Part 107 - How to Study for the FAA Drone Pilot Exam
Intro To The Part 107 Airman Knowledge Test
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced on June 22, 2016 a regulation change for commercial drone pilots. The FAA considers any drone flight that promotes a business in any way to be a “commercial” UAV flight (also known as non-recreational use). Non-recreational use, as defined by the FAA, can include everything from a fire department conducting search and rescue missions, a business filming event footage to train employees, and architects or engineers surveying property. If you are just flying for fun with no intention to sell your services or photos, this article is not relevant for you because you are considered a “hobbyist drone pilot”.
Old UAV Regulations: In the past, the rules for commercial UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) flights required that the pilot fly under a 333 Exemption which usually took four to six months to get back from the FAA. Once you actually got your exemption, the pilot of the drone had to have a current pilot’s license. Yes! A manned pilot’s license for either a helicopter, airplane, hot air ballon, or some equivalent. This obviously severely limited the market.
New UAV Regulations: The new regulations for drone pilots provide a much more simple process. Commercial drone pilots will need to take take and pass the FAA Airman Knowledge Test at a local FAA Testing Center. This test is essentially a shorter version of a traditional private pilot ground school. The test is two hours long and sixty questions.
This article has curated all of the information that you need to know to decide whether you will take the FAA Airman Knowledge Test and help you decide how to prepare.
DARTdrones Flight School is a national flight school for drone pilots offering in-person courses and online courses that cover learning to fly your drone and learning to pass the FAA Airman Knowledge Test.
Preparing for the Part 107 Test
The Airman Knowledge Test Topics
The FAA needs to make sure that all commercial drone pilots have the ability to act responsibly, coordinate with Air Traffic Control in case of an emergency, read aeronautical maps, and abide by all regulations pertaining to UAV regulations and also general aviation regulations. The FAA has announced that they will test on the following topics:
- Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
- Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small UA operation;
- Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small UA performance;
- Small UA loading and performance;
- Emergency procedures;
- Crew Resource Management (CRM);
- Radio communication procedures;
- Determining the performance of small UA;
- Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
- Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and judgment;
- Airport operations; and
- Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
Do You Know Your Drone Test Acronyms?
Pilots LOVE confusing acronyms. To pass the Airman Knowledge Test, you will need to understand and recognize dozens of acronyms. Test some of your knowledge here:
Do You Know the Important Aviation Terms?
This is not an exhaustive list, but in order to pass the FAA Airman Knowledge Test, you will need to make sure that you understand the following terms:
- Aeronautical Charts
- Air Masses
- Alert Area
- Atmospheric Pressure
- Atmospheric Stability
- Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS)
- Control Station
- Controlled Airspace
- Controlled Firing Areas
- Direct User Access Terminal Service (DUATS)
- Exhaust Plumes
- Global Positioning System
- Instrumental Flight Rules (IFR)
- Local Airport Advisory
- Lost Link
- Military Operations Area
- Military Training Route (MTR)
- Nautical Mile
- Non-Towered Airport
- Remote PIC
- Restricted Area
- Rough Air
- Seaplane Bases
- Situational Awareness
- Small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS)
- Stable Air Mass
- Station Identifier
- Statute Miles (SM)
- Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF)
- Towered Airport
- Information Briefing Service (TIBS)
- Uncontrolled Airspace
- Visual Flight Rules (VFR)
- Warning Area
Key Phrases to Understand
Learning how to fly the right way is a crucial component for safe drone operation, but operators should also be familiar with the new rule change and its terminology. If you’ve been following the most recent news from the FAA, you’ll find that most articles focus on the rule change itself but don’t do a great job explaining the vocabulary. We know how confusing it can be to try and keep up with all of the updates from the FAA, so we’ve put together a short list that explains some of the concepts related to the recent rule change.
