Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency. [2021]

Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

A person may not exercise the privileges of a remote pilot in command with small UAS rating unless that person has accomplished one of the following in a manner acceptable to the Administrator within the previous 24 calendar months:

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

(b) Completed recurrent training covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.73; 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, completed training covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.74.

(d) A person who has passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test in a manner acceptable to the Administrator or who has satisfied the training requirement of paragraph (c) of this section prior to April 6, 2021 within the previous 24 calendar months is considered to be in compliance with the requirement of paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, as applicable.


Online Training


My Commentary on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

You used to have to complete a recurrent knowledge exam by going to a knowledge testing center. The FAA changed this. You can now do online training provided it covers the areas of knowledge specified in 107.74.

Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge)

Section 107.65 says,

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

(b) Completed recurrent training covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.73; 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, completed training covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.74.

(d) A person who has passed a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test in a manner acceptable to the Administrator or who has satisfied the training requirement of paragraph (c) of this section prior to March 16, 2021 within the previous 24 calendar months is considered to be in compliance with the requirement of paragraph (b) or (c) of this section, as applicable.” (Emphasis mine).

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Section 44809.

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or having to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on February 19, 2019 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a), (b), (c), or (d) no later than February 28, 2021. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), (c), or (d).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2019.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent training until October 10, 2021 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the recurrent training around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent knowledge exam on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating recency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), (c), or (d) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial knowledge exam test report or recurrent training documentation.
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

If they lost their knowledge test, they can obtain it. Starting January 13, 2020, everyone will need to use their FTN to take the initial or recurrent knowledge test. The FAA PDF says, “Ability for the applicant to reprint lost/destroyed AKTRs from the testing vendor’s website. For all knowledge tests taken before January 13, 2020, applicants must contact the FAA Airmen Certification Office (AFB-720) for replacement, embossed copies of lost/destroyed AKTRs.” The FAA put out a FAQ document on the FTN situation here https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/acts/media/ftn_faqs.pdf

Should bring along my knowledge exam or training complete documentation with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wondering if you really are current.


Corona Virus

Corona Virus is preventing me from taking knowledge test. What can I do?

My remote pilot knowledge test is about to expire, and I can’t go take the test because of Corona Virus. What can I do?

It isn’t just remote pilots. All of aviation is affected by the Corona Virus. So the FAA did something about it…with two different Special Federal Aviation Regulations.

First SFAR

On May 4, 2020, the FAA issued an emergency special federal aviation regulation (SFAR) giving some temporary relief. The quick summary for remote pilots was this:

  • Remote pilots, who are still current, about to lose currency (April through June) and want to take a knowledge exam for currency, but cannot due to the Corona Virus, can instead take a free online course on the FAA’s website. This allows you to fly for another 6 months from the date of online course.
  • Manned aircraft pilots who want to maintain currency for 24 months for Part 107 can do this provided (1) they were current as of March but needed a BFR sometime in March through June, (2) within the previous 12 calendar months they obtained 10 hours as PIC in an aircraft they are rated, (3) taken courses totally 3 Wings credits (taken after January 2020), and (4) took the FAA online remote pilot course. Their BFR currency will be for 3 months and their remote pilot currency for 24 months.

It was a temporary relief….but Corona Virus did not go away and things did not go back to normal.

Sooooooooo you guessed it.

Second SFAR (Amending First SFAR)

On June 29, 2020 the FAA published a Federal Register notice amending the previous SFAR because “Airmen continue to have trouble complying with certain training, recency, checking, testing, duration, and renewal requirements even as stay-at-home advisories are lifted. Even as the Nation transitions to various phases of reopening throughout the country, authorities continue to promote social distancing and limiting exposure to slow the spread of the virus.”

Ya, it didn’t go away so…..

Third SFAR (Amending First)

On October 6, 2020, the FAA published a Federal Register notice amending the first SFAR. It changed things for other areas of aviation but didn’t do anything for Part 107 so everything from the 2nd SFAR is still in effect.

Text of Final Rule Applicable to Part 107 Remote Pilots

(7) Aeronautical Knowledge Recency Requirements of § 107.65 of this Chapter.A person who has not satisfied the aeronautical knowledge recency requirements of § 107.65(a) or (b) of this chapter within the previous 24 calendar months may operate a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 of this chapter, provided that person meets the following requirements—

(i) Airmen requirements. The person was current to exercise the privileges of a remote pilot certificate in March 2020 and, to maintain aeronautical currency, is required to meet the aeronautical recency requirements in § 107.65(a) or
(b) of this chapter between April 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020.

(ii) Qualification requirements. The person must have completed an FAA developed initial or recurrent online training course, available at www.faasafety.gov, covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.74(a) or (b) of this chapter. Each person is eligible to take an online training course specified in this paragraph 2.(b)(7)(ii) one time for the purpose of obtaining the six calendar month grace period specified in paragraph 2.(b)(7)(iii) of this SFAR;

(iii) Grace period. The person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 of this chapter for a duration of six calendar months from the month in which the person completed the online training course specified in paragraph 2.(b)(7)(ii) of this SFAR. Before operating a small unmanned aircraft system under part 107 in the seventh month after the month in which the person completed the online training course, the person must satisfy § 107.65 of this chapter.

Text of the FAA Discussing the Final Rule for Part 107 (From Second SFAR)

4. Aeronautical Knowledge Recency (§ 107.65) Section 107.65 requires remote pilots certificated under part 107 to establish recency of knowledge every 24 calendar months. To meet the recency of knowledge requirement per § 107.65(a) or (b), remote pilots must pass an FAA knowledge test at a knowledge testing center. The initial and recurrent knowledge tests required by § 107.65(a) or (b) cover the comprehensive list of knowledge areas specified in § 107.73(a) or (b), respectively. Section 107.65(c) allows remote pilots who are also certificated under part 61 and have a current flight review in accordance with § 61.56 to complete online training to meet aeronautical knowledge recency.The initial or recurrent training course covers the condensed list of knowledge areas specified in § 107.74(a) or (b), respectively, because the part 61 pilot who has a current flight review has already demonstrated knowledge of many of the topic areas tested on the UAS knowledge test.

