Part 107 test changes

Part 107 test changes in 2021: no more recurrent test, night flying and more

Expect some fairly significant Part 107 test changes in 2021. And here’s one that should be good news for people who felt it a cumbersome roadblock to take the recurrent exam: you won’t need to take an in-person Part 107 recurrent test anymore.

The Federal Aviation Administration dropped some big news in the final week of December around drone regulation. The biggest changes apply to Remote ID, but the FAA also announced changes to rules around flying at night, flying over people, and changes to the Part 107 test.

Part 107 test changes

New questions: The content of the test will change slightly. If you’re taking the initial Remote Pilot knowledge test (meaning it’ll be your first time taking the Part 107 test to earn a Remote Pilot certificate), expect to now see a question (or a few) involving flying drones at night. Specifically, the test will address aspect of nighttime flying, including:

  • collision avoidance with other aircraft
  • limited depth perception and difficulty of perceiving reference points during night operations
  • night physiology
  • lighting requirements
  • night illusions from the perspective of the remote pilot

The biggest and best Part 107 test prep centers are working to update their material to including nighttime information.

“We’ve trained drone pilots in Night Operations material over the last year and have also assisted in both Waiver application and mission compliance,” said Alan Perlman, the founder of Part 107 online test prep course and information hub UAV Coach. “We’re ready to bring these lessons and practice questions into Drone Pilot Ground School, our online test prep course. We’re also grateful that the FAA gave us 60 days to make these changes.”

Recurrent test: Once you’ve passed your initial Remote Pilot knowledge test, your Remote Pilot certificate (aka drone pilot’s license) is good for two years. Up until now, pilots had to go through a recurrent knowledge testing process to re-up and to maintain their stature as a commercially certificated drone operator. Much like taking the initial drone test, the recurrent knowledge testing process required 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.

That in-person test is no more. The FAA’s new final rule, announced in December 2020, replaces the requirement to complete an in-person recurrent test every 24 calendar months. Instead, remote pilots need to complete online recurrent training (and yes, that recurrent training will include the aforementioned night subject areas).

On completion of this recurrent training, you’ll receive a printable completion certificate (which you should keep with you in your drone bag).

“Online recurrent training allows remote pilots to maintain critical knowledge and keep abreast of dynamic issues, including changes to regulations, that arise while ultimately completing the updated knowledge requirements related to operating small UAS,” according to text from the FAA’s final rule.

Even better news for drone pilots: recurrent training will be offered free of charge to remote pilots.

Though while the FAA’s course is free, the FAA’s final rule also specifically suggested that pilots supplement through self-study, which could include taking an industry-offered online training course or an in-person training course, such as the simple and handy one-page PDF from Drone Pilot Ground School that quickly spells out what recurrent concept to know, or John Peltier’s FAA Part 107 Recurrent Renewal test prep course.

New rules for proving you’re certified and your drone flight is legal

The FAA also spelled out rules for proving you’re a real drone pilot. The FAA also asserted their authority (and granted authority to other law enforcement agencies) to inspect your operation to make sure you’re flying legally. According to the new, spelled-out rules, the Remote Pilot in Command must always:

• Have your remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, plus corresponding identification (such as a driver’s license) in your physical possession and readily accessible when exercising the privileges of that remote pilot certificate.
• Be able to present your remote pilot certificate and identification upon a request from the FAA, NTSB, TSA, or any Federal, state, or local law enforcement officer.
• Be prepared to make available, upon request, to the FAA any document, record, or report required to be kept under FAA regulations.
• Be willing, upon request, to allow the FAA to test or inspect your drone, the remote pilot in command, the actual drone pilot, and, if applicable, the visual observer to determine compliance with the rule.

You should also carry the recurrent completion certificate, if applicable.

When do the new Part 107 recurrent testing requirements go into effect?

The updated testing and recurrent training required to conduct night operations will be made available on the FAA website 45 days after the date of publication in the federal register (which had not happened as of the time of this writing). From there, the rule itself becomes effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, allowing a 15-day period for new
applicants or current Remote Pilot Certificate holders to complete the updated testing or training.

What is Part 107?

Under the FAA’s Part 107, any commercial drone operation must include at least one participant who holds a drone pilot license, formerly referred to as a “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.” In order to get that, you will need to pass an in-person written exam., which many people refer to as the “Part 107 test.”

That’s because every commercial drone operation must have someone serving as the Remote Pilot in Command present. In order to be a Remote Pilot in Command, you must have a Remote Pilot Certificate (which means you’ve passed the initial Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge test, and — if applicable — have gone through the recurrent training every two years). That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the owner of the drone, or the person operating the controls. But it does mean you’re ultimately responsible for the operation.

The bottom line on the FAA’s 2021 Part 107 test changes

With no more recurrent test, these new 2021 Part 107 test changes are a win for your busy schedule — and your wallet (as you’ll save $150 not having to take another written test). It might also make you more compliant, as many pilots likely never went through the process of taking the recurrent test. It’s a lot easier to remain compliant when the rules are easier to follow.

Are you pleased with the new 2021 Part 107 test changes, or do you think you should have to pass a recurrent exam every two years? Leave a comment below!

7 Comments

  • SilverFlyte says:

    I took the 6 month “extension” training in July due to covid. It expires Jan 15. Do we know when this new online training will be ready?

    • Sally French says:

      It’ll be posted to the FAA’s website within 45 days of the final rule being posted on the Federal Register.

  • thekiltedartist says:

    This is great news! I’m due for renewal in march. Taking a course instead of having to take another test makes it much easier to stay current! However, no one else seems to be talking about this. Most information i find is still about the recurrent test. Do you have any other links or sources about the recurrent course?

    • Sally French says:

      The course hasn’t been posted yet, but we’ll definitely be talking about it on this site when the FAA posts it!

  • Yasmin says:

    Is there a link or info on where to take the new recurrent test?

  • JP says:

    I spoke to the FAA today (1/14/2021 ) and they expect the new training for recurrent flyers to be online and ready sometime in March. My license expires on 1/28 so I’m forced to take the test at a testing center due to the new regulations are not in effect. Kind of lame but I need to up to date certification for potential work.

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