Definition #1: Part 107
If you haven’t heard the phrase “Part 107” by now, it’s time to read up on it and learn what it means. Part 107 has perhaps been the most talked about topic since the FAA notified the public of the rule change in June. To be perfectly clear, Part 107 is a publication that was released by the FAA describing several changes to the current guidelines for the commercial use of drones. It was first proposed by the FAA in February 2015 and will finally go into effect starting in late August. The 624 page document covers each rule change in great detail, but essentially, Part 107 is designed to allow commercial drone use without a Section 333 exemption. Some of the upcoming rule changes include: a 400 foot maximum altitude limit while flying, the exclusion of night flights, obtaining an Unmanned Aircraft Operator Certificate with a sUAS rating, and maintaining a visual line of sight at all times. A 2 page overview of the contents of Part 107 can be found on the FAA’s website as well as the complete text.
Definition #2: The Aeronautical Knowledge Test
The aeronautical knowledge test is a written exam similar to a driver’s license test – it covers nearly every aspect of drone operation from emergency procedures to aircraft components. You only have to be 14 years of age to take the test, but you can’t receive a certificate until you turn 16.
Definition #3: UAV License
Technically, the term “UAV License” is not correct, but many drone enthusiasts call it a UAV License. What they are referring to is the UAV Operator Certificate. Upon passing the exam, test takers will need to apply for a UAV Operator Certificate, a new type of pilot’s license for commercial drone pilots that never expires. The FAA anticipates that it could take anywhere between 6 to 8 weeks to issue a permanent UAV Operator Certificate, but temporary certificates can be issued approximately 10 business days following a grant approval.
Definition #4: sUAS Small Operator Certificate
A sUAS Small Operator Certificate is a UAV Operator Certificate that allows you to legally operate UAVs weighing less that 55 lbs. It’s basically the equivalent to a pilot’s license for small unmanned aircrafts. For an operator certificate to be valid, it must also have a small UAS rating which is required by the FAA and added to existing pilot privileges.
Definition #5: 14 CFR Part 61
14 CFR Part 61 is the written formula for obtaining a private pilot certificate. Pilots who choose to be trained under Part 61 undergo professional training that includes a number of knowledge and experience requirements. Holding a Part 61 pilot certificate allows you to fly commercially, but under Part 107, commercial operators will no longer need a pilot’s license. Starting in August, the FAA rules will only require prospective operators to pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain a sUAS Small Operator Certificate. Becoming certified under Part 61 can be a daunting task, so don’t waste your time (or money) on it! By the time you actually become certified under Part 61, the aeronautical test will be available.
Definition #6: Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
Another term that has caused a buzz in the drone community is the NPRM. The four-letter acronym stands for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, a 195 page proposal describing arrangements that would change the rules for commercial UAS operators. When the NPRM was published in February 2015, it was the first time anybody had heard about the new Part 107 rule changes. Although it was unknown exactly when these guidelines would go into effect, the document highlighted several rule changes such as the removal of the Section 333 exemption and the introduction of the aeronautical knowledge test that satisfies 3 of the 4 current UAS certifications. The NPRM is no longer relevant because Part 107 finally came out. If you don’t want to spend the time reading the entire 195 page document, the FAA also released a 2 page overview of the Small UAS NPRM.
Definition #7: BLOS Certificate
Under Part 107, operators must maintain a visual line of sight at all times. This means that flying is prohibited if, at any point, the operator or visual observer cannot see your drone. Some commercial operators don’t have a problem with this rule, but others find it impeding if they are hoping to make long-distance deliveries or large inspections. Part 107 contains a provision that allows operators to apply for a BLOS certificate – “beyond line of sight.” Once granted a certificate, operators can fly over people and operate a drone at night as long as the drone is properly equipped with lights. We talk about this more in the “Waiver” section of this article.
