Commercial Drone Rules (Part 107)

Ultimate Guide to Drone Laws from a Lawyer & Pilot [2019]

Interested in drone laws? It can be a pain to try and figure out what is applicable. That is why I created this page! :)

Where NOT to Look for Help With Drone Laws

Here is a tip, stay away from Facebook or anyone else who is a newbie to aviation. They tend to waste your time and provide bad guidance. Seriously, you should be very careful where you get information from – not everyone is qualified to give you information. You don’t install random pieces of software you find on the internet onto your computer. Why would you do that for the laws and legal advice?

For example, I was reading a drone book, by someone very popular on the internet and Youtube, which was just completely – flat out – totally- 100% wrong. The section on drone laws was just horrible. I think this person just hired a copywriter to write the book which resulted in utter garbage. If you were to rely on that bad advice, you could get in trouble and be on the receiving end of a lawsuit or criminal prosecution. Worse yet, on their Youtube channel, they continued to give out legal advice that was incomplete. Either they were keeping their readers in the dark about one critically important piece of advice or they were sincerely, and incorrectly, giving out advice which could result in legal consequences.

You should vet everyone before you give them your time. Here, vet me by looking at my bio.

Where to Look for Help With Drone Laws

You should look at resources in this order:

  1. The actual drone regulations (Part 107, Part 101, Part 47, Part 48, etc.) (Please keep in mind that the laws are constantly changing so even some of the regulations might be outdated.)
  2. The FAA’s website.
  3. My website! You can even use the search feature.
  4. Other competent drone lawyers or consultants (read the two articles below on how to find out as there are some really bad people out there).
  5. Your local Flight Standards District Office Aviation Safety Inspector, any FAA email on their website, etc.

I. United States Drone Laws

There are different levels of governmental authority in the U.S. We have a federated system where we are governed on certain things by the U.S. Federal Government and the state governments with those areas not enumerated to the U.S. government.

Additionally, the states have passed laws allowing counties, cities, and towns to regulate individuals.  At any given moment, a person can 3 or 4 levels of laws applying to them. For example, your drone operations could have the federal aviation laws, state drone laws, county drone laws, city or town laws, and maybe even HOA rules all applying to them.

Whether or not the states, counties, and cities can regulation drones is another big issue way outside of the scope of this article. As time goes on, things will shake out as to the scope of the drones laws the states, counties, cities, and towns can create. This will be determined by federal legislation or by federal case law determining what state drone laws are preempted and which drone laws are not.

A. Federal Drone Public Law

Public Law is law that has been passed by Congress and signed by the President. Sometimes people use the term “legislation” to describe the public law. Obamacare, HIPPA, etc. are all Public Laws. I created a directory of federal drone legislation that has been approved or proposed.  Most of the proposed drone legislation out there ends up never becoming law.

There has been two sets of laws specifically talking about drones:

There are other public laws that have been passed and which were codified in the United States Code. The Department of Justice enforces the Federal Criminal Code in Title 18 and the Federal Aviation Statutes in Title 49 of the United States Code.

There are some federal laws in Title 18 that could apply to drone operations such as  § 32 which would prohibit the destruction of the drone aircraft and  § 796 which prohibits the use of aircraft for photographing defense installations.

The Department of Justice attorneys have been involved at least twice with drone operators: (1) the Skypan case which was originally started in the federal district court in Chicago and (2) in the federal district court in Connecticut with the Haughwout case (the kid who attached a gun and later a flamethrower to a drone).

B. Federal Drone Regulations 

Regulations are created through the rulemaking process. There are many regulations that apply to drones and I have a federal drone regulations directory page to help people. Below is covering the agencies that enforce the laws but does not go in-depth on the regulations which is what the drone regulations directory page is designed to do.

1. Federal Aviation Regulations (Enforced by the Federal Aviation Administration)

We immediately think of the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”) when it comes to drone laws. The FAA enforces the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”) which apply to all sorts of things such as student training, airports, maintenance, flying, aircraft certification, rocket launches, etc.

The two parts of the FARs that apply to drone operators are Part 107 (for non-recreational operations) and Part 101 (for recreational operations). But that is NOT all!

All drones are required to be registered under Part 47 or Part 48.

I have created many articles on the federal aviation regulations. I have listed below the most popular ones.

drone-laws-FAA-TSA-DOT-FCC-ITAR-EAR2. Other Federal Agencies and Their “Drone Laws”

The FAA is not the only agency that regulates drones. There are also others! Keep in mind this list is not exhaustive.

