Part 107 test changes

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

Big Part 107 test changes hit in 2021. But don’t worry — it’s mostly good news, including the removal of what most people felt was a cumbersome roadblock to taking the recurrent exam: you won’t need to take an in-person Part 107 recurrent test anymore. As of April 2021, taking the recurrent test can instead be replaced as an online training course, which you can take at www.FAASafety.gov.

The Federal Aviation Administration dropped some big news in the final week of December around drone regulation. The biggest changes that made headlines everywhere else applied to Remote ID. But there was a more overlooked change relevant for all commercial drone pilots: FAA also announced changes to rules around flying at night, flying over people, and changes to the Part 107 test.

Part 107 test changes in 2021

New questions: The content of the test has changed 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 have already updated 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 the changes went into effect in 2021, 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 is 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.

Has your drone pilot’s license lapsed recently, and you’re not sure if you should take the written, recurrent exam in-person vs. wait until the new online test hits? Learn more about what to do here.

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 FAA’s new Part 107 recurrent testing requirements go into effect?

The new version of the FAA recurrent test, which is simply an online training course, is free and available on www.FAASafety.gov as of April 2021. Learn more about the process of taking the recurrent test here.

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!

49 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?

  • 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!

    • Peter Spero says:

      I just got off the phone with the FAA UAS help line. They stated things pretty clearly to me. In my situation since I have been part 107 current for 2 years, and also took the Course Number ALC-515 to extend my cert for 6 months, my part 107 cert ends on March 21, 2021. He did state that I would need to take the online course (there is no test, just a course) that is coming out later in March (he did not know when yet, it hasn’t been announced, according to him). He did clarify however that if my cert expires before the course is announced then I would still only need to take the online course in order to become current again, however, if there are a few days after my cert expires and before the course is published that I would not be 107 legal during those few days. He also emailed me this website as a reference. https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?SID=dcc618b5e369d853185de7c6107de965&mc=true&node=20210115y1.99

        • Peter Spero says:

          Thank you for this link but this is for the Course Number ALC-515 intended to give current 107 cert holders a 6 month grace period intended to hold them over until the FAA posts its online 2 year recurrent certification test (which per the FAA is only a course that needs to be viewed, there is no test) The FAA examiner that I spoke to this morning said that the 2 year recurrent certification course with no test will be posted later this month.

          • Katrina Shmidl says:

            Peter, that will be perfect as my 2 years is up 10 April 21! Thank you for having this conversation and thank you for the link! I love this news! And I always prefer the word course over test!! I would appreciate if you would share any updates as they arise!

  • 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.

  • Tina Lindsay says:

    Any info on whether people with expired licenses will be able to take the course?

  • This is a super important update, and I am surprised that it hasn’t been more widely advertised! I am due to take my recurrent through PSI on Saturday. Of course they did not mention the update, because they want their money!

  • Randy says:

    Published January 15, 2021

    Operation of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Over People

    X. Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Testing and Training

    A. Recurrent Training and Aeronautical Knowledge Recency

    This rule is effective March 16, 2021, except for the amendments to §§ 107.61, 107.63, 107.65, 107.73, and 107.74 which are effective March 1, 2021.

    Cheers

  • Randy says:

    Published in Federal Register January 15,2021

    Cheers

  • Mason Hammack says:

    My Part 107 expires on Feb 28th and the training gets released on March 1st. Am I going to be able to take the training or do I have to take my test?

    • Kyle says:

      Wish they made that more clear. Mine expires end of this month with the extension. I did talk to someone at the FAA (who was super nice) and he proposed the option of letting it expire, waiting for the new online test and not flying commercial for the couple weeks in between. But I was concerned that would mean I have to take initial again… not sure how that works.

    • Kim says:

      your part 107 does not expire and yes you can take the recurrent when it comes on line and be legal again

  • flolinemedia says:

    Argh… I am scheduled to take my second recurring exam today at 9am. I just saw this when googling some material. I heard this was coming and sure wish I didn’t have to take mine again. I hate taking tests, the training is going to be so much more effective and better way to do this. Thanks for the post!

  • Matt says:

    So I just took my recurrent test on Friday and passed.. Is it mandatory for all UAS pilots to have the new online certification? Technically, my UAS license is good until 2/28/2023. My guess is that I wait 2 years to take the online test.. Please clarify if you can and thank you!

  • Dan Dierking says:

    I can’t find the information anywhere on FAA’s website about this. Do you have a link?

  • Peter Spero says:

    I took and passed my online part 107 recurrent test on Sept. 21, 2020. Am I now good for two years? There is no expiration date on the cert.

    • John says:

      You should know this answer if you took the test. Sounds like you don’t so read this article and you will find your answer. Sigh.

  • Tom Bertrand says:

    I’ve noted various wording on different websites regarding the FAA’s new regs that take effect March 1, 2021. In one breath one site says there is no more recurrent test, just training. Later they refer to a “test.” Another site refers to training for night operation etc. In my case I have the initial Part 107 certification now lapsed 2 years. I plan to wait until March 1st to recertify. Question – there is new online training after March 1 but does it include a test or not? I suspect two areas of training to be covered – the initial Part 107 material and the newer night time etc training. After signing on to the site will it just be a review of both, or a a review then a “test on both?” Is there a passing grade as well? Thank you.

