A drone pilot refers to a person who operates an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), makes it take off, stay on course, and lastly, land safely. Along with actually flying a drone, a drone pilot often operates cameras and communicates with property owners or business owners about operations in the area.
Here are the industries where drones are now regularly and increasingly being used:
- Real estate
- Law enforcement
- Gas and electric utilities
In this post, you’ll learn all about how to become a drone pilot.
Eligibility Criteria to Become a Certified Drone Pilot
To be a certified drone pilot for commercial purposes or anything other than recreation or fun, you must obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the FAA. A Remote Pilot Certificate demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones.
Here’s the eligibility criteria laid down by the FAA for a first-time drone pilot.
To become a drone pilot you must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
- Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG)”
Requirements for Remote Pilot Certificate:
- Must be easily accessible by the remote pilot during all UAS operations
- Certificate holders must complete an online recurrent training every 24 calendar months to maintain aeronautical knowledge recency
5 Steps to Become A Certified Drone Pilot
Here are the steps you need to follow to become a certified drone pilot:
Step #1: Prepare for Testing
While there’s no mandatory curriculum you need to prepare for in order to take the UAG Unmanned Aircraft General – Small knowledge test, you still need to prepare for the knowledge test. I recommend that you take a drone ground school course that covers the following knowledge areas:
- Federal regulations for operating small aircraft
- Aircraft performance
- Basic knowledge of Aviation Meteorology
- Airspace structure & Airspace Restrictions with knowledge of No Drones Zones
- Emergency procedures
- Preflight and maintenance
- Night Operations
Once you feel confident about all these important knowledge areas, take a few practice tests. Now, set up an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) with IACRA, find a test center, and register for the FAA knowledge test.
Step #2: Take & Pass the FAA Exam
The FAA exam is a knowledge test that has 60 questions. You have two hours to answer these questions. The test fee is $175. Note that if you fail to answer at least 70% of the questions correctly, you’ll need to retake the exam. You must wait 14 days for the next attempt.
Step #3: Obtain a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate
After you successfully pass the FAA exam, the next step is to obtain a remote pilot certificate. For this, you’ll have to complete the FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application). Once you’ve passed a TSA security background check, and everything is processed with the FAA, your certificate will be mailed to you. This will officially make you a drone pilot.
Step #4: Purchase a Drone
This step is optional. You can buy a drone for yourself to practice. However, it’s not necessary to own a drone. For example, if you are hired as an employee, the company may provide its own UAV for you to fly.
If you still do purchase a drone, ensure that you register it under Part 107 or the Exception for Recreational Flyers with the FAA. Note that it’s only required if your drone weighs more than 250 grams.
Here are the steps to register your drone:
- Visit dronezone.faa.gov and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107” to create an account.
- Register your drone. Registration costs $5 and is valid for three years. You can pay by credit or debit card. Keep the make and model of your drone handy to register.
- Mark your drone with your registration number if it gets lost or stolen.
Step #5: Keep Your Drone Pilot Certificate Current
It is important even for certified drone pilots to keep their aviation knowledge up to date. If you have a Remote Pilot Certificate, you are required to have completed one of the following online training courses within the previous 24 calendar months to operate UAS under part 107:
For anyone who holds a 107 remote pilot certificate:
- Complete the Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent (ALC-677) online training course (free of cost)
- Complete the Part 107 Small UAS Recurrent (ALC-515) online training course (free of cost)
Is It Mandatory to Get a Drone License?
I have come across this question a lot of times – Is It Mandatory to Get a Drone License?
The answer is Yes. Everyone needs a drone certificate to fly a drone regardless of whether they are flying recreationally or commercially.
If you plan to fly your drone only for recreation purposes, all you need to do is give a 15-30 minute long, Free of cost test. Visit The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) for more details.
However, if you plan you use a drone for anything other than ‘recreational purposes’, then you’ll need a Part 107 license.
So, that’s how you can become a drone pilot in the United States. Make sure that you fulfill the eligibility criteria and follow all the steps given above to have a hassle-free experience of becoming a drone pilot certified by the FAA.
Thanks for reading
I hope this guide helped you gain all the information about how to become a drone pilot. 🙂
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