NTSB. If you crash your drone, you are required to report to the National Transportation Safety Board! Additionally, you might need to file an aviation safety reporting system form which is administered by NASA! See my article on What are you required to do after a drone crash?

TSA. The Transportation Safety Administration administers the alien flight student program (governed by the alien flight student regulations). All FAA certificated flight instructors know this and have to be careful regarding providing training as well as doing security awareness training. As I read it, I think the TSA could assert jurisdiction over flight instructors training alien flight students.

DOT. The Department of Transportation has regulations regarding the transportation of hazardous material (i.e. drone medical delivery).

FCC. The Federal Communications Commission regulations radio transmitters, the frequencies they transmit on, and the power of the transmitter. Many people don’t even pay attention to that sticker that is on the back of your controller. Take a chance to read it over some time.   The FCC put out an enforcement advisory on “DRONE AUDIO/VIDEO TRANSMITTER ACCESSORIES MUST COMPLY WITH THE COMMISSION’S RULES TO BE MARKETED TO U.S. CUSTOMERS”  The FCC has gone after companies who have sold drone related equipment that were transmitting on frequencies they should not, were over the legal power limit, or were not certified.

DOC. You also have the Department of Commerce with the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) and the State Department with the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”). Bard College’s Center for the Study of the Drone published an article detailing multiple prosecutions under ITAR.

NOAA. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sometimes gets involved because they have jurisdiction over national sanctuaries.  NOAA created frequently asked questions 
regarding NOAA’s regulated overflight zones of West Coast National Marine Sanctuaries.

Are model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft System (drone) operations subject to NOAA regulated overflight zones?

A. Yes. Model aircraft and Unmanned Aircraft Systems (drones) propelled by motors qualify as motorized aircraft under regulations of the sanctuaries, and therefore must adhere to sanctuary regulated overflight zones. As with traditional aircraft, UAS could operate above the sanctuaries’ minimum altitude limits, provided Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations allow them to fly at such altitudes. Current FAA rules impose altitude limitations on model aircraft and other Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

NPS. National Park Service has put out statements in the past prohibiting the operation of drones in national parks. Things have changed. It is hit or miss where you can fly at the different parks. Some locations have designated areas where you can fly but you have to check. Type in the name of the national park plus  “compendium” in Google and you should find some helpful results. Additionally, you should call ahead to see if anything has changed.

DOI. The Department of the Interior has regulations and you could get in trouble with some of them. 43 CFR § 9212.1 “Unless permitted in writing by the authorized officer, it is prohibited on the public lands to: . . . (f) Resist or interfere with the efforts of firefighter(s) to extinguish a fire; (g) Enter an area which is closed by a fire prevention order[.]”


B. State Drone Laws

All 50! I created a state drone law directory of all 50 states.  I also included some additional resources that would be helpful from the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC), National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National League of Cities. There is also a link to a model state drone legislation from ALEC.

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Also, just like the federal agencies, state agencies have created regulations that can apply to drones as well. This is another reason you should contact an attorney licensed in that state for help.

II. International Drone Laws

There is no good reliable database of drone laws. I might create one as time goes on.

Below are the resources I have found on the internet that can assist you in finding the laws in a particular country.  I do not know how updated they are or accurate.  Use at your own risk.

Drone Sprayers: Uses, Laws & Regulations, Tips to Save Money (2019)


Interested in a drone sprayer?

Drones are really just aerial platforms from which to do things. Most people associate drones as data collection platforms where you mount sensors such as cameras, LIDAR, etc., but drones can also be used for the delivery of all sorts of other things besides just drone package delivery or medical delivery. One great example is using the drone as a drone sprayer. Keep in mind that there are attachments for drones to do things other than just spraying (e.g. drone granule spreader).

As of 4/27/2019, I’ve helped 9 clients obtain exemptions for agricultural aircraft operations and 3 clients obtain agricultural aircraft operating certificates. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I distilled into this article some of the important points that I have used as I have assisted clients in successfully obtaining Federal Aviation Administration approvals to operate their drone sprayers. If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

Table of Contents:

Drone Sprayer Examples:

I’m going to touch on the high points of each of these drone sprayer uses. Please keep in mind that each drone sprayer has is own set of unique problems, economics, laws, etc. My commentary is not an exhaustive discussion on the whole area.

