Passing your FAA Part 107 and getting certified as a commercial drone operator can seem like a difficult and time-consuming process, but it’s really much simpler than most people think.
In fact, to make it even simpler, we created a comprehensive study guide with all the information you’ll need to pass the test–the first time.
Download our study guide right now by clicking the link above, or check out this interview with Propeller’s own Mike Scott to hear about his experience getting licensed.
- What did you think the Part 107 license was going to be like before you started studying for it?
- What is the Part 107 test for?
- How was the process of registering and actually sitting down to take the test?
- Sixty multiple-choice test questions still sounds like a lot. How do you go about studying for that?
- What is a sectional chart?
- So key terms and sectional charts are super important. Is there another topic I should focus on?
- How many times did it take you to pass?
- Once you pass, are you immediately certified to fly?
- Out of everything you were tested on, what do you actually use when flying a site?
- Would you say this test was easier or harder than getting your driver’s license?
- With all the people you’ve worked with, what’s the biggest concern or fear about getting certified?
- Any last things you think drone surveying newbies should know about getting their Part 107 certification?
What did you think the Part 107 license was going to be like before you started studying for it?
Since I don’t have a flight background, when I originally started thinking about it I figured it was going to be relatively difficult. But then I actually met with a customer who’d taken a couple project engineers and set ‘em loose—they found a really efficient way to get it done. It took a lot of the anxiety out of taking tests on stuff I didn’t know anything about.
What is the Part 107 test for?
The Part 107 license is to ensure you have a basic understanding of what the rest of the folks in the airspace, who are not operating a drone, are doing. Everything you learn can be done on an app on site. But it’s understanding the basics just in case there’s an issue, or your phone’s not working, or you need to check what airspace you’re in.
Basically, having my Part 107 means I can commercially operate drones. Whether that’s flying for customers or getting paid to fly—I can do those legally in proper airspace.
How was the process of registering and actually sitting down to take the test?
First you need to establish an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) with IACRA.
Use your new FTN to create an account with the FAA testing website. Once you have an account, you can schedule the time and testing center location where you want to take the test. make sure to bring a government-issued photo ID with you when you go to the testing center.
During the registration process, you can note whether you’ll need certain accommodations during the test, such as extra breaks, a left-hand mouse, or a time extension due to a learning or reading disability.
You’re given two hours for the test. It’s a total of sixty questions. They put you in a testing room, just like if you were getting your private pilot’s licence. You’re monitored with cameras to make sure you’re not doing anything crazy. When you’re done, you know right away if you passed or failed. You only need a 70% to pass and it’s multiple choice.
Sixty multiple-choice test questions still sounds like a lot. How do you go about studying for that?
The biggest thing to focus on when you’re studying are the keywords and understanding how to read a sectional chart. Or at least be able to narrow it down to a couple answers, and give it a shot. That was probably the hardest part—making sure you know your key terms and can read a sectional chart decently.
What is a sectional chart?
A sectional chart is an archaic way for pilots to navigate through different airspaces and hazardous terrain before phones and GPS were readily available. It’s really a map [image below].
You have to be able to look at that and understand what airspace is what and what the symbols mean.
So key terms and sectional charts are super important. Is there another topic I should focus on?
Yes, weather. Making sure you can understand METAR reports. Once you get those three components, you’re almost guaranteed to pass.
How many times did it take you to pass?
Once. I studied on a Monday and Tuesday, took the test on Wednesday, and passed. I got an 86%—you only need 70%. And that lasts for two years before I have to renew.
Once you pass, are you immediately certified to fly?
Not quite. You have to submit your scores by completing FAA Form 8710-13 back in the IACRA system. You should receive an official card in the mail soon after that. I got mine after a couple weeks.
Out of everything you were tested on, what do you actually use when flying a site?
Knowing to fly 400 feet or lower. Knowing the difference between good airspace and bad. Actually understanding how close you can fly to buildings or how to report an accident are some of the most important things to know when operating day-to-day. It’s crucial to know practical stuff that only comes up in extreme situations, like when you can start flying after sunrise. Understanding the “rules of the road,” so to speak, so you don’t get in trouble, is important.
Would you say this test was easier or harder than getting your driver’s license?
Because it’s a little harder on the written side, and it’s stuff we’re not using day-to-day, I’d say it’s a little harder than the driver’s test. Everyone drives a car. But the Part 107 isn’t something you should be overwhelmed by. Even for people who haven’t picked up a book in years can easily pass. I send them the study materials I used and they’re passing it in a week or two.
With all the people you’ve worked with, what’s the biggest concern or fear about getting certified?
I think it’s mostly the time. People are thinking, “when do I have time to study? It’s been forever since I’ve studied for anything.” And sometimes they have bad test anxiety. But they don’t need to be scared. The process is incredibly easy to do.
Any last things you think drone surveying newbies should know about getting their Part 107 certification?
When getting it for general surveying, you don’t have to get into the weeds of understanding every detail of the drone. The drones Propeller recommends fly themselves. You’re really just there as a failsafe.
So, yes, the Part 107 license is a necessary part of commercial drone operation, but don’t get overwhelmed by the false idea that the FAA will be breathing down your neck about every detail of your flights.
And if you need additional assistance, our fantastic team of customer success engineers are available to help get you the resources you need to pass your Part 107.