    • Tom Calton says:

      If I were to guess, it will be similar to the current recurrent testing for 61 holders. It is an online course with an exam at the end. There is a score requirement with that test but it is no where near as in depth as the initial Part 107 exam. I too am waiting to see, as my 107 expired 14 months ago.

  • Randy says:

    I passed the Part 107 test today 2/26/2021 good until 2/28/2023

    Cheers

    • Barry Bueler says:

      All that have passed initial or recurrent test just recently need to take the upcoming 107 recurrent training if you want to fly under the new rules, night flying and over people.

  • Randy says:

    107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

    § 107.65 [Corrected]

    2. On page 4383, in the first column, in § 107.65, in paragraph (d), the date “March 1, 2021” is corrected to read “March 16, 2021”.

    Issued in Washington, DC, under the authority provided by 49 U.S.C. 106(f), 40101 note and 44807, on February 23, 2021.

    Cheers

  • Ric Getter says:

    Like some of you, I had a March, 2021 expiration on my original certificate. It took a while, but I finally found the statement on faasafety.gov that said I could take the same online course/test that current 14 CFR Part 61 pilots can take. (I have that ticket, too, but I’m not current). So, at least, I should be 107-legal until September. Just to be safe (figuratively and literally), I also want to do the new course/test when it appears later this month.

    What I haven’t yet managed to find is clarity on how long the new online 107 extension will be good for. I am assuming when I pass that online test, it will be valid for another 2 years.

  • Ric Getter says:

    Well, I just answered my own question with the help of Paul from the FAA’s UASHelp help desk. The current release date for the new test is April 6. The new rules will be in force as of April 21. The option to use the online test, ALC-515, expired in October. The bottom line is that even if I take the new test on April 6, I will still be commercially grounded from April 1 to 21. Of course, I can still fly for the pure joy of it (and I will).

    Ric

    • Zaike says:

      Hey Ric,
      My understanding is that you can take the test on April 6th and use your P107 privilege’s right away. The significance of the 21st is for the ability to fly at night under P107 as long as your aircraft meets the requirements goes into effect. So take the test on April 6th and fly P107 right away as you normally would until the 21st where you can then fly at night, if you meet the requirements.
      What is funny is I called the local FSDO on the 12th and was told I could take the ALC-515 test for currency. Then the news release came out and contradicts what I was told on the phone. Guess I’ll have to wait until April now.

      • Ric Getter says:

        Zalke,
        Here’s the actual reply I got from the FAA help desk:

        Your currency will expire on March 31, because FAA certificates follow calendar months. You may take the course as early as April 6, which is when it becomes available. However, your currency will not be restored until April 21, which is when the new rule becomes effective.

        So I think what is happening is that the new exam is named specifically in the new rules like ALC-515 was in the ones that are in force now. So the new exam that debuts on April 6 is not technically valid until the rules go into effect on the 21st. The bottom line for me is that I won’t qualify for the liability insurance required by my clients for those 15 days.

        Ric

  • Paul Gordon says:

    Crap! I let my currency lapse at the end of Feb. because it was supposed to be released by mid-March.
    Here is a source for the April 6 date for Recurrent Knowledge Training.
    Scroll down to “Remote Pilot Knowledge Test” where it says: The online recurrent training will be offered free of charge to remote pilots beginning April 6, 2021
    https://www.faa.gov/uas/commercial_operators/operations_over_people/

  • Nica Jadoch says:

    My license expires the end of March, how do I renew it, I can find a straight answer, ugh

  • Paul Gordon says:

    If you want to renew before the end of March you’ll need to take the recurrent test. If you’re ok with a bit of a lapse in your currency you can wait until tha FAA releases the new online training sometime in April. Mine expired 2/28 and I had to take the test this week because I had some commercial work that couldn’t wait. Good luck to you.

  • Ric Getter says:

    I’m in the same boat. I contacted the FAA for an answer. Commercially, we are grounded until the rule change takes effect on April 21. The new test we need to take goes live online on April 6. Passing the test, which will include the new rules, will renew our licenses as of the 21st.

    Ric

  • Ric Getter says:

    Paul,
    From what I learned from the FAA, we don’t have the recurrent test option at this point.

    • Paul Gordon says:

      Ric – I don’t believe it. I took the recurrent exam this week – on Monday 3/15. The printed test result I recieved at the testing center has an expiration date of 3/32/23. Best of luck to you.

      • Paul Gordon says:

        I’ll be taking the training sometime after its release anyhoo, so I can operate at night without a waiver. Peace out.

      • Ric Getter says:

        Paul,
        You got into a physical testing center? I didn’t realize that was an option again.

  • Tammy says:

    Awesome! Thank yoiu for sharing.

  • Jeff says:

    This is great. I could not access the one-page PDF at Drone Pilot Ground School.. just keeps going to the home page. I am a amber of their course and logged in and the link just brings me to their home page. Can you please provide the PDF or link to it? Thanks so much for your article!

    http://www.dronepilotgroundschool.com/?affcode=23044_1446998103370f&coupon=DRONEGIRL50

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