Under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID -19 public health emergency, eligible remote pilots who would normally establish recency of knowledge in accordance with § 107.65(a) or (b) may complete online training as an alternative if required to establish recency between April 2020 and September 2020. The remote pilot may complete the FAA-developed initial or recurrent online training courses at www.faasafety.gov one time to establish knowledge recency for six calendar months. As previously stated, the initial or recurrent online training course covers a condensed list of UAS-specific knowledge areas because it is intended for persons who hold part 61 pilot certificates and satisfy the flight review requirements of § 61.56. The FAA finds that, for a limited duration of time, allowing remote pilots to complete one of these online training courses is an adequate alternative to passing a knowledge test. However, because these courses do not include all the knowledge areas under § 107.73(a) or (b) that a remote pilot is required to be tested on every 24 calendar months, the remote pilot will need to establish knowledge recency in accordance with § 107.65 upon conclusion of the six calendar months. Remote pilots who qualify to establish recency of aeronautical knowledge per § 107.65(c) are not included in this relief. Pilots who use the relief from § 61.56 in this SFAR amendment may establish recency of aeronautical knowledge per § 107.65(c) and retain remote pilot privileges for 24 calendar months.

Text of Final Rule for those Using 61.56(c) to become current under 107.65(c).

(2) Flight review requirements of § 61.56. A person who has not completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar months in accordance with § 61.56 may continue to act as pilot in command of an aircraft, provided the following requirements are met—

(i) Airmen requirements. The person was current to act as pilot in command of an aircraft in March 2020 and, to maintain currency, is required to complete a flight review under § 61.56 between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020.

(ii) Qualification requirements. To act as pilot in command of an aircraft during the period specified in paragraph 2.(b)(2)(iii) of this SFAR, the person must have—

(A) Within the 12 calendar months preceding the month in which the flight review is due, logged at least 10 hours of flight time as pilot in command in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated; and

(B) Since January 1, 2020 and preceding the date of flight, completed online Wings courses for pilots from the FAA Safety Team website, available at www.faasafety.gov. The online training courses must total at least 3 Wings credits.

(iii) Grace period. The person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft for a duration of three calendar months from the month in which the flight review was due. Before acting as pilot in command of an aircraft in the fourth month after the month in which the flight review was due, the person must satisfactorily complete a flight review in accordance with § 61.56

Text Applicable to Part 61 Pilots Utilizing 107.65(c). (Section 61.56(c) Biannual Flight Review)

Section 61.56(c) states that no person may act as PIC of an aircraft, unless since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that person acts as PIC, that person has accomplished a flight review in an aircraft for which that person is rated and the person’s logbook has been endorsed for that review by an authorized instructor certifying the review was satisfactorily completed.

The FAA finds, under the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID–19 public health emergency,
that extending the 24-calendar month requirement of § 61.56(c) by up to three calendar months will not adversely affect safety, provided the extension applies to active pilots and certain risk mitigations are met. The three-calendar month extension applies to pilots who were current to act as PIC of an aircraft in March 2020 and whose flight review was due in March 2020 through September 2020. Eligible pilots must complete the requirements prescribed in SFAR 118 prior to serving as a PIC.

The FAA notes that, for pilots whose flight review was due in March 2020, the three-month grace period is available through June 30, 2020, and these pilots must complete the requirements in § 61.56 before acting as PIC after June 30, 2020.

Keep in mind that this COVID-19 SFAR applies to many other things such as duration of medical certificates, renewal of flight instructor certificates, etc. You can read the entire document here.

Corona Virus SFAR Frequently Asked Questions (Answered by Jonathan):

My knowledge test currency already expired. How does this new Corona Virus SFAR benefit me?

This is only for those who are presently current. If you already expired, you are not eligible.

Can this be used to extend my night waiver or airspace authorization?

No. Which should cause you to start planning now to file before things expire. Some waivers start expiring in August. If you need help with over people or night waivers, contact me.

Does it last 6 months from date of my recency expiration or 6 months from the date I complete the online course?

It’s 6 months from the month you took the online course. So if you took the online course on 5/1, you would be good through the last day November (11/30).

Can I use this Corona Virus SFAR to get out of taking my initial recurrent knowledge exam?

No, you can't use this as some creative loophole to skip the initial recurrent knowledge exam. Yes, the SFAR talks about remote pilots taking an initial knowledge exam and that is because they have already passed an initial knowledge exam and have the option keeping current by taking the initial or recurrent knowledge exam.

Can you explain this calendar month thing? If I took the knowledge test on the 5th of July, does that mean I expire on the 5th of July or the 31st?

Calendar month is all of the days within that month. If you took it on July 5, 2018, your knowledge currency expires on July 31st, 2020. Basically, just remember it as all the way to the last day of that month. So a cool little hack you can do is take the test on the 1st of the month and you almost like 25 months later.

How much does the FAA online course cost?

It’s free. The two FAA Courses are ALC-451 (Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (small UAS) Initial) and ALC-515 (Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (small UAS) Recurrent).

How many times can we do this?

Once. You cannot keep like doing it over and over to scooch on out the 6 months until the Corona Virus situation is resolved. Figure out when you are going to lose currency and do it shortly before it ends to get your full 6 months in.

Do the course you have over at Rupprecht Drones count towards this?