Definition #8: Section 333 Exemption
Before Part 107 was introduced, obtaining a Section 333 exemption was mandatory in becoming a commercially certified pilot. A 333 exemption is a 12-20 page document submitted to the FAA that takes 4-7 months to get granted. Unlike hobbyists, commercial operators had to get the nod from the FAA by filing for an exemption and having it approved. Commercial pilots paid anywhere between $500 – $5,000 to have an exemption filed for them, and long wait times made getting one a hassle. Thankfully, prospective operators will no longer need a 333 exemption or a pilot’s license to fly commercially. Part 107 is designed to allow commercial drone use without an exemption, thus making the certification process a lot smoother. 333 exemptions are still obtainable through the FAA, but if you haven’t filed one yet, you’re better off waiting until the aeronautical knowledge test is available in August.
Definition #9: Drone License
A drone license is no different than a sUAS Small Operator Certificate. Once you hold a certificate, you can legally operate a UAV under 55lbs. for commercial purposes.
Definition #10: The Airman Knowledge Test
The airman knowledge test is your ticket into the aerospace industry. It’s the same thing as the aeronautical knowledge test that will be available starting in August.
Part 107 Practice Questions
These are a few examples of some of the test questions that you will have to know to pass the Part 107 Exam. You will probably see that this isn’t a test that you can just wing.
Professional Part 107 Training
Why Get Trained for the Aeronautical Knowledge Test?
The information required to pass the Aeronautical Knowledge test is completely overwhelming for non-pilots. Our DARTdrones UAS Ground School courses are offered both online and in-person around the country. Our course acts as an FAA Test Prep Course that is designed to teach drone pilots how to pass the test.
DARTdrones UAS Ground School Course
DARTdrones offers our UAS Ground School Course both in-person and online. Upon registration of the course, you will receive a 40 page study guide, practice tests, downloadable resources, and access to our Chief Pilot. Check out the intro to our Online Ground School course which walks you through our class topics.
The Details of Taking the Part 107 Test
Requirements for the UAS Operator Certification
The Remote Pilot In Command must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Be able to read, speak, write and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with safe sUAS operation and fulfill all testing requirements
Registering for the Airman Knowledge Test
You can pre-register for the exam here and pay your registration fee, but not choose a test date just yet. Within a few days, a representative from a CATS Testing Center will call you to reserve your spot. You can also call the CATS facility directly to book your test day at 800-947-4228.
Each testing center will have a proctor and a few computer stations on which you can take your electronic exam. The proctor will take your fingerprints upon your arrival and on each time you leave the room. You will have two hours to complete the test and you will receive your score when you complete the test.
If you do not pass the test, you will need to wait 14 days before you can register again. You will need to pay the $150 fee each time you take the exam.
Where to Complete The FAA Drone Test
The FAA has approved close to 700 testing centers in the United States. You can find one near you on this list.
UAV Recurrence Testing
Your remote pilot certificate will be valid for 24 months from the date you pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. During this time, you will be required to stay up to date on FAA rules and regulations to maintain your aeronautical knowledge and expertise. You will be required to pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test to continue to fly your UAV in the National Airspace.
If you are a commercial pilot who holds a part 61 pilot certificate, and if you have completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months, you may complete a recurrent online training course instead of taking the knowledge test.
UAS Regulations for Current Commercial Pilots
If you hold a Part 61 certificate, have been active within 90 days, and have completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months, you don’t need to take the Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Instead, you need to complete an online training called “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” and subsequently apply for a rating by filling out an FAA form called “8710-13.” Once you’ve completed both requirements, you can legally operate a UAV for commercial purposes. The online course covers the following topics:
- Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
- Airspace classification and operating requirements and flight restrictions affecting small UA operation;
- Emergency procedures;
- ADM and judgment;
- Airport operations; and
- Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
Current pilots can learn more about the exam here: https://www.faasafety.gov
Drone Registration vs Drone Certification
Many UAV operators are confused by the language distinguishing UAV registration from UAV certification. These terms do not mean the same thing. You must register your drone with the FAA before doing anything else, even if you are just a hobbyist.
