DARTdrones Announcements

DARTdrones Helps Bring Drone Pilots to the Top of the Market as an Early Adopter of AUVSI’s Trusted Operator Program™

For over a year, DARTdrones has been working closely with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and other small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) industry leaders to help develop the Trusted Operator Program™ (TOP). DARTdrones is honored to work with AUVSI in supporting the aviation industry in a safe, responsible and economically beneficial way. The DARTdrones Team looks forward to helping drone pilots build a solid foundation to succeed within the drone industry.

DARTdrones CEO and Co-founder, Abby Speicher Carroll stated, “It’s been an honor to work with some of the nation’s leading drone pilots to develop the Trusted Operator Program. TOP gives drone pilots the opportunity to stand out as a truly safety minded pilot and earn the industry’s first drone certification.”

What is the Trusted Operator Program?

The Trusted Operator Program (TOP) is a UAS community initiative designed to identify industry best practices, set an expected code of conduct and professionalize the drone pilot network. Spearheaded by AUVSI and developed in collaboration with UAS industry leaders, TOP provides a standardized way to evaluate competency of both individual remote pilots and UAS service providers. As a Level 3 TOP certified Training Provider, DARTdrones training is proven to provide drone pilots with a reliable, safe and professional foundation to further distinguish themselves in the market.

TOP is for individuals operating UAS for commercial and certain other non-hobby purposes. The program complements current regulatory compliance by adding multiple elements such as safety culture, airmanship, human performance, risk management, automation awareness and more. A TOP certification is valid for two years from the date of issue and is offered at three different levels. Each level corresponds to the risk, complexity and nature of the applicant’s UAS operations. Once the applicant completes training through a TOP Certified Training Provider such as DARTdrones, they will become a TOP Operator™ and will reap the many benefits such as global recognition, customer trust, new level of professionalism and more. 

The Trusted Operator Program™ is a global program. The certification mark indicates the country and regulatory structure for which the certification was obtained. See below for the certification marks for Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Trusted Operator Program Certification

Trusted Operator Program™ Levels

TOP Level 1TOP Level 1 Remote Pilot Certification | Level 1 TOP Operators are identified as skilled for flying missions such as:

  • Routine operations in accordance with FAA CFR Part 107, or equivalent in other countries
  • Operations that do not require a waiver of FAA CFR Part 107 or equivalent in other countries
  • Operations in which the pilot is competent and proficient
  • Flights using electric aircraft less than 5 pounds or 2 kilograms
  • Operations that do not have any of the characteristics mentioned in Level 2 or 3

TOP Level 2 | Level 2 TOP Operators are identified as skilled for flying missions such as:

  • Any operation that requires a waiver under FAA CFR Part 107 (USA) or the equivalent in other countries
  • Operations that require a visual observer, or sensor operator
  • Operations with elevated risk factors or complexity including: operations close to airports, helipads, populated areas, people and livestock
  • Operations that do not have any of the characteristics mentioned in Level 3

TOP Level 3 | Drone pilots can earn their TOP Level 3 Certification by proving the completion of TOP Level 2 plus completing additional in-person training and hands-on flight evaluation. DARTdrones does not offer curriculum for Level 3 TOP training at this time. Level 3 TOP Operators are identified as skilled for flying missions such as:

  • Any of the characteristics of Level 2, plus the following;
  • Operations in safety critical and complex areas that require higher levels of risk mitigation
    • Industrial and chemical facilities including; off shore oil rigs, mine sites, power plants
    • Infrastructure including; wind turbines, power lines, communications towers, rail and pipe
  • Operations in any hazardous or extreme environments including;
    • From ships, moving vehicles, aircraft, confined areas and sub terrain
    • Within close proximity to and within severe weather (storm research)
    • Remote, harsh or hostile locations, including wildlife considerations
  • Operations requiring the development and testing of new procedures

DARTdrones TOP Curriculum

As an early adopter of AUVSI’s Trusted Operator Program, DARTdrones offers comprehensive, online and in-person curriculum for TOP Level 1 and TOP Level 2 Remote Pilot Certification training.

DARTdrones’ Chief Pilot, Colin Romberger stated, “The goal of TOP is to ensure that commercial UAS operations are always conducted safely and with a proven set of effective procedures; regardless of the type of flights conducted and the specific data being gathered. This is important for both manual and autonomous flights, as well as line of sight and BVLOS applications with small and large unmanned aircraft systems. The vast majority of sUAS accidents that have occurred since the release of the FAA’s Part 107 regulations have involved easily preventable factors that should have been identified and resolved during preflight planning, or via routine maintenance and inspection protocols. Too many operators are allowing flights to commence without thorough preparation and shortsighted flight plans, and AUVSI’s TOP aims to correct this. Unless the entire civil unmanned aircraft systems community commits itself to an emphasis on safety, unfortunate accidents will threaten the future of the industry and this is especially true now, while it is still in its relative infancy. At DARTdrones, we have always been committed to improving safe and effective sUAS operations through proper education and training experiences, and we are proud to be members of AUVSI and early adopters of TOP!”

TOP Level 1

Becoming a Level 1 TOP Operator requires all drone pilots to complete the following:

  • 14 Online Micro Courses including site assessment, real-world airspace, weather assessment, battery care and safety, air law and more
  • Proof of Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate

Upon completing the above requirements, the newly designated TOP Operator will receive the following:

  • A digital copy of the TOP Protocol Certification Manual
  • AUVSI TOP Level 1 Gold Embossed Certificate
  • AUVSI TOP Level 1 Pin
  • Listed on TOP Operator Directory as TOP Level 1 Pilot

TOP Level 2

To become certified as a Level 2 TOP Operator, all drone pilots must complete the following:

  • TOP Level 1 Certification
  • 1.5 Day In-Person Instructor Led Training including topics such as preflight planning, real-world operations, aerial inspection techniques, managing drone emergencies and more
  • Hands-on Flight Evaluation with DARTdrones Instructor

Upon completing the above requirements, the newly designated TOP Operator will receive the following:

  • AUVSI TOP Level 2 Gold Embossed Certificate
  • AUVSI TOP Level 2 Pin
  • Listed on TOP Operator Directory as Level 2 Pilot

DARTdrones Certified Level 3 TOP Instructors

DARTdrones is comprised of 40+ flight instructors who are all manned and unmanned aircraft pilots and have 11,000+ hours of combined training experience. Two of our expert flight instructors, Colin and Jerry, have recently traveled to New York to become certified Level 3 TOP Operators.

Trusted Operator Program Level III Instructor: Colin RombergerColin Romberger | Colin is a both a private pilot and advanced ground instructor, and holds a Master’s Degree in UAS Design and Operations from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He has been building and flying R/C aircraft for over 20 years, and currently owns and operates a drone services company in Pennsylvania with a focus on mapping and inspections.



Trusted Operator Program Level III Instructor: Jerry WhiteJerry White | Jerry has his own video production company and has been in the business for more than 20 years. When he’s not shooting videos or flying sUAS, he flies as a contract pilot for different clients in Central Texas. He has 3,000 hours of flight time and has been a flight instructor, full-time corporate pilot, and an airline pilot.



With any questions on the Trusted Operator Program, please contact the DARTdrones Team at 800-264-3907 or [email protected].

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