No, the night operations course, airspace and chart reading course, and Part 107 regulations over at Rupprecht Drones were not designed for this; however, we area structuring them all (and the future courses in the works) so you could take your future recurrent knowledge exams online through our courses according to the proposed regulations. Head over to www.rupprechtdrones.com and check out the courses and free videos.


Advisory Circular 107-2A on Section 107.65 Aeronautical knowledge recency.

6.7.2 Recurrent Training. After an individual receives a Remote Pilot Certificate with a small UAS rating, that individual must retain the level of knowledge required to safely operate a small UAS in the NAS. To continue exercising the privileges of a Remote Pilot Certificate, the certificate holder must successfully complete recurrent training within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial knowledge test or initial knowledge training. Figure 6-1, Recurrent Training Cycle Examples, illustrates an individual’s potential renewal cycles.

Figure 6-1. Recurrent Training Cycle Examples

Individual passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 13, 2020.    Then   Recurrent training must be completed   no later than September 30, 2022, which does not exceed 24 calendar-months.

Individual does not pass recurrent training until October 5, 2020.    Then   Individual may not exercise the privileges of the Remote Pilot Certificate between October 1, 2020, and October 5, 2020, when the training is completed. The next recurrent knowledge training must be completed no later than October 31, 2022, which does not exceed 24 calendar-months.

Individual elects to take recurrent training on or prior to September 30, 2020. The recurrent training is completed on July 15, 2020.    Then The next recurrent training must be completed no later than July 31, 2022, which does not exceed 24 calendar-months.


FAA Commentary from the Preamble of:

2020 Operation of SUAS Over People Rule Amending the 2016 Rule’s Language

X. Part 107 Remote Pilot Knowledge Testing and Training
The NPRM proposed to maintain the initial knowledge test requirement and initial training requirement for persons seeking to obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.[76] However, with respect to recency of experience requirements, the FAA proposed to require recurrent training every 24 calendar months in lieu of the recurrent knowledge testing.[77] Additionally, the NPRM proposed to add a knowledge area covering operations at night for the initial knowledge test, initial training, and recurrent training. The NPRM also proposed to revise the list of knowledge areas for remote pilots, requiring inclusion of the same list of knowledge areas on both the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training for pilots who hold a remote pilot certificate under § 107.65(b). As for pilots who already hold a pilot certificate under part 61 as described in § 107.65(c), the NPRM proposed to require the initial and recurrent training to cover identical knowledge areas. For the reasons discussed below, the Agency adopts these proposed amendments without change.

A. Recurrent Training and Aeronautical Knowledge Recency
Prior to this final rule, § 107.65(a) and (b) required persons to complete either an initial aeronautical knowledge test or a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test within the previous 24 calendar months prior to operating a small UAS. This final rule revises § 107.65(b) to allow remote pilots to take recurrent training instead of a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. People who hold a part 61 pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) who have completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar months in accordance with § 61.56 may continue, under § 107.65(c), to complete either initial or recurrent training covering the areas of knowledge specified in § 107.74.

Recurrent training ensures remote pilots maintain ongoing familiarity with small UAS operations and the provisions of part 107. Moreover, remote pilots can complete recurrent training online, which provides a less costly option and results in the remote pilot maintaining a level of knowledge comparable to receiving recurrent testing. The FAA’s use of online training enables the FAA to adapt the training as necessary as technology or regulations change.

The rule continues to allow an eligible person who holds a part 61 pilot certificate (other than a student pilot certificate) to complete training on the knowledge areas specified in § 107.74 when seeking a remote pilot certificate.[78] Furthermore, the rule allows all remote pilots to complete recurrent training online every 24 calendar months, in place of a recurrent knowledge test. The rule amends the aeronautical knowledge test and training requirements for remote pilots provided in §§ 107.73 and 107.74 to include a new knowledge area related to operating a small UAS at night. For more information about the testing and training on the night operations knowledge area, please see Section IX.B.

This final rule requires the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training cover identical areas of knowledge under § 107.73. Similarly, for eligible part 61 pilots, the initial training and recurrent training will cover the same knowledge areas under § 107.74. The FAA is concurrently updating the part 107 Airman Certification Standards (ACS), the initial aeronautical knowledge test, the part 107 certification course for eligible part 61 pilots, and the recurrent training.[79] The updated aeronautical knowledge test and updated training replaces the current knowledge test and training after the effective date of the rule. Both the updated aeronautical knowledge test and the updated training will be available on March 1, 2021.

NASAO asked that the recurrent education make pilots aware of updates to operating rules, rather than retesting the initial knowledge test. One commenter believed there should be a “grading scale” to ensure pilots have stayed current on operations and regulations. Another commenter agreed that it was likely that operators would need to take refresher training, but suggested that if an individual scores above a certain level on their initial knowledge test, the FAA exclude that person from having to take recurrent training. Several commenters objected to the current 24-month interval for the testing and recurrent training process. Commenters recommended a range of intervals for recurrent training from 36 months to 5 years, or eliminating altogether for “professional operators.”

Part 107 requires the recurrent training to cover applicable regulations relating to small UAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation. As a result, recurrent training will ensure remote pilots are aware of current and updated operating rules. While a high score on an initial aeronautical knowledge test may demonstrate initial competency, knowledge is perishable and degrades over time. Online recurrent training allows remote pilots to maintain critical knowledge and keep abreast of dynamic issues, including changes to regulations, that arise while ultimately completing the updated knowledge requirements related to operating small UAS. Additionally, the Agency finds the 24-month interval an appropriate time period. This recurrent training interval is consistent with the requirement for manned aircraft pilots meeting the requirement to complete a flight review as required by § 61.56. On completion of this recurrent training, a printable completion certificate is available to demonstrate aeronautical knowledge recency in accordance with the revisions to § 107.65. The FAA provides educational material on the FAA website about updates to operating rules. AOPA commented that the FAA should not be the exclusive provider of the required knowledge training because there are numerous training courses offered by industry that might be more effective and better meet the needs of the unmanned aircraft operator. Another commenter asked the FAA to clarify what training would qualify.

