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:
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.
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.