All drones weighing between .55 pounds and 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA for a $5 fee. Your registration will be valid for three years and should be modified or canceled if you sell your drone or transfer its ownership in any other way. The FAA may impose steep penalties on anyone who fails to register his or her drone. Civil penalties can range anywhere from $0 to $27,500, and criminal penalties can reach $250,000 and up to three years in prison.
Register here: https://registermyuas.faa.gov
Drone pilot certification, on the other hand, occurs when an operator obtains a Remote Pilot Certificate, earned by passing the FAA Aeronautical Knowledge Test. Once you pass the test, you will be able to apply for certification either online or by mail. When you submit an application online, you must submit it using IACRA, the FAA’s online application system designed to enable the certification of private and UAV pilots. After submitting your application, you will receive an email notification to print and sign a temporary certificate via IACRA. This temporary certificate will be valid until your permanent certificate arrives by mail.
What to Bring To the Airman Knowledge Test
Make sure you bring your driver’s license, a basic calculator, and a pencil and paper. You are not allowed to bring advanced calculators, mobile phone or other devices into the test room. Other considerations:
- You may use any reference materials provided with the test. In addition, you may use scales, straightedges, protractors, plotters, navigation computers, log sheets, and electronic or mechanical calculators that are directly related to the test.
- Manufacturer’s permanently inscribed instructions on the front and back of such aids (e.g., formulas, conversions, regulations, signals, weather data, frequencies, weight-and-balance formulas) are permissible.
- Testing centers may provide a calculator to you and/or deny use of your personal calculator based on the following limitations: a. Prior to, and upon completion of the test, while in the presence of the Unit Member (formerly referred to as proctor), you must actuate the ON/OFF switch and perform any other function that ensures erasure of any data stored in memory circuits. b. The use of electronic calculators incorporating permanent or continuous type memory circuits without erasure capability is prohibited. The Unit Member may refuse the use of your calculator when unable to determine the calculator’s erasure capability. c. Printouts of data must be surrendered at the completion of the test if the calculator incorporates this design feature. d. The use of magnetic cards, magnetic tapes, modules, computer chips, or any other device upon which pre-written programs or information related to the test can be stored and retrieved is prohibited. e. You are not permitted to use any booklet or manual containing instructions related to use of test aids.
- Dictionaries are not allowed in the testing area.
- The Unit Member makes the final determination relating to test materials and personal possessions you may take into the testing area.
Part 107 Operational Limits
Under Part 107, UAS pilots will be limited to the following operational limits:
- Operation from a moving vehicle or aircraft
- You may not fly a UAV from a moving land or “water-borne” vehicle unless it is being flown over a sparsely populated area.
- Flying at night
- You may not operate a UAV at night
- Additionally, you may not fly during periods of civil twilight unless the UAV has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. A statute mile is the official name for what is commonly known as a “mile”, and is equal to 5,280 feet; civil twilight is defined as a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise, or a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset. This is true except for if in Alaska, where civil twilight is defined in the Air Almanac.
- Flying a drone outside of your visual line of sight – No binoculars.
- Flying without a Visual Observer (VO)
- You must meet several conditions if you plan to operate a UAV with the assistance of a visual observer. A Visual Observer is an individual who is designated by the remote pilot in command to assist the remote pilot in command and the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS to see and avoid other air traffic or objects aloft or on the ground. If you can’t meet each requirement, you must obtain a Certificate of Waiver from the FAA.
- There must be effective communication between the remote pilot in command, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small unmanned aircraft system, and the visual observer at all times. These individuals must also coordinate to scan the airspace where the small unmanned aircraft is operating for any potential collision hazard, and maintain awareness of the position of the small unmanned aircraft through direct visual observation. The remote PIC is responsible for ensuring that the VO is able to see the UAV at all times during flight or has the capability to quickly maneuver the UAV back into sight. There can be exceptions to this rule in the case of emergency or safety hazard.
- Operation over people
- You may not operate a UAV over any person who is not either directly participating in its operation, or who is not located under a covered structure that can provide them reasonable protection from a falling small unmanned aircraft.
