If you manage a drone program, you’ve likely noticed that it can be challenging to jump online and verify that each employee has a current Part 107 certification. Luckily, the FAA has developed an improvement to this process using their online IACRA system. 

Effective January 13th, 2020, all UAS operators will be required to FIRST register with IACRA before completing their Airmen Knowledge Exam.

As a quick reminder, the Part 107 remote pilot certification process currently goes as follows:

  1. Study for your FAA Airmen Knowledge Test
  2. Sign up to take your Airmen Knowledge Test at an FAA-approved testing center
  3. Pass your Airmen Knowledge Test
  4. Register online using the FAA’s Integrated Airmen Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system
  5. Link your test results to your IACRA Application
  6. Submit your application for a Remote Pilot Certification using the IACRA system

After this process is completed, everyone who registered with IACRA can be found using the FAA’s Airmen Database. But in order to pull up someone’s information, you have to have their full name, date of birth, and/or certificate number. As you can imagine, there are a lot of similar names in the database, an issue that continues to grow as time goes on.

As an example, my last name isn’t very common, but when I search the Airmen Database for “Mulholland,” I find that there are over 50 records that match, so I must provide more information. When I add an “R” in the first name window, the database provides me with 14 results. You can try this yourself using your own last name.

When I was a UAS program manager, I ran into this issue more than once. With a program of over 450 employees, I had more than one repeat name in the group, and this made it challenging when it came to verifying their credentials online.

This new rule change will only add one small step to the Part 107 remote pilot certification process, but it will make searching for your employees and verifying their certification statuses easier and more effective. 

Here’s the new Part 107 remote pilot certification process:

  1. Register online for an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) using the FAA’s IACRA system 
  2. Study for your FAA Airmen Knowledge Exam
  3. Create an account in the PSI test scheduling system using your FTN and sign up to take your Airmen Knowledge Test.
  4. Pass your Airmen Knowledge Test
  5. Link your test results to your IACRA Application
  6. Submit your application for a Remote Pilot Certification using the IACRA system

See the FAA’s Airmen Certificate Testing Service page for complete information.

At Skyward, we’ve helped dozens of companies launch programs and hundreds of commercial drone pilots get certified. Our Professional Services team are experts on drone regulations and best practices. If you have questions about the certification process or the new updates, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Best Practices for Part 107 Certification

Looking for best practices for your Part 107 test? Until Jan. 13, drone pilots can still follow the process below to get your remote pilot certification. And you can always visit the FAA’s drone certification page for complete information.

(It’s worth noting that Part 61 pilot’s certificate holders may be eligible for a different certification process, as long as you’ve kept up to date on your manned aircraft requirements. You can find out more on this page from the FAA.)

1. Start with a Part 107 online training course

The first step is to study Part 107, the federal regulations that govern drone operations in the U.S. Unless you want to want to parse through hundreds of pages of legislation, you’ll need a guide. So your best bet is a good training course.

Be careful: not all Part 107 courses are created equal. Some contain incomplete, outdated, or even misleading information. You’re going to want an authoritative source that covers the subject thoroughly—and explains it well.

At Skyward, we’ve partnered with Drone Pilot Ground School for online training. Drone Pilot Ground School lets students learn Part 107 regulations at their own pace through video tutorials, practice exams, and other resources. They offer lifetime access, which is useful for recurrent testing. It’s a great resource, especially for those without aviation experience. In fact, Skyward personnel and customers love the quality of the course and how well it prepared them for their exam.

2. Pass an FAA Part 107 certification exam

Once you’re familiarized with Part 107 regulations, it’s time to schedule your exam at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center. The test is called “Unmanned Aircraft General, Small (UAG),” and it costs $150 per attempt. I recommend you schedule the test a few weeks in advance.

You will have two hours to complete the 60-question exam. To pass, you’ll need a score of 70 or higher. If necessary, you can repeat the exam 14 days after a failed attempt.

The FAA provides a list of test topic areas you’ll need to be familiar with. These include:

  • Drone flight operations and limitations
  • Reading aeronautical charts
  • Understanding airspace classifications
  • Weather patterns
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Several other topics

Again, I’ve found good prep courses to be very helpful in preparing students for the exam. Take a practice test (or two) to make sure you’re ready — Drone Pilot Ground School has several available.

3. Submit a digital application for a Part 107 remote pilot certificate

Once you’ve passed your FAA exam, you’ll receive a notarized copy of your test results. The next step is to submit an actual application for your remote pilot certificate. You’ll need to register online with the FAA’s IACRA system. Create an account, log in, and start a new application for your remote pilot certificate. Since it may take up to 48 hours from your test date for your knowledge test results to be available in IACRA, you may want to wait a couple of days after taking your test to apply for your certificate.

(Remember: this is the step of the process that changes slightly under the new certification process. After January 13th, you will register with IACRA first, then take your exam.)

As part of the approval process, the TSA will run a background check and verify your identity. Once the background check is complete — usually in about seven days — you’ll get an email with instructions for printing out a temporary remote pilot certificate, which is valid for 120 days. You should also receive a permanent remote pilot certificate in the mail within six weeks.

4. Renew your Part 107 certification every two years

To keep your Part 107 certification valid, you’ll need to retake the aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. This time you’ll take the “Unmanned General, Recurrent (UGR)” test. It’s a little shorter than the initial test, with 40 questions to be completed in 1.5 hours. A passing score is still 70 or above.

Once you pass the recurrent knowledge test, you’re done! There’s no need to apply for a new certification. Just keep a copy of your current knowledge test report on hand to prove your certification is up to date.

5. Have your certification on hand every time you fly

Part 107 requires that your remote pilot certificate is easily accessible during all UAS operations. Every time you fly, be sure you have your certificate on your person. And if you’ve passed a recurrent knowledge test, make sure you have a copy of your test results on hand, too. That way, you can easily prove you’re a licensed drone pilot, and you’ll comply with federal regulations.

Skyward makes it easy to store your certification digitally in our software. You can enter your certification information within your pilot profile, including a picture of your certificate and test results. And when your test results are close to expiring, Skyward will notify you and any administrators in your organization. 

While a digital copy may be sufficient in some cases, the FAA still requires that operators keep a physical copy of both their Remote Pilot Certificate and recent Airmen Knowledge Test Results on hand at all times when flying. The regulations are always changing, so be sure to check the FAA website for updates on a routine basis.

Let Skyward help

Skyward’s Professional Services team gets to do some great work with amazing customers. Between us, we’ve trained hundreds of drone pilots, and we’ve helped enterprises stand up successful programs that can comply with federal regulations as they scale up.

Interested in an in-person training session from Skyward’s drone experts? Contact Skyward’s Professional Services team today.