbyist if your flight is “not in furtherance of a business.” This also means as a part 107 holder you are bound to hobbyist rules when flying purely for fun. There are many ways to make fun glying vovered under part 107, make sure you add the readon for flight and time in your part 107 required log though. Night flying is perfectly fine as a hobbyist even if you hold a part 107. Again though keep that log book up to date. It is your friend if trouble arises.

  • kenzo says:

    in your example above about flying in the night… ive seen recently on youtube that, you who have a Part107 license could fly at night, just as long as your not flying commerciallly, but as a hobbiest.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=yZM1m9o5Ars. 1:50 mark

    seems to me, amber lee could have flown, but just wouldnt get paid.

    wondering about your thoughts on the “interpretation” on all your cons as a Part107 certified drone pilot flying while as a hobbiest? i mean, drone pilots must have that ability to fly as a hobbiest, just because they have a license that shouldnt exclude them from the rules they bound to as a commercial pilot…

    • Daniel Sabrowski says:

      Correct! Only caveat being that you cannot bounce between Rec flight and comm. flight. If you start mission under 107 intent then your entire flight is covered under 107..and vice versa in regards to 336, or what is to be implemented 349. One or the other only..no flippy floppies ?

  • Viper Fixer says:

    IF… you post your non-profit photos or videos on Facebook, YouTube, or other media source, even though it’s only for your use, and you are a US citizen or living in the US and fall under US laws, you MUST have a Part 107 license.

    If you post a video of your new drone on YouTube and you are subject to US laws, you MUST have a Part 107 license.

    Reason – both are considered as “Educational Use” or “Entertainment Use”.

    Took the FAA 3 days to send me a letter banning my flights unless I took my videos down, or received a Part 107 license.

    I got the 107, and it falls under the same guidelines as the 336. If you fly after civil twilight as a hobbyist, you can get into serious trouble.

    And the 107 was childishly simple to get. I didn’t even study any guide. I took the practice test, looked up what I missed, and got a 94 on my exam.

    • Daniel Sabrowski says:

      Your argument here has recently been researched by Ken Heron with the aid of his contacts at the FAA. You definitely are able to fly at night recreationally..and post videos to social media..without being in violation of any regulation. Yes there are specifics, for those refer to Ken’s YouTube channel and see his video on FAAs answer to flying at night legally per the FAA. ?

      • Wayne Rowe says:

        I normally don’t reply, but this confusion needs to stop. I recently (Yesterday Aug 28) corresponded with the FAA on this topic and asked a series of questions. The last one is posted below. Summary…recreationally you are ok to fly at night. however you can not post to social media. As a 107 flight, you need a night waiver…feel free and post all you want after the waiver. I hope this helps, if you have questions or want to see the entire email…I can share.

        Mr Rowe

        Thank you for contacting the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Support Center.

        Let me provide just a bit of background.

        Many UAS operators have the erroneous belief that direct financial compensation, or the lack thereof, is the determining factor in the type of operation they are conducting. This is not true.

        All small UAS (under 55 pounds) operations in the U.S. National Airspace System are governed by law. That law is 14 CFR Part 107 Operation and Certification of Small UAS.

        There is a limited statutory exception to the law (section 349 of Public Law 115-254) which allows, under certain specific conditions, operation for recreation ONLY.

        Collection of imagery for posting on social media, or for further use by another entity (even non-profits), does not meet the standard for recreation only…and is therefore, governed by Part 107.


        Please follow up with any further inquiries at [email protected]. Additional information is also available at https://www.faa.gov/uas/.

        We appreciate your feedback. Please select: UAS Safety and Integration Division AUS-400.

  • Kirk Ryan says:

    I’m a drone pilot (hobbyist), but also have a GA license to fly helicopters (real ones).
    I can see no purpose for a commercial drone license. It provides absolutely nothing to safety or knowledge of flying. The arbitrary separation of permitted activities between commercial and hobbyist is laughable. EVERY drone pilot needs to know and follow the same rules. Nighttime vs day time, notification of tower vs not, etc. give me a break. These are there just to make money for the government agencies. The rules don’t even make sense. Why would I need a special license to take a video for my school or work, but not if I didn’t sell it. I would be doing the EXACT SAME ACTIVITIES IN THE EXACT SAME LOCATION AND MANNER.

    Drones rules should be uniform and reasonable. Yes we do need rules as there are really stupid people out there that need to be punished for doing damn stupid things.
    – Max of 400 feet AGL
    – Min of 50 feet above any building
    – In controlled airspace may operate as long as Max of 25 feet above the highest edifice within 500 feet horizontally. Rationale: no plane or helicopter will be in that space as they would risk hitting the edifice.
    – Everyone can fly at all hours of the day or not. No logical reason to restict separately. Almost all drones are linked to a phone, tablet or computer screen while in use which is basically using IFR with drones.
    – No requirement to have license for commercial drone use. It provides nothing extra other than cost.

    • Eric Robert Shaver says:

      I love this response because it also brings about another commercial vs. hobbyist issue. Motorhomes. You don’t need a CDL to drive a 44 foot 20 ton motorhome, but you do to drive a great many other things!

      • delta70 says:

        Eric, Absolutely people should be required to have a special license to operate a motor home or even tow a travel trailer. I own a travel trailer and have no problems with testing or qualifications. It amazes me to see people towing down the road without being properly set up and waiting to be a part of a disaster. Drones dont make sense to me on the seperation but i could easily see it with a motor home. Not being a cdl but something a bit more than can you breath and steer.

  • Freddy Flyboi says:

    Here’s a hint for you, recreational pilots are in fact subject to the same basic restrictions on flight as 107 holders, the FAA just doesn’t have enforcement over them, i.e. they can not fly at night, they can not fly over people not participating in the shoot etc, but currently all the FAA can do is object to the flight. However, if your foolish enough to do so, and then post the video online, the FAA can say hey, you need a 107 to do that, nusted.

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