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Association suggested the FAA require all small UAS operators to meet the same operational recency and testing requirements that are currently in place for manned commercial airman certificates. ALPA noted that a person who manipulates the flight controls of a small UAS should be a certified pilot and pass a knowledge test, but objected that the proposed requirement would allow an individual to be granted a remote pilot certificate without assurance of practical experience with a small UAS. Several commenters recommended specific practical training requirements, including flight training for operations over people and at night. One commenter believed an unprepared remote pilot may have to resort to manual flight operation and may not be qualified for that operation. AUVSI commented that any mandatory training involving operations over people should be competency-based. They also recommended the FAA consider how industry initiatives could support a new training requirement to help ensure that small UAS operations occur safely and in accordance with the rules. Another commenter wrote a higher level of training should be required to operate a small UAS commercially.

The Agency continues to find that formal training, a practical test for the issuance of a part 107 remote pilot certificate, and testing requirements similar to those for part 61 commercial pilot certificates, are not necessary. As discussed in the 2016 final rule, the limitations of many small unmanned aircraft (e.g., size, ease of landing, lack of people on board), combined with the operational restrictions of part 107, minimize the need for flight proficiency testing or formal training. A prescriptive formal training requirement is not necessary for part 107 operations. Instead, this rule allows remote pilot certificate applicants to attain the necessary aeronautical knowledge through any number of different methods, including self-study, enrolling in a training seminar or online course, or through one-on-one instruction with a trainer familiar with small UAS operations and part 107. This performance-based approach is preferable because it allows individuals to select a method of study that works best for them.[80] The FAA maintains this rationale for operations over people and night operations. While the introduction of operations over people and night operations may introduce additional complexity to the NAS, the FAA developed the design and operational requirements of this rule to balance the risk associated with the incremental integration of small UAS. This rule discusses those risk mitigations in more detail in Sections VI and IX, respectively.

The FAA understands formal training would be overly burdensome to an applicant. By requiring a person to only take a knowledge test for certification, allowing online recurrent training, and not requiring formal training, the FAA anticipates that this will result in cost savings for remote pilots, as discussed in the regulatory impact analysis. In addition, requiring formal training and a practical test would not be consistent with the original framework of part 107.[81] The FAA does not find it necessary to require practical testing to obtain a remote pilot certificate. This approach is consistent with the risk-based framework the 2016 final rule established.[82]

One commenter expressed concern that requiring the recurrent training to be identical to the initial training for part 61 pilots would be duplicative. Commenters asked the FAA to review the areas already covered in the Private Pilot Airman Certification Standards and keep duplicative or conflicting subject areas to a minimum. Another commenter suggested that part 61 should include certification to be a remote pilot.

As discussed previously, knowledge degrades over time and requiring recurrent training provides assurances that experienced remote pilots remain aware of the specifics of operating a small UAS. Additionally, as noted in the NPRM, the FAA finds it necessary to ensure consistency in remote pilots’ knowledge of the topic areas for the safe operation of small UAS. To compensate for the differences between manned aircraft and small unmanned aircraft, the list of knowledge areas includes topics that are specific to small UAS operations. For example, determining the performance of a manned aircraft is distinct from the manner in which a pilot should determine the performance of a small UAS; in this regard, the preflight check requirements of § 107.49 are distinct from those codified in part 91 and in other, similar regulations specific to manned aircraft.

Several commenters objected to the cost associated with the initial knowledge test and other commenters recommended the FAA lower the test costs. However, one commenter wrote that everyone who owns a small UAS should have to pass the initial knowledge test and recurrent testing to eliminate the threat of people flying dangerously. One commenter objected to having to pay a third party for recurrent testing. Some commenters wrote that section 44809 of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 requires the FAA to develop a test for recreational operations that can be administered online and that this should be extended to part 107 remote pilot certification, thereby reducing the cost to $50 associated with the initial knowledge test.

The FAA clarifies that part 107 does not mandate formal training to obtain a remote pilot certificate, and any cost that a part 107 applicant incurs for formal training is at their discretion. Additionally, on March 1, 2021 the FAA will provide free, online recurrent training to all remote pilots. The FAA enters into contracts for testing delivery through a third party vendor. The FAA’s rationale to contract the initial test through knowledge testing centers remains the same as it was in the 2016 final rule.[83] This delivery model allows the FAA to enter into a contract that provides a zero cost model to the U.S. government and to the taxpayers. The testing vendor has many locations throughout the United States that are close to large and small population centers, therefore the requirement to take a knowledge test at a testing location is not an undue burden on applicants. The third party vendor is allowed to charge the contract rate to administer a knowledge test; however, that amount is not to exceed $160. The FAA Reauthorization Bill of 2018 requirement for the FAA to have an online test for limited recreational operators does not apply to part 107 remote pilot certification.

B. Other Comments Related to Initial Testing or Recurrent Training
Several commenters expressed concern about the risks of people without certification or training operating small UAS. Other commenters, referencing certification of pilots and mandatory registration for equipment, stated that all operators should be licensed regardless of size or weight of small unmanned aircraft. The FAA agrees that persons operating small UAS in the NAS should have appropriate aeronautical safety knowledge, knowledge of applicable rules, and knowledge of airspace constraints before operating in the NAS. Part 107 rules require that all small unmanned aircraft are registered and operated by a certificated remote pilot. The FAA currently requires initial testing or training before the issuance of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for operations under part 107.

