If you’re flying drones commercially (that means you’re making money in some capacity from your flight), then the Federal Aviation Administration requires you hold a Remote Pilot Certificate — commonly referred to as a drone pilot license.
So how do you get a drone pilot license? Unless you currently have a manned pilot’s license under Part 61, the only way to get an FAA Remote Pilot Certificate is by passing an in-person, written, UAS test called the Remote Pilot Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
“It’s a great idea,” said Logan Campbell, CEO of drone consulting firm Aerotas. “It forces people to understand how to keep the national airspace safe, which is really what the FAA cares about most.”
Drone operators with existing Part 61 pilot certificates can bypass the in-person, written exam and instead take an online course, which takes about two hours to complete. But for drone operators without a traditional pilot’s license, you’ll have to take the in-person, written test — which also takes about two hours to complete, on top of studying (we recommend going through an online Part 107 training course), and actually getting yourself to the physical test center.
I gave a pretty detailed outline of my experience taking the Part 107 test, which you should check out here.
Here are some commonly asked questions (and accompanying answers!) related to everything you need to know about the test:
Where you can take the FAA’s UAS aeronautical knowledge test:
The test can be taken at one of the 696, FAA-approved knowledge testing centers in the United States. 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.
How do I study for the UAS aeronautical knowledge test?
Use the FAA’s course for existing, manned aircraft pilots: The FAA released its own version of a Part 107 UAS online training course. But it likely won’t be enough. That course is intended for Part 61 Pilot Certificate holders (people with an existing pilot’s license). Thus, it glosses over vital information you’ll need to know like weather and reading sectional charts. The good news: anyone, including non-pilots, can register and take for free. Read more about the training course here.
Read the official FAA handbook: While the test will include a mix of both drone-specific and general manned aircraft questions, the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, which is the official FAA handbook, is a good place to start studying for more general airspace knowledge. You can pick up your own copy here.
Take an online study course: Many private companies have also put together training sessions (either in-person, webinars, practice tests, etc). that provide a clear look at exactly what you’ll need to know for the test. I recommend this as the best way to study, as you’ll get practice questions (including actual test questions), video lectures, study guides and more.
Here are the study courses I would recommend:
- Drone Launch Academy: This is another professional, online training course with repeatable videos and study guides. Use DRONEGIRL50 or this link to get $50 off!
- Drone Pilot Ground School offers a fantastic online training course with practice tests and repeatable videos (this is actually the course I used…and I passed on my first try!)
- DARTdrones Part 107 Test Prep Virtual Course: I choose this one because it’s a live, virtual course, typically held about once a month. For folks seeking that greater level of personalized attention and the ability to interact with the instructor instantaneously, this is the best way to go about it. But at $375, it’s pricier than the others (though DARTdrones also offers a $200 online Part 107 Test Prep Course).
- John Peltier’s FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot online course is taught by a former Air Force instructor and contains no-nonsense content from someone who has more than 15 years of teaching experience. It’s also convenient if you prefer smartphones over computers, as it’s available via a mobile app for iOS and Android.
What questions does the FAA’s UAS aeronautical knowledge test ask?
The FAA drone test areas include:
- 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 pre-flight inspection procedures
How much does it cost to take the Part 107 drone test cost?
Costs are determined by the individual testing center, though most centers charge $175. That’s less than any other airman certification that allows for non-recreational operations in the national airspace.
Worried about failing and losing your money? Some of my favorite Part 107 test prep courses, such as Drone Launch Academy, will pay for you to retake it, which is an $150 value in itself, on top of a course refund (an additional $199 value).
And if you had signed up for Drone Pilot Ground School and don’t pass, they’ll at least cover your testing fee (normally $150) if you also pass one of their practice exams with a score greater than 85%.
How is the FAA Part 107 test formatted?
The UAS aeronautical knowledge test is a set of 60 multiple choice questions with a single correct response for each one, according to the FAA’s draft. Each test question is independent of the other questions, so a correct response to one does not influence the response of another. Here’s the breakdown of questions by topic:
What happens if I fail the FAA’s aeronautical knowledge test?
No sweat! You may not retake the knowledge test for 14 calendar days from the date of the previous failure, so use that time to relax and refresh on the parts you are unsure of. After two weeks, you can retest. You don’t even have to tell your teachers what happened — no instructor endorsement or other form of written authorization is required to retest.
How do I renew my Part 107 license?
Once you have your Remote Pilot Certificate, you’ll need to renew your drone pilot license every two years, which can be done through taking a simple, online refresher course.
Prior to 2021, the FAA required that pilots take a full, written recurrent test at the same test centers used for the initial exam. However, that in-person test is no more. The FAA announced a new rule in December 2020 that replaced the requirement to complete an in-person recurrent test every 24 calendar months with an online recurrent training. Upon completion, you’ll receive a printable completion certificate.
Happy flying, and studying!