Last week, I passed my Part 107 knowledge exam to become an FAA-certified drone pilot. While I had enjoyed flying my drone on my own time under the rules for recreational drones, I wanted to take the next step and open up the opportunity to capture drone footage for Skyward’s marketing team, and maybe even test out Skyward’s latest software features. Certification is a critical step — without a license, flying drones for work is illegal.
My teammate has already written about the process for getting a Part 107 certification. So I thought I’d share my own experience and a few tips that helped me get my drone pilot’s license.
1) Don’t study alone — find a partner or group
I first began studying for my Part 107 exam by myself toward the end of last year, but I lost steam partway through. This summer, I started again by teaming up with three of my coworkers here at Skyward to keep me on track. We scheduled check-ins and discussed our questions and points of confusion with the group.
There’s nothing wrong with studying for your Part 107 exam on your own. But I found that studying alongside other people made the experience much more enjoyable — and helped me learn better. Explaining concepts to each other and solving questions as a group kept me motivated and helped me get a better grasp on the material.
2) Use a reliable, up-to-date drone training course
The drone pilot certification exam requires knowledge on a wide variety of aviation topics. (The FAA provides a list of test topics you’ll need to know.) For most people, learning concepts like classes of airspace, interpreting METAR weather reports, and reading sectional charts requires a good training course. My teammates and I used Skyward’s partner for online training, Drone Pilot Ground School — and we loved it.
Drone Pilot Ground School provides clear, engaging, and comprehensive lectures broken down by subject into manageable segments. Each section includes test questions along the way. And once you’ve completed the course, there are five full-length practice tests with real FAA test questions.
As I was already familiar with the commercial drone industry, I personally put in about 15 hours of study time with Drone Pilot Ground School. I found that the course was truly comprehensive and covered every topic I encountered on the exam. After taking the practice tests, I felt confident in the material and well-prepared to take my Part 107 exam.
3) Sign up for your Part 107 Exam
My study group’s goal was to complete the course in four weeks — a time frame short enough to keep the material fresh in our minds, but long enough that we didn’t have to rush. In fact, we scheduled our exams even before we started studying. We all knew that there’s nothing like a hard deadline to force us to get it done!
To sign up for the test, I first got my FAA Tracking Number (FTN) using the FAA’s IACRA system. I found this process a little bit clunky, as government websites tend to be, but not ultimately too difficult. Then, using my FTN, I created an account in the PSI test scheduling system and booked my exam. Currently, most Part 107 tests cost $160, although some testing centers owned by PSI charge just $96.
4) Take the drone pilot certification test
While driving out to the testing center at the Portland–Troutdale Airport, I wondered if the exam would throw any unexpected curveballs my way. But I found that the test-taking experience was very similar to the practice tests I had already taken, which put me at ease.
When I checked in for my test, I received a physical copy of the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement. I had two hours to answer 60 questions on a wide range of topics from Part 107 regulations to sectional chart interpretation and UAS performance. Every test-taker is different, but I didn’t feel rushed for time. I had the chance to review my questions, including ones I flagged because I didn’t feel fully confident in my answers.
5) Celebrate the results — and apply for your remote pilot certificate
My coworkers and I all received scores above 70%, passing our exams. The only step left was to formally apply for our remote pilot certifications. Using the Airmen Knowledge Test Report I received at the testing center, I returned to the FAA’s IACRA system and submitted my test results.
Just this morning, I received an email letting me know I cleared the TSA vetting process, which can take up to 10 days after submitting test results but has no additional cost. The FAA issued me a temporary, printable remote pilot certificate that’s good for 120 days. That means I’m officially a certified drone pilot — now I’m just waiting for the permanent certificate coming later in the mail!
Knowledge Test results remain current for 24 months. After that, I will need to take a recurrent knowledge exam to keep my drone pilot’s certification up to date. (This is where lifetime access to Drone Pilot Ground School comes in handy. When it’s time to take my recurrent knowledge exam, I’ll be able to log back into the course and get up to speed on current regulations.)
Overall, getting my Part 107 drone pilot’s license was a great experience. As I put in the time and effort, it was great to be able to confer with the aviation experts here at Skyward. I’m looking forward to putting my Part 107 certification to work as Skyward continues to move the drone industry forward!
If you’re interested in learning more about Drone Pilot Ground School, check out their website.
If you’d like to learn how Skyward’s Professional Services consultants help companies launch entire drone teams, let us know! We’d love to talk with you.