How to Become a Drone Pilot
The new Small UAS Rule (Part 107) went into effect on August 29 allowing drone owners to earn a Commercial License after passing the Airman Knowledge Test. Why would you want a Commercial License if you have a drone? Because if you want to make any money off of your drone, you need this license.
There’s a ton of information out there on this subject which I found to be very overwhelming so I’m going to share with you what resources I used to study and pass my FAA UAS Part 107 Airman Knowledge Test with a 92%. To be clear I am not a pilot and had no prior aviation knowledge besides what I already knew from day-to-day life. I studied on my own time with information available on the Internet, and spent $4.99 on a really great app that I’ll talk about in more detail later.
First, I found this page on the FAA website to be informative regarding the process for a First-Time Pilot or an Existing Pilot. YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY READ IT.
FAA UAS Part 107 Airman Knowledge Test Information
Read the Remote Pilot Study Guide
First thing I would recommend doing is reading the Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide. This will give you a great foundation to build on because, while memorization can help with this test, knowing the fundamentals is going to help you in the long run.
Familiarize Yourself with the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot
You will be given the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, and Private Pilot to use during your test so it’s a good idea to look through it so you’re familiar. Just remember: When you get a test question that references “Figure 25.” that figure will be found on page 25 of the book.
Watch these YouTube Videos
YouTube is your friend!
How to Decode METARs & TAFs Part 1
METARs and TAFs Explained, Part 2
Roll, Pitch & Yaw
Visit these additional websites
There are so many useful websites with really great information on them, but these are the ones I used.
Ascent Ground School Info & Test Questions – I found this info very helpful because they covered some additional items I hadn’t seen in the Prepware App discussed below. There are also a lot of other sections on this site you can look at if you want to focus on other areas.
3dr.com Test Questions – 105 test questions broken up into sections of 5. You answer each question, hit Grade My Responses, and see the results.
Decode METARs and TAFs – Not only is 1800wxbrief.com a website you will want to use in the future, there’s a handy feature I’d like to share. Once you’ve created an account, visit your Dashboard, Edit Favorites, and put in your local airport. You will then be able to see the METARs and TAFs for your area. Now look for a box that says “Plain Text.” Checking it will decode the METAR and TAF into full sentences. Very helpful!
METAR Abbreviations – Defines all the abbreviations.
Sky Vector Aeronautical Charts – Once you have a good understanding of how to read charts, this website is amazing. It’s in vector format, meaning you can zoom in on details of the chart with no loss of quality. You can also learn about the airspace where you’ll be flying the most.
Sarah Nilsson Prep Test – I DIDN’T USE THIS, but read nothing but good things about it from others who passed using it.
Download the ASA Prepware Remote Pilot App
My final suggestion turned out to be by far the most helpful thing I did. I purchased the ASA Prepware Remote Pilot App (Android | iPhone) for $4.99. When I say helpful I mean REALLY, REALLY HELPFUL. I had a lot of questions on my test that were verbatim on the app and many others weren’t exactly the same, but had an airport substituted, for example. Because the app is all multiple choice it’s the exact same format as the real test so it allows you to get familiar with the testing process.
The app has 314 questions (as of 9/27/16) in its database (it had 260ish when I first downloaded it) broken into five different sections: National Airspace System (80), Regulations (73), Operations (67), Weather (66) and Loading and Performance (28). You are provided with two options: Test Mode or Study Mode.
Choosing Study Mode allows you to pick from one of the five categories, and each question has three choices. What I also like about Study Mode is that when you select an answer, it either turns Green or Red so you get immediate feedback. The other great thing is there is an Expl (Explanation) button for every question, which more times than not is going to provide you with additional information along with the Reference code like 14 CFR 107.39. I found it very helpful to read every explanation, even if I got the answer right. I liked being able to run through a section of questions all related to the same subject matter, get instant feedback and explanations. But to enhance your drone and make it more glorious, you can always stick on some mods on the drone, and give it specialised functions. Peruse through this user manual of what can be the best component for your drone.