Multiple commenters requested that both testing and training be provided online, with several commenters specifically recommending that the initial knowledge test be available online. The FAA agrees that in-person recurrent testing under part 107 is no longer necessary for part 107 certificate holders. Therefore, to meet the recency requirements under § 107.65, any person who holds a part 107 certificate may maintain recency of experience by completing an online training course. For security reasons, the initial knowledge testing must be done in person, similar to the regulatory framework for training under part 61.

A commenter suggested that test questions for each online test be pulled randomly from a larger set of questions so an applicant cannot take the same test over and over until the applicant achieves a score of 100 percent and would be required to learn the material. The part 107 knowledge tests are created from a large bank of questions that were specifically drafted for small UAS remote pilot certification. Although it is possible that a person could take the part 107 knowledge test enough times that they would eventually see all of the questions, and possibly get them all correct, this is not very probable especially given the mandatory 14-day waiting period required before a person can retake the knowledge test after a failure.[84] In addition, a person who is not prepared for the test, and does not have a working knowledge of the material, will have a very low probability of passing the test. The FAA will continue to administer knowledge testing in the same form and manner that has proven effective for many years.

A commenter recommended the FAA define minimum standards for training that would allow certain people to conduct operations without requiring a waiver to operate over people or at night. This rule adopts routine night operations and operations over people without the need for waivers. Additionally, under part 107, the FAA does not maintain minimum standards for training like those in part 61. For example, an applicant for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating does not have to show that they have received formal training from a certified instructor on the National Airspace System. As there are two pathways for remote pilot certification, an applicant will have either met a minimum testing standard via a knowledge test or they will have taken training which will also test their knowledge. All persons who hold a remote pilot certificate will also need to maintain currency by taking currency training every 24 months from the month in which they take and pass the knowledge test or training for certification. The updated knowledge areas for the testing and training requirements are the minimum standard for small UAS operations conducted under part 107.

Some commenters proposed the Agency tailor the part 107 knowledge test to specific types of operators or certain topics and have different tests based on the type of operation. A few commenters recommended the part 107 knowledge test be redesigned to better test commercial small UAS pilots piloting skills and safe operations. These commenters noted the part 107 knowledge test appeared to derive from manned pilot standards and the Pilot Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK), which the commenters argued do not apply directly to small UAS flights. Another commenter asked for knowledge and testing specific to small UAS operations over people, such as first aid training. A commenter suggested the FAA have two separate knowledge tests: A basic test for hobbyists and small businesses, etc., and a more complex test for large commercial operations, large, fixed-wing small unmanned aircraft, or those flying in urban areas or all over the country.

All test questions were developed specifically for the part 107 remote pilot certification. Some of the required test questions, however, are also applicable to manned aircraft, such as questions related to airspace regulations that apply to all aircraft. The FAA carefully evaluated the knowledge test areas to ensure they remain comprehensive. The small UAS Airman Certification Standards and knowledge test contain each of the topics required for knowledge and testing, and the Agency does not consider remote pilot first aid training a necessary requirement for such low-risk operations. The requirements are the same for anyone flying under part 107; therefore, the knowledge and training should be the same for all certificated remote pilots under part 107.

Some commenters suggested passing the part 107 knowledge test or the level of the remote pilot’s training and experience should permit them certain privileges. A commenter wrote that passing the part 107 test should grant part 107 pilots the ability to fly over people and beyond line of sight. A commenter requested the FAA add levels of additional authorization for a remote pilot to fly over people, carry payloads, or fly at night based on their levels of training and experience added as ratings to the certificate. One commenter stated that part 61 pilots should have more “capability and freedom,” as they have already demonstrated their responsibility by obtaining a part 61 certificate. Another commenter asked the FAA to educate businesses that use remote pilots without a part 107 certificate to conduct commercial small UAS operations.

The FAA declines to add authorizations or ratings to the remote pilot certification in this final rule. A person who holds a remote pilot certificate is afforded all privileges of the certificate. The FAA has taken the approach of tailoring its requirements for night operations and operations over people with the expectation that all part 107 pilots have the same level of certification. The Agency did not propose authorizing routine beyond visual line of sight operations in this rulemaking; therefore, adding authorizations or ratings to address such operations is beyond the scope of the rule. Additionally, part 107 does not prohibit payload-bearing operations, but the small unmanned aircraft and any payload must be less than 55 pounds and must follow all applicable regulations for safe operation. Remote pilots who operate a small UAS under part 107 without an FAA-issued pilot certificate are subject to the FAA’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy. Additional educational material is available on the FAA website.[85]

2016 Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

The FAA took a risk-based approach to defining the airman certification requirements for small UAS remote pilots, and in light of the contained nature of operations, opted not to propose specific training, flight experience, or demonstration of proficiency in order to be eligible for a certificate. A remote pilot certificate applicant’s knowledge of small UAS, as well as regulations concerning safe operations in the NAS, can adequately be evaluated through an initial and recurrent knowledge tests. A person who has acquired the pertinent knowledge will pass the knowledge tests while a person who has not done so will fail the test.

In response to commenters’ concerns about rote memorization, the FAA notes that in addition to passing the initial knowledge test, remote pilot certificate holders will also have to pass a recurrent knowledge test every two years to ensure that they have retained the knowledge necessary to safely operate in the NAS. Further, remote pilot certificate holders will also be subject to continuing FAA oversight. The FAA emphasizes that under  49 U.S.C. 44709 and § 107.7(b), the FAA may reexamine a certificated remote pilot if it has sufficient reason to believe that the remote pilot may not be qualified to exercise the privileges of his or her certificate.137 Because the qualification framework for the remote pilot certificate is based on aeronautical knowledge, a reexamination under section 44709 and § 107.7(b) would be limited to the certificate holder’s aeronautical knowledge. The reexamination may be conducted using an oral or written knowledge test.

