Drone License: Everything You Need to Know (2024 Updated)

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So you’ve got your eyes set on the sky, ready to pilot your FPV drone into the great blue yonder. But before you take off, you’ll need to navigate the rules of the air.

Otherwise, you might face hefty fines. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back!

In this article, we’ll dive into the ins and outs of getting your license to fly FPV drones, ensuring you’re up in the air legally and safely.

First, What is a Drone License?

A drone license is an official document issued by aviation authorities. It certifies that you have the requisite knowledge, skills, and understanding to operate an FPV drone safely.

Think of it as a driver’s license, but for the sky.

Do I Need A License to Fly FPV Drone?

Yes, you need.

In many country, FPV drones fall under specific regulations due to their potential impact on privacy, safety, and national security.

Typically, if your drone weighs more than a certain threshold, you’ll need to register it and may need to obtain a license.

In the US, drones weighing over 0.55 pounds (250 grams) must be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

If you travel with a FPV drone to another country, make sure to understand and follow the local laws and regulations to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

Drone Laws in USA: Recreational vs Commercial [FAA]

If you live in the United States, it’s crucial to distinguish whether your flights are for fun or for work. Because the recreational and commercial drone activities fall under different FAA regulations.

Here are the differences between them:

Recreational Flying: Hobbyist Regulations

As a hobbyist, you enjoy certain freedoms but are still bound by FAA rules. Under the recreational umbrella, your FPV drone adventures require:

  • Registration if your drone weighs more than 0.55 pounds.
  • Aeronautical knowledge test: A new requirement ensuring you understand airspace restrictions and safety measures.

Remember, these regulations are in place for everyone’s safety.

Commercial Uses: Stricter Guidelines

For those incorporating drones into their business operations, there’s a more stringent process. You must obtain a Part 107 certificate, which involves:

  • Passing an in-depth written examination testing knowledge on weather patterns, emergency operations, and more.
  • FAA vetting: Including background checks to assess the suitability for flying in sensitive areas.

Commercial pilots face heavier legal responsibilities to avoid compromising public safety and national security. The process is designed to ensure you’re fully prepared for the complexities of commercial drone flight.

The Basic Process of Getting a Drone License

Knowledge of Local Drone Regulations

Your journey begins with researching and complying with all local ordinances.

The regulations can vary significantly depending on whether you’re in a metropolitan area or a rural environment. Cities might have specific no-fly zones or additional restrictions not found in less populated areas.

Study Up

To get your drone off the ground legally, you’ll need to hit the books. Studying for the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) aeronautical knowledge test is a must. Resources are readily available, including manuals, online courses, and community classes, which all provide valuable insights into airspace classification, operating requirements, and flight restrictions.

Practicing Flying Skills

Although not a formal requirement, honing your flying skills is highly advisable before sitting for the knowledge test.

You should be comfortable with basic maneuvers and understand how weather conditions can affect your drone’s performance. Find a local club or a group of enthusiasts to share tips and maybe even take part in informal practice sessions.

Passing the Knowledge Test

This is the step where your hard work pays off. To pass the FAA’s knowledge test, you must demonstrate a thorough understanding of various safety protocols and flight operations.

The test comprises a series of multiple-choice questions covering every aspect of drone flying. Achieving a passing score is your key to moving on to the next step.

Waiting for Drone Certification

After passing the test, you’ll be one step away from being a certified drone pilot. The final stretch involves submitting your application to the FAA and awaiting your official drone certification.

The wait can be filled with anticipation, but provided you’ve followed all the appropriate steps, you’ll soon find yourself as a fully licensed drone operator, ready to enjoy the freedom of FPV flying with the peace of mind that you’re doing it legally.

How to Get a FAA Drone License (Step-by-Step)

Step 1: Learn the Rules

Before you start operating that FPV drone, it’s crucial you understand the local regulations governing drone flight.

Regulations can vary, but generally, you’ll need to be aware of no-fly zones and specific airspace rules. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides resources that cover everything you’ll need to know.

It’s important that you familiarize yourself with these guidelines, as they’re essential to passing the aeronautical knowledge test.

Step 2: Create (IACRA) Profile and Obtain FAA Tracking Number (FTN)

Next up, you’ll need to create an account with the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system. This step is key, as you’ll receive your FAA Tracking Number (FTN) through this profile.

Your FTN will be crucial in your journey to becoming a licensed drone pilot, serving as a unique identifier throughout the certification process.

Step 3: Appointment Knowledge Test Center

Having learned the rules and secured your FTN, it’s time to schedule your aeronautical knowledge test.

You’ll need to find a FAA-approved knowledge testing center near you to take this test. It’s a standardized test that will assess your understanding of important aviation and aeronautical concepts – all of which you’ve already been studying up on.

Step 4: Become an FAA-Certified Drone Pilot by Passing the Knowledge Test

The big day!

Passing the knowledge test is a testament to your understanding of regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones. Ensure you’ve had ample practice and study time before attempting the test.

Once you pass, you’ll be able to submit your application to the FAA and become a certified drone pilot – a significant milestone in your journey.

How Much Does it Cost to Get an FAA Drone License?

The costs associated with obtaining an FAA drone license include the fee for the aeronautical knowledge test, study materials, additional certification costs, and drone registration. The total cost is estimated to be a few hundred dollars.

Securing your FAA drone license involves several costs you’ll need to consider.

First, Testing Fees

When setting up your test, you’ll pay the testing center directly. This fee pays for the administration of the exam and the resources provided to you during the testing process. It’s a one-time fee, but if you need to retake the test, you’ll incur this cost again.

