United States law requires people who fly drones for pay, compensation, or any other reason besides recreation, to get a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Among drone pilots this is referred to as being "107 certified" or "having my 107." The "107" refers to the law regulating small unmanned aircraft.
Once you "have your 107," you are legally authorized to operate drones for commercial, non-recreational purposes. The certificate, therefore, is commonly referred to as a "Commercial Drone Pilot License." The correct term, however, is Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small Unmanned Aircraft System rating.
By the way, the FAA's view of "compensation" is quite broad. It includes direct payments, advertising revenue, endorsements, sponsorships, barter, merchandise, or anything else of value. So if you upload drone videos to YouTube or any other monetized platform with the intention of making money, you need to be certificated as a remote pilot. The same is true if you publish reviews of drones that manufacturers send you. The drone itself and your being able to use it for free are considered compensation.
In a nutshell, if money or anything of value changes hands, then chances are that the FAA will consider it compensation.
Part 107 refers to the U.S. law that regulates Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), 14 CFR Part 107, which can be found here. It regulates the operation of all unmanned aircraft weighing less than 55 pounds (24.94kg).
You can do a lot of damage with a drone of just under 55 pounds, and the difficulty of the test reflects that. Even though the drone you fly recreationally may be tiny, the Part 107 license allows you to fly much bigger aircraft than a Mavic Air 2s or an Autel EVO II Pro 6K, just as examples.
Because the certificate will allow you to operate machines that can do damage or cause injury, the test is no joke. If you don't prepare for it, you will fail: and you won't get a refund on your testing fee. This page is intended to help people who have no prior aviation experience decide how to prepare for the FAA Part 107 test so they'll pass it the first time around.
If you already are certificated as a Part 61 pilot and have had a flight review in the past 24 months, you can get your Part 107 certificate by taking an online course provided by the FAA. You don't need to take any additional courses or examinations.
If you're not already certificated as a Part 61 pilot (or if you haven't had a flight review in the past 24 months), then the requirements to obtain a Part 107 certificate are:
Candidates who already hold Part 61 certificates (or certain other FAA certificates) have already been screened by TSA, whether they realize it or not, which will speed up the process a bit.
The Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge test is very similar to the Private Pilot Aeronautical Knowledge test, except without the navigation questions and with different rules and regulations questions. Specifically, according to the FAA, you will be tested on:
The areas that trip up most applicants who fail the Part 107 aeronautical knowledge test are:
Collectively, those topics constitute the bulk of the test; so you have to really understand them if you want to pass.
On the other hand, if you do understand airspace, charts, weather, and weather services, then all those questions are basically freebies because you literally will have the answers right in front of you. The answer to any chart question is right there on the chart, the answer to any METAR question question is right there in the METAR, and so forth.
The other good news for candidates who do understand those topics is that such a high percentage of the test questions are about airspace, charts, weather, and weather services that if you're well-prepared in those areas, it will be very difficult to fail the test.
Unfortunately, those areas are also the most difficult for most new drone pilots to learn and understand; so lets look at some strategies for aspiring remote pilots to learn the information needed to pass the FAA Part 107 test.
If you have no prior aviation experience, then the best way to pass the FAA Part 107 test on the first try is to take an online training course. Students who prepare using formal training courses from good schools have pass percentages in the high 90's on the FAA test.
My personal recommendation is that you consider the Pilot Institute Part 107 Made Easy course. Here's why:
I had an aviation background dating back to 1976, but I took this course anyway. I'm glad I did.
Another option if you already know how to fly drones, but need help understanding airspace and charts, is the Pilot Institute Airspace and Charts for Drone Pilots course. It focuses on just those two topics, which are the most difficult test topics for many candidates to understand.
At present, there is no requirement that you take an approved training course.
In fact, there's no such thing as an approved course. The FAA doesn't approve Part 107 courses. If anyone tells you that their course is approved by the FAA, they're lying.
I do highly recommend that you take a course like the Pilot Institute Part 107 Made Easy course if you're new to aviation, but it's not legally required.
If you like, you can prepare for the Part 107 test using Part 107 training materials from Amazon or other vendors. This may be a good option if you already have some experience, but it was in the past and you're rusty.
One nice thing about this method is that you can save a lot of money by downloading the training materials in digital form to read on your Kindle or other digital device, especially if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership. Paper books are expensive, and aviation-related books tend to change frequently. Had I decided to train this way I would have used digital rather than paper training materials.
The one exception to the digital downloads would have been the test supplement. The testing centers use paper test supplements, so I'd want to use one for practice to simulate the actual exam.
There also are YouTube channels that provide some free instruction that you can use to supplement your book learning. Just try to find channels whose owners are up-to-date and know what they're talking about.
You actually can prepare for your Part 107 drone pilot test for free, including all the books and study materials you'll need. Here's why.
The U.S. Federal Government, including the FAA, is prohibited by law from copyrighting anything it produces. That's a good thing, but it gets ever better because the the FAA has a long history of writing truly excellent books about all things aviation-related. What that means for you is that you legally can download, for free, everything you need to know to study for and pass your Part 107 exam.
If you want to try preparing for your test this way, I suggest you start with the following downloads:
If you decide to prepare for your Part 107 test completely on your own, then I suggest that you start with the Remote Pilot - Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide. It contains links and references to information in the rest of the manuals that you'll need to know.
I must warn you that although it has the advantage of being free, independent self-study is also the most difficult way to prepare yourself for the Part 107 test. Unless you have some prior aviation experience, you're likely to become confused at some point along the line. I suggest that you take a course instead. But I wanted to provide information about all the available options.
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