A prescriptive formal training requirement is not necessary in this rule. Instead, this rule will allow remote pilot certificate applicants to attain the necessary aeronautical knowledge through any number of different methods, including self-study, enrolling in a training seminar or online course, or through one-on-one instruction with a trainer familiar with small UAS operations and part 107. This performance-based approach is preferable because it will allow individuals to select a method of study that works best for them. These methods of study will then be validated by whether or not the individual is able to pass the knowledge test. As noted in OMB Circular A-4, performance-based standards are generally preferable in a regulation because they allow the regulated parties “to choose the most cost-effective methods for achieving the regulatory goal and create an incentive for innovative solutions.”

The FAA will publish Advisory Circulars to assist remote pilots in operating small UAS safely in the NAS. The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) will also host online training courses. These training courses could be used as one method of studying for the knowledge test. Lastly, because there is already a robust network of nearly 700 testing centers located throughout the country set up to administer FAA knowledge tests, the FAA has opted not to establish new standards for small UAS remote pilot testing centers.

f. General Requirement for Initial Aeronautical Knowledge Test

The NPRM proposed requiring applicants for a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating to pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test to demonstrate that they have sufficient aeronautical knowledge to safely operate a small UAS. The FAA adopts the provisions as proposed with three changes. First, as discussed in III.F.2.i below, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete an initial knowledge test as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of their part 61 pilot certificate and complete an online training course within the preceding 24 months. Second, as discussed in III.F.2.h below, the FAA will require that pilots with military experience operating unmanned aircraft pass an initial knowledge test in order to obtain a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating, and pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months subsequent in order to continue to exercise the privileges of that certificate.

Many commenters, including National Association of State Aviation Officials, NAAA, ALPA, and NAMIC, supported the FAA’s proposal to require an initial aeronautical knowledge test in order to operate a small UAS. Conversely, several commenters opposed the initial aeronautical knowledge test. Commenters argued that initial testing is “overkill” and the FAA should treat small UAS pilots like part 103 ultralight vehicle pilots and not require airman certification or testing. The commenters further argued that all testing is unnecessary and inappropriate.

The FAA disagrees with the commenters who asked that the knowledge test be abolished. Title 49 U.S.C. 44703 requires the FAA to ensure that an airman certificate applicant is qualified and able to perform the duties related to the position to be authorized by the certificate.

Here, in order to meet its statutory obligation to determine that an applicant for a remote pilot certificate possesses the knowledge necessary to safely operate in the NAS, the FAA is requiring that those persons pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test. Knowledge testing is the most flexible and efficient means for ensuring that a remote pilot possesses the requisite knowledge to operate in the NAS because it allows the applicant to acquire the pertinent knowledge in whatever manner works best for him or her. The applicant can then take and pass the aeronautical knowledge test to verify that he or she has indeed acquired the pertinent areas of knowledge.

NAFI recommended that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. SkyView Strategies suggested that to protect the public from a poorly prepared UAS operator who receives a passing grade but gets important questions wrong, the UAS operator should be required to present to a flight training instructor his or her written test results, noting areas where knowledge is lacking.

The FAA disagrees with the recommendation that an applicant should be required to obtain an instructor endorsement to take the initial aeronautical knowledge test. While an instructor endorsement is generally required for part 61 pilot certificates, the significantly reduced risk associated with small UAS operations conducted under part 107 would make this framework unduly burdensome in this case. Instead, a stand-alone knowledge test is sufficient to verify the qualification of the remote pilot certificate applicant. Because the aeronautical knowledge test will determine whether an applicant possesses the knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS, a separate flight instructor endorsement should not be required to take the knowledge test. The FAA also notes that the costs associated with failing and having to retake the knowledge test will provide an incentive to applicants to pick a method of study that maximizes the chance of them passing the aeronautical knowledge test on the first try.

The FAA also does not agree that a certificate applicant should be required to present to a flight instructor his or her knowledge test results for remedial training. The FAA maintains that if a candidate is “poorly prepared,” then that person is unlikely to pass the knowledge test.

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture suggested that a more appropriate “aeronautical knowledge exam” needs to be developed with input from UAS users. It further suggested that the FAA should periodically revisit the scope of the aeronautical knowledge test as operational experience data increases. FAA knowledge test banks are continuously updated to address changes to the industry, safety, and special emphasis areas. While the FAA responds to industry and user community feedback, the small UAS knowledge test bank is developed internally within the agency to protect the integrity of test.

g. General Requirement for Recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge Test
The FAA proposed that a certificated remote pilot must also pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months. Like the flight review requirement specified in § 61.56, the recurrent knowledge test provides the opportunity for a remote pilot’s aeronautical knowledge to be reevaluated on a periodic basis. The FAA adopts this provision as proposed, with one change. As discussed in III.F.2.i, the FAA exempts part 61 pilot certificate holders from the requirement to complete recurrent knowledge tests as long as they satisfy the flight review requirements of § 61.56 and complete an online training course every 24 months.

ALPA, AOPA, AUVSI and several other commenters supported the requirement for a recurrent knowledge test. Conversely, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association and a few individual commenters argued that a recurrent knowledge test is unnecessary. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association explained that small UAS operations present a substantially reduced risk as compared to manned-aircraft operations. Therefore, the commenter argued, it is appropriate to impose different, and in some instances lesser, operational requirements.

The FAA disagrees with the notion that no periodic reevaluation of knowledge is necessary. Knowledge of rules, regulations, and operating principles erodes over time, particularly if the remote pilot is not required to recall such information on a frequent basis. This is a fundamental principle of airman certification, and it applies to all FAA- certificated airmen. For part 61 pilot certificate holders, the flight review, conducted under § 61.56, specifically requires “[a] review of the current general operating and flight rules of part 91” in addition to maneuvers necessary to safely exercise the privileges of the certificate. Likewise, the FAA considers a recurrent knowledge test to be an effective means of evaluating a remote pilot’s retention of knowledge necessary to safely operate small unmanned aircraft in the NAS. Because of the reduced risk posed by small UAS, the FAA is not requiring remote pilots to demonstrate a minimum level of flight proficiency to a specific standard or recency of flight experience in order to exercise the privileges of their airman certificate.