After running through all the Study Mode questions a few times, I switched to Test Mode. In Test Mode you are presented with 60 randomly generated questions from the full database of 314 just like on the real test, but you’re not provided feedback or explanation. In order to know how you did, however, you must either complete the entire test of 60 questions, or choose the “Grade” option, which will show you what you got right or wrong on a question-by-question basis. Note: you’ll have to start the test over once you’ve chosen to Grade it, and the app is prone to crashing before you’re finished a test or had a chance to save your progress—hopefully they get that worked out.
I probably took these tests no less than 20 times because it’s so convenient and easy. At first I was scoring in the lower 80s, then the upper 80s, then lower 90s, then upper 90s every time. At that point I was feeling really confident so I scheduled my test for a Tuesday at the latest time slot of 12:30pm. This gave me plenty of time on Monday and again on Tuesday to run the Prepware tests.
Join this Facebook Group
Part 107 Study Group is a private Facebook Group approaching 1000 members. There are a lot of conversations happing that you can follow and learn from. People are posting their test results and even questions that they had. If you need help with something just put it out there and someone will help you. There are also a handful of Drone Lawyers and many other very knowledgable members.
Taking the Test
When you’re ready to take your test here’s what you can expect. I would highly suggest arriving at your testing location at least 30 minutes early. I was asked to provide my ID and sign in. I brought a non-scientific calculator and a magnifying glass (which I didn’t need), but I had just in case. There was some scratch paper and pencils available. My Proctor said I could start the test anytime, but since I was early I used that opportunity to sit and run through my Prepware App Test one more time and I got a 98.6%. Let’s do this!
They will take you to the testing room when you’re ready and run you through a demo so you understand how everything is going to work. My location had three stations, but I was the only one when I started. Two others joined about 20 minutes after since I started early. It’s 60 multiple choice questions (mine was 63 since the FAA is testing a few additional questions) with three possible answers. You don’t know which three questions are the “test questions,” but if you get them wrong they don’t count towards your score. You can answer the questions in any order and there’s a color key: Red is Unanswered, Green is Answered, Blue Question Mark is Answered but Marked, and Yellow Question Mark is Unanswered but Read. I personally chose to answer every question as I went through the test and flagged a few that I wanted to come back to.
I spent 42 minutes answering the 63 questions, then spent another 20 minutes going back through every answer and double checking myself. In total I missed 5 questions, took 1:02, and got a 92!
After you’ve submitted your test the Proctor will come back into the room so you can view the questions you missed without the answers. That’s it, you’ve now taken and hopefully passed the test.
The final step is to get your Airman Knowledge Test Report printed out and stamped with an official seal. You will be provided with an Exam ID which will be used when Applying for your Remote Pilot Certificate using IACRA explained below.
Applying for Remote Pilot Certificate using IACRA
Once you’ve passed your test you’re ready to register on the IACRA and Apply for your Remote Pilot Certificate. In most cases you might have to wait 48 hours before your Exam ID will show up under Basis of Insurance (Section II).
Once you’ve completed this step a confirmation email will be sent when an applicant has completed the TSA security background check. This email will provide instructions for printing a copy of the temporary remote pilot certificate from IACRA. A permanent remote pilot certificate will be sent via mail once all other FAA-internal processing is complete.
This info doesn’t have to do with passing the test, but when you’re out there flying these Apps will make your experience much better. If I had to choose only one of the first three it would be Airmap based on my experience so far.
Airmap – The low-altitude airspace management solution for unmanned aircraft
B4UFly – B4UFLY is an easy-to-use smartphone app that helps unmanned aircraft operators determine whether there are any restrictions or requirements in effect at the location where they want to fly.
Hover – The must have app for Drone Pilots
Verifly – On-demand Drone Insurance
I really hope you found this post useful. I learned a lot from reading others information so I’m just trying to pay it forward.
I also need to give a huge shout out to two of my friends who have been mentors to me in this process. Richard MacDonald of New Media Systems and Daryl Watkins of Creative Dog Media are both amazing at what they do and were always there to help me along the way. Thanks guys!