I’ve always been interested in drones, but never thought to take the leap and buy one. The rules and regulations were always just too much of a barrier for me to take the next step. I’ve been looking for a new hobby and rather than take up some activity that I would spend a ton of money on and probably quit in six months (oh wait…), I decided I would go with something I was passionate about, even if it means flying a “toy” helicopter.
It’s not a toy…
I put the word toy in quotes because I always thought a drone was exactly that — a toy. But after actually digging into the details of drone regulations, I realized that these things could be dangerous if not used properly. Genius, right?
Then comes the actual drone. I bought the DJI Mavic 2 Pro due to its compact size and portability, the nearly 30 minutes of flight time, and of course the amazing Hasselblad 20 megapixel camera. I LOVE the thing, but the first time I flew it I was SHOOK. It’s humbling. You’re probably laughing but I truly mean that. The drone doesn’t feel like a toy. In fact, it’s somewhat weighty and sounds and handles like an aircraft. It’s something that demands to be respected.
FAA Part 107
There are two types of drone pilots – recreational and commercial. The main difference between the two is commercial pilots are able to fly drones for business purposes.
The other often overlooked benefit to becoming certified is the ability to use the FAA’s LAANC system (pronounced LANCE). Back in the early days of droning, if you wanted to fly in controlled airspace, you needed to obtain permission from air traffic control. This required a phone call to the controlling facility. I guess ATC got tired of fielding calls so the FAA developed an automated system called LAANC which allows you to request instant authorization to fly in controlled airspace via an app such as AirMap. There’s only one catch – only Part 107 certified pilots can request authorization. Considering I live in Class B airspace of Philadelphia’s airport, I needed to become certified. Check out the FAA’s drone website where you can learn everything you need to know about the process.
The test itself is 60 questions and consists of a number of topics such as Weather, Airspace, and Rules/Regulations. These are also the most tested topics that you should know inside and out. You need to know how to read a sectional chart, how to identify the stages of a thunderstorm, what the characteristics of stable/unstable air are, when you are allowed to fly your drone and where, etc. The test is not insanely difficult but unless you are a licensed pilot, chances are you won’t pass without studying.
To get ready for the test I did the following:
- Watched this video twice…
2. Studied using the Prepware Remote Pilot app and did practice questions and exams until my brain hurt. I probably studied about 8-10 hours in the week leading up to my exam and scored a 93%.
That’s it – seriously. It’s all about repetition and knowing the concepts. Study, practice questions, study…and repeat.
Once you’re ready to take the test you’ll have to pay $150 and schedule an appointment with an FAA-approved testing center.
You Passed…Now What?
Once you pass your test, you’ll have to wait 24-48 hours before submitting your Remote Pilot Application on the FAA’s IACRA website.
After you submit your application you’ll need to wait another 2-4 business days and you’ll receive a temporary airman certificate. This certificate allows you to fly and is valid for 120 days while you wait for your permanent certification number to arrive.
IMPORTANT: Do not fly your drone for commercial purposes if you have not yet received, at minimum, your temporary airman certificate.
Do you have plans to take your FAA Part 107 exam?