faa recertification process drones test study commercial pilot reccurent test

Need to renew your drone license? FAA announces recertification process details for commercial pilots

Update for April 2021: The recertification process has changed. Now, pilots must take an online recurrent training course at no cost. Learn more about the FAA’s Remote Pilot recurrent online training here.

So you took your test to get your Remote Pilot Certificate two years ago? It’s time to go through the recertification process again so you can renew your license.

The Federal Aviation Administration this week outlined details on the recertification process, which is imperative for drone pilots looking to legally operate commercially.

Regulations surrounding the FAA’s drone pilot certification for commercial pilots went into effect at the end of August 2016. Those regulations required that drone operators pass a UAS aeronautical knowledge test. The test can be taken at one of the 696 testing centers in the United States and asks questions on topics such as air traffic, weather and safety. Upon passing, pilots receive a license, which is good for two years.

And with those two years coming to an end for thousands of drone pilots, the FAA says it is time for pilots to go through a recurrent knowledge testing process to re-up and to maintain their stature as a commercially certificated sUAS operator.

Much like taking the initial drone test, the recurrent knowledge testing process requires pilots to book a testing appointment at one of around 700 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States and achieve at least a 70% score to pass.

But the breakdown of topics that remote pilots will be tested on is a bit different.

Here are what types of questions potential pilots can expect to see on the initial license test:

And here’s what pilots can expect to see on the recurrent test to re-certify:

recertification process faa recurrent testing answers drone test

Some of the big differences on the recurrent test vs. the initial test? The recurrent test removes questions on weather, loading and performance airmen certification standard. Note that those Sectional Charts are still expected to appear on the recertification test.

The FAA did not say how many questions will appear on the test, but UAV Coach estimates 40 to 50 questions.

Pilots have 90 minutes to complete the recurrent test, which will be multiple choice. Test takers must again pay a fee to take the recurrent test, which at most testing centers is $150.

The recurrent test is also required for airmen who do hold a pilot certificate that was issued under 14 CFR part 61, but do not have a current Flight Review as per 14 CFR part 61, section, 61.56.

Related read: I passed the FAA’s Part 107 test! Here’s what it’s like, and how I studied

A whopping 1,338 people completed the test within two days of it being made available back in 2016, and thousands more have followed. Within three months, the FAA had issued nearly 23,000 drone pilot licenses.

So with two years passed since many drone pilots took a look at a sectional chart, what can you do to study to make sure your certification stays current?

I recommend studying with Drone Pilot Ground School, an online test program (which I personally used to pass my initial test on the first try).

Drone Pilot Ground School’s founder Alan Perlman said that over the next few weeks, the company plans to map out each of the recurrent knowledge testing areas to specific modules, lessons, and practice questions within the course for existing students to hop back in and to refresh their knowledge.

Unlike many drone testing courses where customers pay a monthly fee to gain access to the training modules, Drone Pilot Ground School members remain members for life.

If you want an even briefer refresher than that, Drone Pilot Ground School has a handy, scannable one-page PDF that helps students understand exactly what to study for the recurrent test.

Oh yeah, and you can use discount code “DRONEGIRL50” to save $50 off their online courses (or simply click this link and it will automatically be applied).

Or, if you’re on a budget and just need access to recurrent test prep materials, I also love John Peltier’s FAA Part 107 Recurrent Renewal test prep course. It won’t be sufficient if you need to take the complete test (though he does have a separate online test prep course for the full FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot test). But at just $49, it’s a great budget pick to brush up on all the information you learned two years ago — and let’s be honest, forgot — but will need to know to pass your recurrent exam.

Read the FAA’s complete outline of the new recertification process here.


  • I have my 107.

    I Also have a part 61 and I’m current.

    Do I still have to take the 107 currency test too?

  • Michael Thompson says:

    Drone Girl, you rule. That’s all I want to say!

  • James Scheideler says:

    my license expired in december, if I take it now can I still take the recurrent knowledge test or do I have to take the initial one all over again?

    • Steve says:

      Mine expired in October. I called the test center and they told me I had to take the original test over. I took it and passed. Now I’m trying to figure out if I need to resubmit this new test score through IACRA again and get a new certificate number or if I can just use my existing “expired” number. The problem is the new test is not even showing up on the IACRA website so I cant submit a new application even if I wanted to. In addition, my address has changed from what is listed on my card and it is not clear how to address this. My understanding is that FAA will not issue a new card or certificate number after taking the recurrent test (or in my case the original test). You just have to maintain the piece of paper the testing center gives you. Very confusing.