A. Pollen Drone Sprayer

There is a problematic decline of bee population numbers around the United States which has been caused for various reasons. Dropcopter has stepped into this gap with a very innovative idea of using their drone sprayer to pollinate crops.

As a Digital Trends article put it,

“Pollination by drone isn’t the only alternative to insect pollination, but it may just be the most efficient current solution. Alternatives include using large tractor-mounted liquid sprayers or leaf blowers driven on quad bikes. Both of these are problematic due to the lack of reach and, in the case of liquid sprayers, the time-sensitive nature of the pollen once it gets mixed with liquid. Dropcopter’s drones, meanwhile, can cover 40 acres per hour, and can double the pollination window by also flying at night. This is one advantage they even have over bees since bees don’t fly at nighttime, when flowers remain open.”

It also appears that their Dropcopter can maybe increase yields. Dropcopter’s website says, “Dropcopter completed its patent pending prototype, and conducted the first ever UAS pollination of orchards crops, boosting crop set by 10%.” A study was completed and here are some pictures of the apples.

B. Drones for Spraying Insecticides (Mosquito Control, etc.)

Because of their ability to communicate diseases, fighting mosquitoes is a big thing around the U.S. Mosquito abatement organizations are seeking to actively use drones to help fight mosquitoes. Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced the Drone Integration Pilot Program. The DOT picked ten winners, one of which is the Lee County Mosquito Control District located in Ft. Myers Florida. “The proposal focuses on low-altitude aerial applications to control/surveille the mosquito population using a 1500-lb. UAS.”  Lee County is not the only mosquito control district interested in using drones for spraying pesticides. Other control districts currently have drone sprayer programs underway.

If you are a government agency that fights mosquitoes or other pests, there is the potential for your operations to be done under a certain type of classification called a public aircraft operation which gives your operation more flexibility than non-government entities. See below for a discussion.  If you are interested in helping your mosquito control district use drone sprayers, contact me.

Mosquitoes are not the only insects you might be interested in fighting. Drone Volt created a mount to spray insecticide on hornet nests way up in trees.

C. Crop Dusting Drones (Herbicide, Fertilizer, Fungicide, etc.)

Drone sprayers seem like a good choice to be crop dusting drones but there are MANY variables here that affect whether it is a good decision for your situation or not. Factors that influence whether this makes sense or not are:

  • Type of crop,
  • Value of the crop,
  • Ground size of the crop,
  • Droplet size requirements to be placed on the crop,
  • How quickly you need to spray a particular chemical on a crop (is there a window of time?), and
  • How much liquid you need to spray.

For large areas of land, manned aircraft and ground spraying rigs make more sense based upon cost per acre compared to crop dusting drones. Read my section below on the economics to understand this fully.  For smaller pieces of land or land that is inaccessible to ground rigs or manned aircraft, it might make sense to use crop dusting drones.

D. Drone Tree Seed Planter

Drone Seed is looking to corner the market on precision forestry.  Not only can it do a potentially dangerous job of planting trees on the slopes of steep inclines but it can also potentially do it faster than by workers on foot.

E. Wind Turbine De-Icing Drone Sprayer

The Verge did an article on the company Aerones which built a large drone sprayer with some serious lifting capacity to fly up and spray de-icing fluid on wind turbine blades.  The Verge article explained:

“The craft has a tether line supplying water, which it sprays at up to 100 liters a minute (with optional de-icing coating), and another for power, meaning it can stay aloft indefinitely. Cleaning by drone costs around $1,000, compared to $5,000 and up for cleaning by climbers.

The process is good for general maintenance, but also helps increase power efficiency. If snow and ice build up on a turbine’s blades, it slows the rate at which they produce power and can even bring it to a complete halt. Aerones adds that using a drone for de-icing is both quicker and safer than sending humans up using a cherry picker”

Drone Sprayer Economics

There is far more hype to this area that is being driven by possibilities rather than economics.

Drones are mobile platforms to spray from. There are other mobile platforms such as:

  • Manned aircraft (airplanes and helicopters)
  • Ground spraying rigs (tractor pulled, truck mounted, etc.)
  • Humans (Backpack sprayer)

Each of these platforms has pros and cons that need to be weighed against the benefits of the drone sprayer. For the discussions below, I’m assuming someone would be purchasing something like the HSE or DJI drone sprayers.