Study Materials

To prep for the test, you might purchase study materials or online courses. Costs here can vary:

  • Study guides and textbooks could run you anywhere from $20 to $50
  • Online preparatory courses might be between $150 to $350

Investing in these materials increases your chances of passing the test on the first try, which can save money in the long run.

Additional Certification Costs

After passing the aeronautical knowledge test, you’ll submit an application through the FAA’s IACRA system. There’s no fee for this application process. However, don’t forget the indirect costs such as the time you’ll invest in studying and possibly travel expenses to the nearest testing center.

Drone Registration

Lastly, there’s the cost of registering your drone with the FAA, which is $5 and must be renewed every three years. This is a nominal fee but still crucial to include in your budget.

By adding all these costs, you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars to become a fully licensed FAA drone pilot. Remember, these are investments in both your hobby or business and in flying safely and legally.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Part 107 License?

Everyone’s situation is different, so I will calculate the time it takes to go from learning to earning a certificate.

Initial Study and Preparation

Before you can take the aeronautical knowledge test for a Part 107 license, you’ll need to invest time in studying.

The duration of preparation varies, but typically it takes 15 to 20 hours of studying to be well-prepared. Resources like the FAA’s study guide can help streamline your learning process.

Scheduling Your Test

Once you’re ready, scheduling your test at an FAA-approved test center is your next step. Test availability can depend on the location and time of year, but you can usually book a slot within a few weeks of your query. Don’t forget, you’ll need to have your FTN before you can schedule your test.

After the Exam

Passing the test is a huge milestone. However, you’ve got to submit your application through the IACRA system. The FAA’s processing time can take up to 60 days. In practice, it often happens quicker, and you might receive your temporary certificate in as little as two weeks.

Remember that while you’re dealing with these processes, you should also register your drone with the FAA if you haven’t done so already. This registration is mandatory and separate from your Part 107 certification.

Given these stages, the whole process from study to certification can take two to three months, but the real determining factor is your preparation and how quickly you can successfully pass the test.

Keep in mind, you’ll be investing this time to ensure safe and legal operation of your FPV drone, which is invaluable.

4 Useful Tips for Getting A Drone License Quickly

1. Staying Up to Date with Regulations

Keeping abreast of the latest FAA regulations is critical for a swift licensing process. The rules governing drones can change, affecting what’s required for your Part 107 license.

Bookmark the FAA’s regulatory page and check it often. They frequently update guidelines, and staying informed can mean the difference between passing your test on the first try and having to retake it.

2. Enrolling in a Training Course

Don’t underestimate the benefits of a structured learning environment. Enroll in a FAA-approved training course to streamline your study process. These courses are designed to cover all the necessary information in a format that’s easy to digest, and they often provide valuable tips for acing the exam.

Moreover, having an instructor means you’ve got a go-to person for any questions that pop up during your journey.

3. Taking Mock Exams

Practice makes perfect, and that’s why taking mock exams is invaluable. They simulate the experience of the actual aeronautical knowledge test, including time constraints.

By regularly testing yourself, you’ll identify areas that need more work and become comfortable with the format of the questions. There’s no shortage of practice tests available online, so make the most of these resources.

4. Seeking Guidance from Experienced Pilots

Drawing on the experience of those who’ve already been through the process can be incredibly helpful.

Reach out to certified pilots, whether in-person at local flying clubs or online in forums and social media groups. They can offer insights that you won’t find in textbooks, such as practical advice on handling the drone in various conditions or how to navigate the IACRA application.

Remember, the drone community is usually eager to help newcomers.

What Can I Do with A Drone License?

Elevated Job Opportunities

With your drone license, the sky’s the limit when it comes to career opportunities. You’re cleared for takeoff in various industries, from real estate photography showcasing panoramic views of properties to precision agriculture where you can analyze crop health.

Many construction firms increasingly rely on drone pilots for surveying and mapping, reducing the time and risk involved in manual land assessments.

Starting A Business

If you’ve got an entrepreneurial spirit, a license opens doors to starting your own aerial photography or videography business.

Whether it’s shooting weddings or capturing breathtaking landscapes, your footage can captivate audiences and clients alike. Your license also signifies professionalism and compliance, giving your startup credibility.

Advanced Flying Permissions

Possessing a drone license often means you’ve got the nod from authorities to fly in controlled airspace, provided you’ve got authorization via LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability).

This paves the way for assignments closer to airports or in urban areas, where non-licensed flyers can’t venture.

Community Service

Your drone can be a force for good, assisting in search and rescue missions or during natural disasters. A licensed pilot can be part of emergency response teams, using their drone to locate survivors or assess damage more quickly than ground crews.

Delving deeper into undiscovered potential, remember your license is a passport to not only expanding your horizons but also to pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with drone technology.

FAQs About FAA 107 Drone License

Final Words

You’re now armed with the knowledge to navigate the skies legally with your FPV drone.

Remember, taking the time to understand the rules, pass your aeronautical knowledge test, and register your drone isn’t just about compliance—it’s about opening doors to new opportunities and adventures.

Whether you’re aiming for a career in aerial photography or simply want to enjoy the freedom of advanced flying, your efforts will pay off.

So gear up, get drone certified. Happy flying!

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Written By Kristen Ward

My name is Kristen R. Ward. I’m an adventure Filmmaker and I run a production company based out of New York. FPV drones are integral to my business. I'll be teaching you everything I've learned over the years creating videos for clients.

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