  • Steve says:

    Update on my expired certificate. As I stated above, I let my 2 years lapse by a few months. I should have renewed before Oct 2018 and took the exam on 1-23-19. I had to take the original test again and they did not require that I have my previous test results (thankfully since I couldn’t find it). I kept checking the IACRA website for my test to show up. With the govt shutdown, I think it took a little longer than usual to process my results. I checked it again today and it showed up. I filled out a new application and it gave me a Temporary Airman Cetificate with the Certificate No. listed as “pending”. Based on this, I assume if you go beyond the 2 yr mark and take the original test over, you will be issued a new and different Certificate Number. We shall see. It says to check back in a week. It will be interesting to see if they use the previous number or issue a new number.

    • Matt says:

      I let mine expire also and have been trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do..I sent a message via their website, so I will see their response. In the mean time I guess I will schedule a full test and start studying..

    • Chris says:

      I’m in the same boat but I’m hearing a couple of differing thoughts on the matter and none of them from the FAA (I suspect they don’t know the answer definitively yet either). However, the answer I like the most and that make sense to me is that you don’t have to retake the whole exam again if you let your current license lapse (expire). Your license is just invalid until you take the recurrent test. Since there is no where on any FAA site that specifically says you have to start from scratch and even if you don’t there is no where on the FAA site to enter your recurrent test info. You just have to keep the test results as proof that you took it. Now, if you let your license lapse by a year or so I could see it making sense to have to start form scratch but letting something this new lapse by a month or two? Seems like you should just have to take the recurrent test, keep the records, and then consider yourself a legal remote pilot again. Your remote certificate doesn’t actually have an expiration date printed on it and they won’t send you a new one even if you did meet the deadline.

      • Matt says:

        I received the same response from the FAA. They said the license just becomes noncurrent and you need to take the recurrent knowledge test even if past the date. I haven’t gone through the testing process yet as I’ve been busy doing other things at work so I don’t know how things will actually work. I’ll be going on a year past in a few months as I got mine right away when part 107 came out..

    • Steven Johnson says:

      Follow up. After my license became inactive /noncurrent/expired (whatever you want to call it) I was told by the testing center that I was required to take the original test again. I completed a new application on the IACRA website and submitted my new test results. After several months, I received a new card in the mail that has my old certificate number but my new mailing address. Not sure if this is the correct process but it works for me. I will be sure to take the recurrent test next time.

      • Nona says:

        Today is 10-4 (Good Buddy;), 2019. My license had been non-current since May 24, 2019. I called a local testing center and scheduled a renewal exam. You take in your Driver license with a current address. A Driver license (a picture ID) with the wrong address accompanied with a paper from the DMV with your current address is fine. You also need your Remote Pilot License. The testing center can log in with your Remote Pilot license number and update everything that needs to be updated. I passed and now have a piece of paper with a raised notary seal on it that I have to carry with me. There was absolutely no issues in just taking the renewal test even though my license had lapsed by over 4 months. I’d say your testing center isn’t particularly versed on how to record and look up your existing certificate. If you are close to another testing center, I’d suggest going elsewhere!!

  • James A Hayes says:

    Dang it, same boat. I thought it expired at the end of Feb..it was the end of January. I’m barely over. Grrr. I am going to see if they will let it slide or take it all over again. I thought I wasn’t going to need this (the 107) but now (potentially) do for my fire department. I’ll get back to you all with my resolution.

  • Alan says:

    For a renewal, is it required to get a CFI to enter things into IACRA? How does one submit the renewal?

  • Dave says:

    My understanding is that it does not go to IACRA. We are required to show the renewal as well as our original certificate when we fly.

    • DAVID SMELTZER says:

      Update! If you are beyond 24 months you are not required to take the full exam. You cannot fly until you take the recurrent exam (UGR) and pass. Your certificate is permanent, forever (unless it is revoked.) You must have your certificate and the copy of your Airman Knowledge Test Report showing that you passed the UGR. My understanding is that digital copies are okay. Originals can be kept at home.

      • Graham Fox says:

        Thank you for this information David, I was able to verify it with the FAA.

      • Nona says:

        I just renewed after my certificate had lapsed by over 4 months. I did not have to take a copy of the Airman Knowledge Test Report. Just my Driver and Remote Pilot certificate. The proctor was able to log into the system with my Remote Pilot certificate and look up everything she needed.

  • Rick says:

    “””Wow”””, it is really strange that the FAA “”will not”” let a Drone Pilot renew his/her drone pilot license on line, BUT, a Flight Instructor can renew their Flight Instructors License online and be issued a new Flight Instructors License….just don’t understand it !!!!

  • Is there a way of verifying if the pilot has done their recertification? Im pretty sure there is a guy that passed his initial over 2 years ago but never did the recertification

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