1. Manned Aircraft (Airplanes & Helicopters) vs. Drone Sprayers

Manned Aircraft: Most drone sprayers cannot carry a large payload compared to manned aircraft.  Manned aircraft also are lower in cost per acre than drone sprayer operations. For crop spraying,  drone sprayers won’t be used for large acres of land because the spraying rate per day is also way too small compared to manned aircraft which can spray thousands of gallons in one day. This is a major point people miss. There are narrow windows of time to spray crops due to all sorts of things such as weather, chemical being sprayed, growth cycle, etc. Simply put, drone sprayers cannot spray fast enough because their tanks are small.

Drone Sprayers: Drones have the ability to service clients who have smaller amounts of land or area inaccessible to manned aircraft.

2. Ground Spraying Rigs (Tractor Pulled, Truck Mounted, etc.)

Ground Spraying Rigs: They do not have to deal with the FAA and all those hassles. They can also hold much more spraying material than a drone.

Drone Sprayers: Drone sprayers can access areas that ground spraying rigs cannot, such as uneven, steep, or inaccessible terrain or sensitive environments where the ground vehicles would damage the area or crops. Drone sprayers are lower in cost to purchase and maintain.

3. Humans (Backpack Sprayer)

Backpack Sprayer:  Super cheap to purchase ($90) compared to a drone sprayer. No FAA problems.

Drone Sprayers: You can access areas with less danger to your employees. (Slip and fall anyone? Hello workers’ compensation claims.) Potentially more time efficient. Less exhausting than walking around with a hand pump sprayer. Depending on batteries and how quickly you can refill, this can be more time efficient than backpack sprayers.

So Where Do Drone Sprayers Fit In?

When you go to the home improvement store to buy some paint, you’ll notice that there are small spray paint cans, low cost electric paint sprayers, and large metal heavy duty commercial sprayers. By analogy, drone sprayers fill a sweet spot that is similar to low cost electric paint sprayers.

You have to focus on the strengths of drone sprayers to see where they shine:

  • Able to get into locations that manned aircraft, ground spraying tractors, or hand sprayers cannot access.
  • Safer than hand spraying.
  • Lower acquisition costs versus larger pieces of equipment (ground spraying tractors) or manned aircraft. Do you really need to buy that ground spraying rig?
  • Easy and low cost to transport and deploy. (Ground spraying rigs you have to drive or tow there.  Manned aircraft you have to fly to the location).
  • Able to service smaller clients that would not have hired a manned aircraft.

Can You Give Me Some Drone Spraying Examples?

  • High value crops that tend to cover smaller acres of land (vineyards, apple orchards, almond orchards, etc.).
  • Spraying pollen on higher value crops to increase crop yields.
  • Crops on terrain that is too inaccessible or inconvenient to get to with a ground sprayer yet is too small to justify hiring a manned aircraft spraying operation.
  • Herbicide spraying on rocky embankments near a water reservoir where you don’t want to endanger your employees or you have a hard time getting to the rocky areas with the ground rig.
  • Mosquito abatement in areas that ground vehicles (or boats) cannot easily get to and that don’t justify the use of manned aircraft.
  • You’re a company that is running an in-house operation testing out aerial application of chemicals or on a particular type of plant.

What About Costs? How Much Does a Spraying Drone Operation Cost?

Yes, those examples didn’t really take into account the total drone sprayer operational costs.  Here are some rough numbers you can use to go off of:

  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Related:
    • FAA Registration ($5 per drone). Good for 3 years.
    • FAA Remote Pilot Certificate Knowledge Exam ($150 per remote pilot). Aeronautical test knowledge is good for 24 months.
    • Study Material for Remote Pilot Test (Free-$250)  (I have a huge free study guide for the test located here).
    • If you are spraying anything other than just pure water,
      • You’ll need a Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operator Certificate ($0 per operator but will take time). Indefinite.
      • Exemption ($0 per operator but will take time and legal knowledge.) Lasts 2 years.
    • Need to spray at night? Part 107 night waiver.  ($0) Lasts 4 years.
  • Drone Sprayer Insurance. I can’t estimate this because there are many factors here.   Read my article on drone insurance before you buy some.
  • Crop Dusting Drone Sprayer & Equipment.  ($5,000-40,000)
  • Spraying Pesticide? You’ll need a state restricted use pesticide license. (Around $100 to $250). Things can cause this to fluctuate so you’ll have to check your state.)

