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Learn what a remote pilot license is, and if you fly drones, see how you can get yours in no time. We have all the steps you need to meet the FAA’s new laws involving flying small drones, and we’ll show you exactly what you need to do.
What is a Remote Pilot Certificate?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) passed some new rules about commercial drone use, which means you can now get fined up to $1,100 for selling your drone photos. The new rules state that all unmanned aerial systems (UAS), like drones or quadcopters operated for business purposes, or anything you make a profit from, must be approved by the FAA.
This approval comes in the form of a drone license, and the small UAS must weigh less than 55 pounds including everything attached to the aircraft as well. The first ever remote pilot licenses began being distributed in August of 2016, and they will need to be renewed every two years.
Once you earn your license or certificate, you can legally fly a drone “with the intent to make a profit” from either selling your video footage or using the drone to deliver goods. The FAA, which is an integral part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, aims to protect civilian’s aviation safety, and they work to provide safety regulations for air traffic of various types.
The rule extends to operational limitations, and requirements vary based on the type of aircraft. To learn more about the FAA rule, you can read a summary dated June of 2016.
A remote pilot certificate may be known by a variety of different names, including:
- Commercial drone license
- Drone pilot license
Even if some places call the certification a commercial drone license, it is not required that you commercially fly. It covers commercial, recreational, and governmental use of drones.
Who Needs to Get This Certificate?
You need to get your commercial drone license and certification if you want to:
- Fly drones for your job
- Make money flying drones
If you want to fly a drone for business or company purposes and plan to make money from doing so, you need certification. The certificate is a license that allows you to fly a drone for hire, using countless opportunities to do so.
This could include:
- News reporting
- Sports events
- Concert coverage
- Special event coverage
- Tourism marketing
- Private or family event photography, including weddings
- Land developing
- Project management
- Maintenance and repair
- Property video and photos
- Site planning
- Digital modeling
- Asset monitoring
- Elevation mapping
- Law enforcement
- Asset management
- Infrastructure inspection
- Aerial mapping
- Land cover
- Forestry inspection
- Natural Resource Management
- Bridge inspection
- Powerline and pipeline patrol
- Crop management
- Drought monitoring
- Plant examination
- Pest control
- Vegetation inspection
- Natural disaster relief
- Oil spill monitoring
- Flood assessment
- Sinkhole inspection
- Pilot training
- Wildlife risk mitigation
- Search and rescue
- Photography and videography
- Delivery services
How to Earn Your Remote Pilot Certification
If you want to earn your license, you will need to be at least 16 years old and the ability to read, write, and speak English proficiently. You must also not have any physical or mental condition that could interfere with your ability to operate a UAS safely.
To become FAA certified as a remote pilot, you need to pass a test. The FAA Knowledge Test may be a mix of objective and multiple-choice questions, and you must pay a small fee. You don’t need any experience flying to earn your license. However, you do need to be knowledgeable on the subject enough to pass the testing. Each question will only have one right answer, and there are 60 questions.
You can either head to an FAA-approved testing center near you or perhaps find tests online. There is usually a small fee to take the test. To prepare for the test in advance, consider trying out some online practice tests. If you’re already a pilot, you may also need to take an online test.
Step-by-Step Instructions to Get Started
To apply for your test, find an approved testing center and follow these steps:
- 1Study using an online prep test, such as Gleim FAA Test Prep Online
- 2Make an appointment with the testing center. You can find a list of the testing centers here.
- 3Take and pass your knowledge test at a computer-assisted testing service (CATS)
- 4Hold onto the knowledge test report you receive, which shows your passing score over 70%
- 5Complete FAA form 8710-13 in writing via the Integrated Airmen Certificate or Rating Application and submit it online
- 6Complete the TSA background check
- 7Check your email for further instructions
- 8Print a copy of your temporary certificate
- 9Check for your permanent certificate in the mail after the FAA is finished processing your certification
Instead of submitting form 8710-13 online, which is recommended for much shorter processing and wait times, you can send in the form through the mail. If you do choose to send it online, you will need to register in the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system.
This step does not require an authorized person to verify your identity because they will complete that step at the testing center. It’s worth noting that your test report might not be available in the system for up to 48 hours after you’ve taken the test.
If you are already a pilot, the process will be different for you. Applicants with another type of pilot license or any type of pilot certificate of any grade except student pilot level for any type of aircraft is considered. As long as it’s issued by the FAA under the 61st part of the regulations and you completed a flight review sometime within the previous two years, you can file as a pilot applicant.
The main difference is that pilot applicants need to take an online course and apply for the FAA’s application in writing or online. Online applications can take less time to process, but they require you to create a username and password to receive your FAA tracking number and submit your application.
You’ll need to show a certified flight instructor proof of your online certificate completion, tracking number, application ID number, and other pilot certification proof. During this visit, you should be able to receive a temporary certificate while you wait for your permanent certificate in the mail.
Renewing Your License
Your remote pilot license is good for two years or 24 calendar months. Afterward, you are required to complete another training course or pass a recurrent knowledge test if you want to continue to exercise the privileges this certificate affords you.
You have two main options to renew your license. If you’re a drone and manned pilot (qualified as part 61), you can:
- Retake Part 107 of the Knowledge Test and a qualified testing center
- Complete an online training course from the FAAS Team website
On the other hand, if you are a drone pilot without a manned pilot qualification, you must take the recurrent piece of the knowledge test at a testing center. The main difference between the initial and recurrent test, which is also considered an online training course, is the length. While both versions of the test will meet your requirements to maintain your remote certificate, the initial test is much longer.
The documents you receive need to be available when and if the FAA requests them, but they do not specify how you must hold or store your certificate or knowledge test report. It’s suggested that you keep them in a safe place and have them available when you fly your drone for work purposes. Be prepared to show proof of your certification if necessary.
Drone Flying Safety Tips
When flying a drone for recreational or commercial purposes, there are a few important safety tips to remember and follow, including:
- Check out the FAA’s airspace restrictions to learn where you can and cannot fly
- Never fly new aircraft, especially within five miles of an airport
- Don’t fly over large groups of people at public events or sports stadiums
- Avoid emergencies and emergency efforts, such as fires or hurricane recovery
- Respect people’s privacy
- Never fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Keep your drone within your line of sight at all times
- Fly at or under 400 feet
You may also want to register your drone with the FAA, which involves labeling your small UAS with your registration number. It only costs $5 per drone, and the registration is valid for up to three years. In order to register, all you need is:
- Debit or credit card
- Email address
- Mailing address
- Make and model of your small UAS
Other Resources to Help You Prepare
There are a few training course and checklists that will help you prepare to get your remote pilot certificate, including:
- Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
- FAA Safety Team Part 107 Small UAS Training Course
- FAA Unmanned Aircraft General-Small Sample Exam
- FAA Advisory Circular 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft System
- FAA Remote Pilot Knowledge Test Guide
- Knowledge Test Study Guide
- Knowledge Test Sample Questions
- AOPA Checklist for obtaining your certificate
- FAA Remote Pilot-Small UAS Airman Certification Standards