Editor’s note: this piece was originally published in March 2021. For a more up-to-date piece and to learn more about the FAA’s Remote Pilot recurrent online training, visit this link for more information including a preview of the course, links to the right course for you and more.
Beginning in April 2021, you’ll no longer have to take an in-person, written test in order to keep your FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate current. As was announced as part of a series of new drone policy changes under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Final Rule on Remote ID — which was released in December 2020, — the requirement to complete an in-person, FAA 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.
And now, we finally have a date for when the new FAA recurrent test goes live. An FAA spokeperson confirmed to The Drone Girl that the new test will go live on April 6, 2021.
The new version of the FAA recurrent test, which is simply an online training course, will be free and available on www.FAASafety.gov.
What are the old Part 107 recurrent test rules?
Up until April 5, 2021, pilots with a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate (which is required in order to operate drones commercially) had to take a written, in-person test every 24 months to keep their certificates current.
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. It was a fairly cumbersome process (and costly, as testing fees can be about $150, depending on the test center.
What will the new FAA recurrent test be like?
When it goes live in April 6, it won’t be much of a test at all — it’s more of an online training course. There will be new information, including updated rules around flying drones at night.
You’ll be able to access it for free through www.FAASafety.gov (you’ll need to be logged in to do so).
Once you finish the online course, you’ll receive a digital completion certificate (which you should print out and stash in your drone bag in case you need to reference it).
What drone pilots need to know between now and April 6
Part 107 certificates don’t “expire”. They lapse. Even if your certificate lapses, say, tomorrow, you won’t have to take the initial exam all over again. It may have lapsed already, but once you take the online training course, available April 6, you’ll be current again.
If your drone pilot’s license has lapsed and you want to keep your certificate current (say, you have a commercial drone job booked for March 30), you’ll still need to take the recurrent exam in-person. Otherwise you have some options:
- If possible, re-book your job for April 7 (or later), and save yourself the time and money in taking the in-person recurrent test.
- Find someone else who has a current Remote Pilot Certificate who can come with you. While every commercial drone operation must have a Remote Pilot in Command (meaning someone whose certifications are current) onsite, that person doesn’t necessarily need to be the drone operator.