If you need my help with exemptions, a Part 107 night waiver, going through the 137 agricultural aircraft operator certification, please contact me for pricing.

Now before you start making business plans. You need to know that these drones are considered aircraft. Aircraft are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). In addition to the FAA, other U.S. Federal laws may apply to your operation.

United States Drone Spraying Law

A. Federal Drone Spraying Law

1. Federal Aviation Regulations

Just at the get go, if you are a government agency, some of these regulations might NOT apply to you. This is completely beyond the scope of this article but I have talked about it more over here.

Part 107

Most commercial drone operators follow Part 107. There are other legal methods of getting your aircraft airborne legally but this is the most time and cost efficient. Basically, Part 107 requires the drone sprayer to be registered, the pilot to have a remote pilot certificate, and for the operations to be done according to the restrictions listed in Part 107. Click here to read up on the complete summary of what Part 107 says.

Here are the two most important things you need to know about Part 107 in relation to spraying drones:

  1. Part 107 is only for drones that weigh on take-off less than 55 pounds and
  2. You cannot carry hazardous material on the drone.

Now these are not deal breakers but you’ll need exemptions from these restrictions. Exemptions do not cost anything to file with the FAA but they do take time and legal knowledge to make sure you have identified all the regulations you need to be exempted from. If you don’t have the time or knowledge, you can hire people, like me, to help you with this.

Also keep in mind that for 55 pound + exemptions, there are documents and data the FAA will want you to submit in support with the exemption. This data might NOT be supplied by the drone sprayer manufacturers, which means you need to create it or find someone who has. See tips below for more on this topic.

Part 137 – Agricultural Aircraft Operations. 

Part 137 specifically defines the applicability of this Part of the Code of Federal Regulations. Agricultural aircraft operation means the operation of an aircraft for the purpose of:

  1. Dispensing any economic poison,
  2. Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control, or
  3. Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation, but not including the dispensing of live insects.

Part 137.3 defines economic poison:

Economic poison means (1) any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any insects, rodents, nematodes, fungi, weeds, and other forms of plant or animal life or viruses, except viruses on or in living man or other animals, which the Secretary of Agriculture shall declare to be a pest, and (2) any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant or desiccant.

Most spraying operations fall into the applicability of Part 137 and because of such, they’ll need exemptions from sections of this part. Why? Part 137 was created a long long time ago. The regulations designed for manned aircraft do not make sense with drone sprayers. Conveniently, if you are already getting an exemption from the prohibition in Part 107 to not carry hazardous materials (like economic poisons), you can just add the sections of Part 137 that you need exempting from all into one request for exemption document.

Here is a major point that people miss. In addition to the exemption to do agricultural aircraft operations, the operator will need to obtain an agricultural aircraft operator certificate. You can thankfully pursue both the exemption and certificate in parallel to speed things up but you’ll need the exemption approval before you get inspected by the FAA as the final step in getting your agricultural aircraft operator certificate.

2. Other Federal Regulations

Keep in mind the FAA isn’t the only federal agency you might have to deal with. There is also the Environmental Protection Agency and also the Occupational and Health Safety Administration which have regulations that apply.  Discussing these regulations is way outside the scope of this article but I wanted to mention this.

B. State & Local Drone Spraying Laws

There are state and local laws that apply to aerial application spraying (manned and unmanned spraying). This is a very broad area but just know that states require you to obtain some type of restricted use pesticide license to spray any economic poisons and typically you need the certification in the category you are performing the work (aerial application).

Some states require you have your drone sprayer registered with the FAA and even the state. The state won’t issue any state registration until you also show some drone insurance on your drone sprayer. This means you won’t be able to do some type of hourly insurance set up but will have to obtain annual insurance and request a certificate of insurance to show to the state.

Local laws also might apply depending on what you are spraying, when you are spraying, and where you are spraying.

Drone Sprayers (and Spreaders) for Sale

Right now, there are some companies that are manufacturing spraying drones. The drone sprayers listed below are ones I’m familiar with. I didn’t do an exhaustive search for all that is out there.

Very important point: if any of the manufacturers or resellers refer you to other companies for legal or consulting assistance, ask them if they are receiving referral fees from that person or companies. You want to find out if the recommendation was because the consultant or attorney was the best person for the job, not because they were giving kickbacks. As a Florida-barred attorney, I’m prohibited from providing referral fees to not attorneys and have never done so.