Drone Labs suggested extending the time period between recurrent tests to 5 years, and/or making the test available online to ease recertification. Kansas Farm Bureau recommended a 6-year interval between recurrent tests, similar to the interval for renewal of a driver’s license.

The FAA does not agree that the recurrent testing interval should be longer than two years. Unlike the privileges afforded by a driver’s license, which are exercised on a frequent basis by most drivers, many holders of remote pilot certificates may only exercise their privileges occasionally or may not regularly conduct operations that apply all of the concepts tested on the aeronautical knowledge test. For example, a remote pilot in command may spend years never operating outside of Class G airspace, and then may move to a different location that requires him or her to begin conducting small UAS operations in Class D airspace. Based on experience with manned pilots, those persons who exercise the privileges of their certificate on an infrequent basis are likely to retain the knowledge for a shorter period of time than those who exercise the privileges of their certificate on a regular basis.

Further, as unmanned aircraft operations increase in the NAS, the FAA anticipates the possibility of further changes to rules and regulations. By requiring evaluation on a two-year cycle, the FAA is able to ensure that remote pilots are aware of the most recent changes to regulations affecting their operations.

The FAA acknowledges, however, the burden associated with in-person testing every two years. As such, the FAA intends to look at (in the Operations of Small Unmanned Aircraft Over People rule) alternative methods to further reduce this burden without sacrificing the safety benefits afforded by a two-year recurrent knowledge check.

i. Credit to Holders of Part 61 Pilot Certificates

For the reasons discussed below, this rule will allow part 61 pilot certificate holders (other than the holders of a student pilot certificate) with current flight reviews139 to substitute an online training course for the aeronautical knowledge testing required by this rule.

Airborne Law Enforcement Association and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, suggested requiring only the recurrent knowledge test for part-61-certificated pilots. Numerous commenters also suggested that holders of part 61 airman certificates should be required to take only the recurrent knowledge test, not the initial knowledge test, or should be exempted entirely from knowledge-testing requirements. One commenter suggested that the holders of private, commercial, and ATP certificates who have operated UAS under exemptions be exempted from the initial knowledge test requirement. Another commented that non-military COA pilots should be permitted to take just the recurrent test, since the applicants will usually hold at least a private pilot certificate. One commenter stated that those applicants who hold part 61 pilot certificates should be required only to complete UAS-specific modules as part of the existing FAA Wings program. Another commenter stated that there should be a provision to enable existing small UAS pilots witha certain amount of logged PIC time to fly a small UAS without having to take a knowledge test.

The FAA agrees with commenters who suggested that requiring part-61-certificated pilots who satisfy the flight-review requirements of § 61.56 to take an initial or recurrent knowledge test is unduly burdensome. Through initial certification and subsequent flight reviews, a part-61-certificated airman is required to demonstrate knowledge of many of the topic areas tested on the UAS knowledge test. These areas include: airspace classification and operating requirements, aviation weather sources, radio communication procedures, physiological effects of drugs and alcohol, aeronautical decision-making and judgment, and airport operations. Because a part 61 pilot certificate holder is evaluated on these areas of knowledge in the course of the part 61 certification and flight review process, reevaluating these areas of knowledge on the initial and recurrent knowledge tests conducted under part 107 would be needlessly duplicative.

However, there are UAS-specific areas of knowledge (discussed in section III.F.2.j of this preamble) that a part-61-certificated pilot may not be familiar with. Accordingly, instead of requiring part-61 certificated pilots who are current on their flight reviews to take the initial and recurrent knowledge tests, this rule will provide those pilots with the option to take an online training course focusing on UAS-specific areas of knowledge. Just as there is an initial and recurrent knowledge test, there will also be an initial and recurrent training course available to part 61 pilot certificate holders. Those certificate holders will be able to substitute the initial training course for the initial knowledge test and the recurrent training course for the recurrent knowledge test. To ensure that a certificate holder’s UAS-specific knowledge does not become stale, this rule will include the requirement that a part 61 pilot certificate holder must pass either the recurrent training course or the recurrent knowledge test every 24 months.

The FAA emphasizes that the online training course option in lieu of taking the knowledge test will be available only to those part 61 pilot certificate holders who satisfy the flight review required by § 61.56. This is to ensure that the certificate holder’s knowledge of general aeronautical concepts that are not included on the training course does not become stale. Part 61 pilot certificate holders who do not meet the flight review requirements of § 61.56 will be unable to substitute the online training course for the required aeronautical knowledge test. Thus, under § 107.63(a)(2), a part 61 pilot certificate holder seeking to substitute completion of the initial training course for the initial aeronautical knowledge test will have to present his or her logbook upon application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to demonstrate that he or she has satisfied this requirement. The applicant will also have to present a certificate of completion showing that he or she has completed the initial online training course.

The FAA also notes that the above discussion does not apply to holders of a part 61 student pilot certificate. A person is not required to pass an aeronautical knowledge test, pass a practical (skills) test, or otherwise demonstrate aeronautical knowledge in order to obtain a student pilot certificate. Further, student pilot certificate holders who have received an endorsement for solo flight under § 61.87(b) are only required to demonstrate limited knowledge associated with conducting a specific solo flight. For these reasons, the option to take an online training course instead of an aeronautical knowledge test will not extend to student pilot certificate holders.

What Do I Do After I Crash My Drone?

If you crashed a drone, there are reporting requirements. Below we will discuss the reporting requirements you make to the FAA and the reporting requirements you make to the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”) following a drone crash.

