If you’re a Part 107-licensed commercial drone pilot, you can’t just get your Remote Pilot Certificate and be set for life. You need to keep your certificate current — which requires going through an online training course every 24 months.
Luckily, the online training course is far more convenient — and far less cumbersome (and less costly) to deal with — than the old system. Thats because – under the Federal Aviation Administration’s Final Rule on Remote ID released in December 2020 — the requirement to complete an in-person, FAA recurrent test every 24 calendar months was replaced with a much simpler requirement: pilots must complete a free, online recurrent training course.
Complete the simple online course, and you can easily keep your FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate current from the comfort of your couch. The course was made available in April 2021 on the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website for no cost.
To access the recurrent course, you’ll need to be logged into your FAASTeam account (you’ll need to create one if you haven’t already). From there, navigate to the correct course based on your existing state of certifications (more on that later). Once you click on it from a logged-in account, click enroll, and you’ll see a page that looks like this:
That’s the course page. You’ll navigate through the various buttons, mini-quizzes and videos to go through the course.
You’ll notice that there are actually a few different Part 107-related online course available. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the right one:
What FAA Remote Pilot recurrent online training course am I supposed to take?
Here’s what you need to know about Part 107 certification, depending on your current status (make sure you take the right course, because there are a couple that are very similar!):
If you hold a Part 107 remote pilot certificate that has lapsed
Remote Pilot Certificates are only valid if you have taken one of the recurrent online training courses within the previous 24 calendar months, or have taken the initial written test within the past two years.
For folks who last did one of those things more than two years ago, though, don’t fret. Even if you took the original Part 107 test years ago and haven’t taken the recurrent exam since then, you’re in luck. Anyone who holds a part 107 remote pilot certificate — regardless of aeronautical knowledge recency — can become current again by taking the Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent (ALC-677) online training course at no cost to you.
If you are a Part 107 remote pilot and also certificated with a current flight review under part 61, then you can take the slightly shorter Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent (ALC-515) online training course, which is also available at no cost.
If you last earned (or renewed) your Part 107 remote pilot certificate before April 2021
If your Part 107 certificate is still current, but you last earned it in April 2021 and you anticipate ever flying drones over people, you’ve got work to do. You, too, will have to take the same Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent Non-Part 61 Pilots (ALC-677) online course described above.
As of April 2021, the FAA’s Operations Over People rule went into effect, enabling certain pilots to fly over people and at night. For pilots who have earned their wings since then, they took training courses that also theoretically gave them the knowledge necessary to operate in accordance with that rule.
But if you haven’t earned your wings since then, you need that new piece of information. Because the course contains updated information about drone operation over people and at night, you need to keep your knowledge up-to-date. Again, that course is available on the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website for no cost.
If you’ve never held a Part 107 certificate and want to operate drones commercially
In order to fly drones for money, you must have a drone pilot’s license, which you can receive by passing the UAS Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test, which is a written test. It must be taken in-person at an approved test center, which you can find on the Airman Certificate Testing Service (ACTS) website. You must also pay the test fee (typically $150).
This test is tricky, and it’ll take a lot more than common sense to pass. We recommend signing up for a Part 107 online test prep course to gain access to at-home lectures, practice tests, flashcards and more.
If you hold a current Part 61 certificate and want to operate drones commercially
You already know how to fly manned planes. Learning to fly drones will be easy. If that’s you, you need to take the Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Initial (ALC-451) online course, which is available on the FAA Safety Team website for no cost.
If you currently hold a Part 107 certificate and a Part 61 certificate
You are mighty certified, but there’s still more to do. You’ll need to take the Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Recurrent (ALC -515) online course, available on the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) website for no cost. That’s to stay up-to-date with fresh knowledge about drone operations over people, given that as of April 21, 2021, you are now able to fly over people, over moving vehicles and/or at night without a waiver.
What is the Remote Pilot recurrent online training course like?
The Remote Pilot recurrent online training is a series of mini quizzes, videos and text slides. There are well over 100 slides, and the course takes about one hour to go through (of course, depending on how fast you read). I would also recommend budgeting about 30 minutes to an hour for the test.
If you need to take a break through the recurrent course, your progress will be saved. Green checkmarks indicate how far along in the course you are.
A huge portion of the Remote Pilot recurrent online training course is dedicated to the new FAA operating rules around flying over people and at night. The course contains some new and pretty interesting information that I didn’t know. What fascinating information about physiology, from this screenshot from the course (below). Knowledge is power!
You’ll also take mini quizzes to reinforce your knowledge about the topics you just read. For example, here’s a mini-quiz question on the aforementioned night physiology and night illusions topic.
Once you’ve clicked through all the text slides, videos and quizzes, you’ll also have to click through a page of resources and a glossary. I would honestly save these pages, as they’re genuinely helpful links!
After you’ve made it through the intro, the information in Part 1, the Resources in Part 2 and the Glossary in Part 3, you’re ready for the grand finale: the Review and Exam.
There are a few requirements for taking the exam:
- You must complete the entire exam in one session. If the exam is not completed and graded in 90 minutes or less, you will need to retake the entire exam when you log into the course again.
- You may review course material as you take the test. It’s an open-note test!
- You must get 100% to pass the exam.
My exam was 45 questions long. Most of the questions are fairly straightforward. If you passed the first test, this should be pretty easy. The questions are more common-sense based than uber-technical, the way questions on the initial test (like reading sectional charts!) might feel.
While you need an A+ to pass, you can take the test again, so don’t feel to much pressure.
If you pass, you’ll receive a happy message! You’ll also be given the option to email yourself or your employer a certificate of this course. Even if your boss doesn’t require it, I recommend emailing a copy to yourself, in case you’re asked for it down the road, as this will make it easy to access.
Once you go through the whole recurrent online training, you’ll receive a printable completion certificate. From there, you’ll be good to go for another 24 months, upon which you’ll need to go through another training course all over again.
Your certificate will look like this! Print it out, frame it, or at least just save it in your inbox or another place where you won’t lose it (though you can access it again at the FAA Safety website).
From there, come back in two years and do the whole thing all over again. Until then, happy flying!
Have you taken the course yet? What did you think? Leave a comment below!