How I Became an FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot
My love of aviation dates back to my childhood. My father had always wanted to be a pilot, but life got in the way of his dream.
He did pass his dream on to me, though, and I started flying things while I was still in elementary school.
Like many young aviation enthusiasts, I started with paper airplanes and plastic model airplanes. I then progressed to glow-fuel powered, balsa-wood airplanes that actually flew. RC airplanes were next.
As an adult, I earned aircraft mechanic and pilot certificates. I also fly ultralights and actually prefer them to certificated aircraft.
Long story short, there has never been a time when aviation wasn't part of my life.
Photography and videography are also long-time passions of mine. When I was a 10-year-old kid growing up in Brooklyn, I worked part-time at a camera shop. I spent most of the money at the same store for film and processing for my photography and home movie hobbies. (Digital imaging hadn't been invented yet. Yeah, I'm old.)
By the time I was a teenager, I had a darkroom and was doing my own film processing and printing. That part of the hobby continued until digital imaging made it unnecessary. I happily retired the smelly darkroom chemicals in favor of a DSLR camera and a digital camorder.
In short, I was really into photography, and I was really into aviation. So when drones arrived on the scene, it was only natural that I'd want to combine my lifelong passions for photography and aviation into one hobby.
When I discovered that I could actually make money for flying drones, that sounded even better: so I decided to earn my FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate so I could earn money flying drones without the unpleasantness of paying fines or going to jail.
The videos on this site weren't commissioned by clients. They're a combination of practice videos, videos I shot because I was interested in the subject matter, or videos I shot just for fun. Some are pretty good, others not so much. I make it a point not to edit my mistakes out; so feel free to enjoy a few laughs at my expense.
History is another passion of mine, and that's reflected in how many videos I shoot of old things. Old buildings, old billboards, old railroad tracks, old diners... I like old things. Most of my videos of old things are embedded on pages that tell some of the history of the places. I think it's pretty interesting. Maybe you will, too.
What is Part 107?
Part 107 refers to the part of United States law found at 14 CFR Part 107 and titled Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems. In a nutshell, it's the section of U.S. law that governs the operation of all unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds. The term "sUAS" stands for "small unmanned aircraft systems."
In common usage, to be a "Part 107 pilot" means that a person is at least 16 years of age, has passed an FAA knowledge examination and a TSA background check, and has been certificated as a remote pilot (informally known as having a "commercial drone pilot license") by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Anyone who operates a UAS for pay or compensation (including posting videos on a monetized site like this one) must hold a Part 107 remote pilot certificate. In reality, however, anyone who flies a drone is operating under Part 107. People who fly drones for recreational purposes are just operating under a certification exemption that Part 107 grants to recreational users.
How I Prepared for my FAA Part 107 Test
In my own case, I wanted to fly drones for money; so under federal law in the United States, I needed to earn a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA.
Although I had an aviation background dating back to 1976, I hadn't flown manned aircraft in several years, and I hadn't flown remote-control aircraft since I was a teen-ager. I also knew nothing about drones in particular other than that they flew.
I considered just buying some Part 107 training materials and doing self-study; but in the end I decided that it would be best to take a training course. I needed to prepare for the FAA test; but I also needed to actually learn about drones, how to fly them, and how to make money with them.
After considerable research, I decided to enroll in the Pilot Institute Part 107 Commercial Drone License Course.
A big part of the reason I chose Pilot Institute was because Greg, the lead instructor, is a professional aviator and certified flight instructor for manned aircraft, as well as a drone instructor.
Having a background in both manned and unmanned aircraft qualifies him not only to prepare students to pass a test, but also to understand and teach how drones fit into the overall National Airspace System.
Another reason I chose Pilot Institute was that it was the least-expensive school to guarantee that graduates will pass the FAA examination.
Just to be clear, the guarantee doesn't mean you pay the money in the morning and go take the test that same afternoon. You actually have take all the lessons and the practice tests
Once you achieve good scores on the practice tests, which you can take as many times as you like, then you go and take the FAA test. If you don't pass, you'll get your money back plus the testing fee.
Most other schools offering courses with that kind of guarantee charge twice the price (or more) of Pilot Institute's course.
The Pilot Institute course consists of video lectures that are clear and interesting, as well as quizzes and practice tests to help students identify weak points. There's also a forum where you can ask questions and get answers. I found the course to be extremely useful both as review and as an introduction to UAS operations, but it will help people with no aviation background at all to master the content and become safe, FAA-certificated remote pilots.
While taking the course, I also researched drones. I decided to buy an Autel RVO II Pro 6K Bundle. The specs were comparable with other high-end drones such as the DJI Mavic Air 2, but I liked the Autel's video quality a little better.
So Did You Pass?
Glad you asked. I'm happy to report that I completed the Pilot Institute course and passed the FAA test with a score of 97. A few days later I printed up my temporary certificate, and was legally ready to fly drones for money.
But being legal isn't the same as being good at something. As with any other pilot certificate, the Part 107 certificate is a license to learn. So the next step in my drone journey was to enroll in the Drone Maneuvers Mastery Course; and then to practice, and practice some more.
As an aside, many recreational drone pilots are in the opposite situation than I was: They already know how to fly drones, but need to learn about airspace and charts to pass the FAA Part 107 test. These folks may be interested in Pilot Institute's Airspace and Charts for UAS/Drone Pilots course. It's designed for drone pilots who already know how to fly, but need work understanding the National Airspace system and how to read aeronautical charts, either to improve their recreational flying or to pass the Part 107 test.