Some of these companies also have foggers and spreaders that mount onto the aircraft.

Keep in mind you don’t just buy the drone sprayer. You’ll be also thinking about purchasing a transport case, extra batteries, training, etc.

Tips on Starting a Drone Sprayer Operation (Read This Before You Buy)

1. Work With an Attorney

A. Attorney Client Relationship Protects Sensitive Conversations.  The attorney-client privilege protects conversations between the client and the attorney. This allows for open conversations regarding the legality of the operations.  “Was I supposed to do……..”  or “We just received a letter of investigation” are supposed to be brought up in the open and honest attorney-client discussion. There are alot of regulations that apply. Do you really want to rely on a non-attorney to give you legal advice? You’re the one getting the fines, not the consultant.

Please note that it is ATTORNEY client relationship and not consultant client relationship. The FAA, federal and state law enforcement, plaintiff’s attorneys, etc. can subpoena your consultant to testify against you. They can’t do that with an attorney except for really rare situations. The consultant is stuck between a rock and a hard place. They either tell the truth and goof you up, lie and risk jail, or refuse to answer and go to jail.  The answer is simple – you’ll get goofed over every time.

B. An attorney can actually provide legal advice – lawfully. You’re going to need a lot of answers regarding the laws. Almost all the states I know of require that people who provide legal advice be licensed attorneys in that state. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. If anyone claims they are an attorney, check the state bar directory in which they live to see if they are a current member in good standing. For example, if you go to the Florida Bar’s member search page, you can search for me and see that I’m eligible to practice law and in good standing with the Florida Bar.

I know of a person running around in the industry right now that calls themselves an attorney but that person is actually a disbarred attorney who was disbarred because of dishonest conduct towards the client. It will look pretty bad to your boss if you hire a so-called attorney who turns out to not be a LICENSED attorney.

C. They have a duty to you. – This is an important one. Yes, we all understand the idea of giving secrets away to a competitor is a big no-no. But consider this….as a Florida Bar attorney, I’m actually prohibited from paying out to any non-attorney or drone manufacturers any referral fees. This means that if I recommend something or someone, I’m recommending it because it is good, not because I’m getting paid for it. Furthermore, this means that people who refer to me are sending you to me because I’m the best person to help, NOT that I’m giving them a kickback.  

D. Protection. Most attorneys have legal malpractice insurance which is there to protect you in case there is a mistake.  I don’t know of any consultants that have legal malpractice insurance to protect you if they advise you incorrectly on the aviation regulations or the other laws that apply to this area. Furthermore, attorneys go through background checks to get barred. Consultants don’t have to get checked out.

2. Are You Planning on Flying 55 Pounds or Heavier in the United States? 

A. Limited Payload. To fly under Part 107, your drone sprayer needs to weigh under 55 pounds on take-off. It could have the capability to fly heavier, but you need to keep it under. This is an important point because you could purchase a drone sprayer capable of flying over 55 pounds but you’ll be forced to limit the amount of liquid in your tanks for the drone and liquid together to be under 55 pounds at take-off.

B. More Costs & Different Rules. The amount of effort to fly a drone sprayer weighing 55 pounds or heavier is much more considerable than just flying under Part 107 without an exemption. Keep in mind you cannot just get a remote pilot certificate and fly a 55+ drone sprayer. The pilot will need the more costly sport pilot certificate and will be operating under a completely different set of regulations than Part 107. This means your up front costs WILL be higher for flying a 55+ drone than for an under 55 drone.  This also means that if you want to scale out the drone spraying operation, you’ll need to pay for training to get the employee a sport pilot certificate or recruit people that already have this license or higher.  It might make sense for your operation to have multiple under 55 pound drone sprayers and maybe one or more 55+ drone sprayers for larger jobs.

C. Lack of Reliability Data. This is actually the worst one.  For a 55+ exemption, the FAA will ask for information on the drone sprayer, such as how many total hours have been flown on it to show engineering reliability.  This is different than manuals. Is there any supporting data that shows this type of air frame is safe? This means you’ll most likely have to obtain the drone sprayer data yourself or find someone who already has. Maybe in the future the FAA will approve other 55+ exemptions based upon someone doing the previous leg work on the same make and model of drone sprayer but I have yet to see that.