- Operating in certain airspace
- You may not operate in restricted or prohibited areas without first obtaining permission from the using or controlling agency. No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC).
- Hazardous Materials
- A small unmanned aircraft may not carry hazardous material. Hazardous material can be defined as any substance or material that the Secretary of Transportation has determined is capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, and property when transported in commerce, and has designated as hazardous under section 5103 of Federal hazardous materials transportation law (49 U.S.C. 5103).
Certificate of Waiver
Introduction to the Certificate of Waiver (CoW) from the FAA
Beginning on August 29, 2016 drone pilots will no longer need a 333 exemption or certificate of authorization (COA) to operate a UAV for non-recreational purposes. The rule changes, titled Small UAS Rule Part 107, were announced in June and have generated plenty of excitement within the UAS industry. The old rules required anyone from wedding photographers, firefighters, engineers, and realtors to: a) hold a commercial pilot’s license, and b) go through a lengthy approval process with the FAA. The regulatory update eliminates the pilot’s license requirement and greatly reduces the scenarios in which a UAV operator would need to navigate a complex application process before flying commercially; however, the modified rules still require operators obtain FAA approval before flying in certain scenarios.
The FAA has replaced the Section 333 exemption and Certificate of Authorization with what is called a Certificate of Waiver. The process to obtain a 333 exemption took approximately 4-6 months due to a significant backlog at the FAA. The FAA now estimates that 85% of previous filers would no longer need distinct approval, significantly reducing delays. Applicants can now expect responses within 90 days of their submissions, however, the length of time required by the FAA to process your request may vary depending on the complexity of your situation. If a CoW is granted, that certificate may include specific special provisions designed to ensure that the sUAS operation may be conducted as safely as one conducted under the provisions of part 107. A listing of standard special provisions for part 107 waivers will be available on the FAA’s Web site at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
The amount of data and analysis required as part of the application will be proportional to the specific relief that is requested. For example, a request to waive several sections of Part 107 for an operation such as inspecting a skyscraper in Mid-Town Manhattan will likely require significantly more data and analysis than would a request to fly a UAV to collect video footage of a desert sunset during civil twilight.
If the FAA does grant a CoW, the certificate may include special provisions designed to ensure that the sUAS operation may be conducted as safely as one conducted under the provisions of part 107. A listing of standard special provisions for Part 107 waivers will be available on the FAA’s Web site at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
For more information, follow this link.
Delivering Goods with Certificate of Waiver
Many organizations are testing drones as a delivery mechanism. Amazon.com makes news every year (seemingly and un-coincidentally right before Black Friday) regarding drone delivery. A company called Zipline plans to begin delivering blood and medicine to rural areas in the near future. 7-eleven recently conducted a test delivery of a Slurpee.
Prior to 2016, services such as these were prohibited as drone pilots were not allowed to carry property for compensation. The new sUAS rules have made it easier for organizations to fly for non-recreational purposes but delivery operations may only fly one mission at a time and the UAV must be in the line of sight of the pilot at all times.
Transportation of Property
Part 107 permits transportation of property by sUAS for compensation or hire. These operations must be conducted within a confined area and in compliance with the operating restrictions of Part 107. When conducting the transportation of property, the transport must occur wholly within the bounds of a state. It may not involve transport between, 1) Hawaii and another place in Hawaii through airspace outside Hawaii, 2) the District of Columbia (DC) and another place in DC, or 3) a territory or possession of the United States and another place in the same territory or possession, as this is defined by statute as interstate air transportation. 5.14.1 Limitations. As with other operations in Part 107, sUAS operations involving the transport of property must be conducted within VLOS of the remote pilot. While the VLOS limitation can be waived for some operations under the rule, it cannot for transportation of property. Additionally, Part 107 does not allow the operation of an sUAS from a moving vehicle or aircraft if the small UA is being used to transport property for compensation or hire.