A ton of new information about the forthcoming recreational drone test has been delivered, thanks to a hiring notice from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The FAA this week opened applications to serve as a test administrator for a new test that everyone will need to take (and pass) in order to operate drones recreationally. The test is being called The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST), and will require recreational drone pilots to learn safety training tips, best practices and educational resources.
A recreational drone pilot test became a requirement under the FAA’s 2018 Reauthorization Bill, which states that all recreational flyers pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof of passage when flying. Up until then, only commercial drone pilots needed to pass a test, under the FAA’s Part 107.
How to become a TRUST administrator
The FAA is seeking help administering the recreational drone test from the drone community itself. No, it’s not hiring individuals in their basement to serve as proctors. Instead, it’s looking for entities to provide platforms and administer tests at no cost to recreational pilots. And although the FAA is hiring you for a job in a sense, it’s not one you’ll get paid for.
“The FAA will not pay for any information received or costs incurred at any point in the onboarding process,” according to a memo from the FAA.”
Serving in such a role could be appealing for drone startups that provide things like logbook or mapping services as a way to acquire more users. Administrators will also be able to advertise themselves as FAA-approved TRUST administrators, which could provide more credibility for their services.
Such public-private partnerships will likely be something that can be taken online or through apps from drone players like airspace management tool Kittyhawk, or something built in to drone apps. DJI already forces users to take a fairly simple knowledge quiz in its app before they take off on their first flight.
As a test administrator, you’ll have to:
- Have a Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM)-compliant learning management system, SCORM 1.2 and be capable of deploying the product by June 1.
- Determine the best platform for packaging, delivering training and testing content (e.g. smartphone app quiz, video modules, etc.)
- Offer the test at no cost to recreational flyers.
As a test administrator, you wouldn’t actually write the quiz content. The FAA said it will provide TRUST content to FAA-approved test administrators. Once you’re approved, you’ll get the spiffy title of being a FAA Approved Test Administrators of The Recreational UAS Safety Test (FAA Approved TA TRUST).
The deadline to apply in the FAA’s first wave of onboarding recreational drone test administrators is March 31, 2021. Applications will be reviewed throughout the month of April, and those selected will be onboarded during the month of May. Though if you miss that particular boat, your chances aren’t gone completely. The FAA said it will onboard Phase 2 of administrators in the fall of 2021, to be announced in December of 2021.
What this means for the recreational drone test
When the recreational drone test will be available: Given the end-of-June onboarding timeline, it looks like recreational drone tests will be available at the earliest beginning this summer. But as users take time for the process to be implemented, drone pilots may not be required to have recreational certifications until well beyond that.
How you’ll take the test: Given that the FAA is soliciting other entities to help administer the test, it also looks likely that you’ll end up taking it on another company’s app or website, rather than through an FAA-run website.
How you’ll show proof that you passed: Once an individual completes the TRUST, they must be issued a TRUST completion certificate that has a token number that can be printed or saved electronically.
What content will be on the test: The test likely will be far from as challenge as the Part 107 test for commercial drone operators. Jay Merkle, Executive Director at the FAA’s UAS Integration Office, said in 2019 that he intends for it to be “a fun, enjoyable format instead of a restrictive, dull format.” He also added that the test would be “practical and easy,” and material should be provided in a user-friendly rather than prescriptive format.
The commercial drone pilot’s license test is also undergoing changes this year
This recreational test is separate from the commercial drone pilot’s license test. Currently, commercial drone pilots must take and pass the Part 107 Aeronuatical Knowledge Test for UAS operators, but there is no requirement for recreational operators (besides the fact that they need to register drones 250 grams or larger).
The test for commercial operators is fairly difficult for newbies, with detailed questions around airspace classification, sectional charts, weather patterns and more (I recommend using online training course Drone Pilot Ground School to study!). Upon passing, you’ll get a license, allowing you to operate under the standards set under Part 107. The test, which was launched in 2016, must be taken in-person at an approved test center and typically entails a $150 fee.
The test content is slightly changing in 2021. Expect to now see a question (or a few) involving flying drones at night.
The FAA has also removed the requirement to take your Part 107 recurrent test in-person. In 2021, the requirement to complete an in-person recurrent test every 24 calendar months will be replaced with a much simpler requirement: pilots must complete a free, online recurrent training course, upon which you’ll receive a printable completion certificate.