D. Registration Planning. The easy online method of registering the drone sprayer under Part 48 is for only drone sprayers that will be operated under 55 pounds. This means you’ll have to go through the headache of de-registering under Part 48 and re-registering under Part 47 which is a pain in and of itself. Proper planning would say if you plan on going 55+ with your drone sprayer, just register under Part 47 which is good for both under 55  and 55+ operations.


Drone sprayers provide great opportunities for certain types of operations but not all situations. To help you achieve your drone sprayer goals quickly and legally, it is best to work with someone who has familiarity with the area.

If you are planning on navigating this difficult area, contact me. I’m a commercial pilot, current FAA certificated flight instructor, aviation attorney, and former professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. I am currently assisting clients in these matters and HAVE successfully obtained exemption approvals for clients to do drone spraying.  I’m also familiar with the non-aviation related legal issues that are extremely important for drone sprayer operations.

Section 107.73 Initial and recurrent knowledge test. (2018)


Are you interested in the Part 107 initial or recurrent knowledge test?

In this article we will discuss (1) the Part 107 initial knowledge test, (2) the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test, (3) the differences between both tests, (4) practice Part 107 initial and recurrent knowledge test, (5) actual language from 107.73, and (6) the FAA’s commentary on knowledge tests from the preamble to the Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule.

This article on the initial and recurrent knowledge test is part of an overall set of articles on each of the Part 107 drone regulations. Use these links below for navigation between the regulation pages.

Previous Regulation (107.71)Back to Drone Regulations DirectoryNext Regulation (107.74)

Table of Contents:


Part 107 Initial Knowledge Test

If you want to fly commercial in the United States, you’ll most likely be flying under Part 107 which requires a remote pilot certificate. To obtain for the first time a remote pilot certificate, you’ll need to take and pass a Part 107 initial knowledge test. If you are a current Part 61 certificated manned pilot, you have an option of going another method. See my step-by-step instructions page on how to obtain your remote pilot certificate.

The Part 107 initial knowledge test contains 60 questions and you have 120 minutes to take it. The subject areas on the exam are: (1) regulations, (2) airspace, (3) weather, (4) loading and performance, and (5) operations. You’ll need to pass the exam with a score of 70% or higher.

Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test

Individuals who have obtained their remote pilot certificates have to maintain their aeronautical knowledge currency by doing 1 of 3 methods. Section 107.65 says, a “person may not operate a small unmanned aircraft system unless that person has completed one of the following, within the previous 24 calendar months:

(a) Passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a);

(b) Passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(b); or

(c) If a person holds a pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) issued under part 61 of this chapter and meets the flight review requirements specified in §61.56, passed either an initial or recurrent training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) or (b) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.”

One of the methods is to take the Part 107 recurrent knowledge test. This article is focused specifically on the initial and recurrent knowledge test. I have addressed elsewhere other issues like:

The recurrent knowledge test consists of 40 questions. You have 1.5 hours to take the exam. The subject areas consist of regulations, airspace, and operations.

Differences Between the Initial & Recurrent Knowledge Test

The initial has 60 questions while the recurrent knowledge test has 40 questions.

The initial gives you 120 minutes while the recurrent knowledge test is 80 minutes.

Since the number of questions decreased and also the number of subjects tested with the recurrent knowledge test, this might cause confusion as to how to spend your time studying. There are two ways at looking at how you should focus your time: (1) comparing using the airmen certification standards and (2) using the actual subject areas of the regulations.

Comparison Using the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS)

Here is a table I created comparing the initial to the recurrent knowledge test using the ACS.

Please note that while Area I and Area II are being tested completely, in the recurrent knowledge exam, tasks  A. Radio Communications Procedures and E. Physiology are not tested so it’s really not ALL of Area V.

Comparison Using the Regulations

Another way of determining how to spend your time studying is looking at what the FAA really wants you to know based upon what the regulations specifically list. Section 107.73 and 107.74 list out specific areas.

Remember that the current manned pilots aircraft pilots have another way of getting current. They can take the online training courses. I took the topics from the initial and recurrent knowledge test and the topics from the initial and recurrent online training course and compared them in a table below.


initial versus recurrent remote pilot (aka drone license) test

The FAA is really emphasizing the first 4 subjects. You should know those areas like the back of your hand.

The 5th, 6th, and 7th lines also give you a clue that you MUST know that if you are going for an initial or recurrent knowledge test.

Part 107 Initial Knowledge Practice Test Questions



Part 107 Recurrent Knowledge Test Practice Questions