1. Quick Summary of Info

  • You can contact the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. A phone call is sufficient initially, but a written follow-up may be required.
  • FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS. LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:
    • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
    • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
    • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
    • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006
  • The FAA also has a website where you can report a crash.
  • Note that the NTSB’s definitions of accident and unmanned aircraft accident and the FAA’s definition of accident in 107.9 are ALL different. It would have been a good idea for the FAA to just match up the definitions of 107.9 to 830.2 to keep things simple.
  • Depending on your facts, you should consider filing a NASA AVIATION SAFETY REPORTING SYSTEM to protect yourself.
  • Keep in mind that this article is primarily focusing on Part 107 operations, NOT  Section 44807 exemption operations, but most 44807 exemptions have a provisions that requires notification to the FAA UAS Integration Office and NTSB so this article is still very relevant although some the requirements might differ. The language of the exemption and Blanket COA supersedes these requirements.

2. Summary of Reporting Times:

  • Mandatory:
    • Report an “accident” or “serious incident” (Part 830’s definitions) immediately to the NTSB Response Operations Center.
    • Send NTSB Form 6120.1 in within 10 days for an accident or 7 days for an overdue aircraft that is still missing. For a serious incident and if requested, send in the form. No time is mentioned in 830.15.
    • Notify the FAA within 10 days of the occurrence of an accident (107.9 “accident”).
  • Voluntary:
    • “NASA Form” is within 10 days of the violation.

During this 10 day period, you have time to call an attorney to help in figuring out how best to handle the situation and what to say in your report.

 


3. Who is the NTSB? How Are They Different than the FAA?

“The NTSB is an independent federal agency, charged by Congress to investigate transportation accidents, determine probable cause, and issue safety recommendations to prevent similar accidents. The agency’s scope extends beyond aviation crashes, as it also investigates selected rail, marine, highway, and pipeline accidents, as well as those involving transportation of hazardous materials.”[1] The NTSB is COMPLETELY separate from the FAA. “The primary role of NTSB is improving safety of our nation’s transportation system. The agency determines the probable cause of accidents and issues safety recommendations to prevent similar occurrences. It does not determine fault or liability. In fact, according to 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b), ‘No part of a report of the Board, related to an accident or an investigation of an accident, may be admitted into evidence or used in a civil action for damages resulting from a matter mentioned in the report.’”[2]

In addition to doing investigations, the NTSB can judge appeals of FAA enforcement actions brought against manned aircraft pilots and drone pilots. There are two levels of appeal with the NTSB: (1) the administrative law judge level (ALJ) and (2) the full board of NTSB members. Some of you might remember the Pirker case. The Pirker case was initially won at the ALJ level, but on appeal to the full NTSB Board, was remanded back to the ALJ to determine if Pirker’s flight was careless and reckless.


4. The Reporting Requirements to Make to the NTSB.

Keep in mind the you must IMMEDIATELY notify the NTSB for certain events listed in 49 CFR 830.5 and one quick way you can do this is by contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour Response Operations Center (ROC) at 844-373-9922 to file a report. Contacting the ROC satisfies 49 CFR 830.5. When you contact the NTSB, 49 CFR 830.6 spells out exactly what needs to be reported to them.

The below text comes from the NTSB Advisory on Drones which you can download here.


4.1 NTSB Advisory to Operators of Civil Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the United States

INTRODUCTION

The use of small civil unmanned operating systems (sUAS) is growing rapidly, with changes happening on a nearly daily basis.  In particular, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Secretary issued a new final rule on the operation and certification of small unmanned aircraft systems[3] and the FAA recently issued a new “blanket Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA)” for commercial Section 333 [now called Section 44807][4] and Public Aircraft operators.

The new Part 107 rule, the FAA Blanket COA,[5] and other FAA authorizations for UAS operation, direct UAS operators to provide expedited notification to the FAA in the event that any of a series of enumerated occurrences take place during the operation of a UAS.  Included in these instructions are reminders that the FAA procedures “are not a substitute for separate accident/incident reporting required by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) under 49 CFR §830.5.”  By means of this Advisory, the NTSB reminds operators of any civil UAS, other than those operated for hobby or recreational purposes, of the NTSB’s accident and incident reporting requirements in Part 830 of title 49, Code of Federal Regulations.

BACKGROUND

In August of 2010, the NTSB revised its Part 830 regulations to clarify that its accident and incident notification requirements apply to unmanned aircraft as well as conventional manned aircraft.[6]  Section 830.5 instructs operators of civil aircraft and certain public aircraft to immediately, and by the most expeditious means available, notify the NTSB when an accident or listed incident occurs.

An accident will result in the NTSB’s initiating an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.  In order to minimize the burden on operators of a small UAS and the NTSB, we have exempted from the definitions of “aircraft accident” and “unmanned aircraft accident” in section 830.2 of the NTSB regulations those events in which there is only substantial damage to the aircraft (no injuries), and the aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of less than 300 pounds. This is what happened with the Facebook drone. You can read the NTSB crash report.

Although any of the incidents enumerated in section 830.5 would require the operator to notify the NTSB, the agency at its discretion may decide to conduct a full investigation with probable cause.

REQUIREMENTS

A civil UAS operator must immediately and by the most expeditious means, notify the NTSB of an accident or incident.  An unmanned aircraft accident is defined in 49 C.F.R. § 830.2 as an occurrence associated with the operation of any public or civil unmanned aircraft system that takes place between the time that the system is activated with the purpose of flight and the time that the system is deactivated at the conclusion of its mission, in which:

(1) Any person suffers death or serious injury; or

(2) The aircraft has a maximum gross takeoff weight of 300 pounds or greater and sustains substantial damage.

Section 830.2 also provides definitions of what constitutes “serious injury” and “substantial damage”.

Operators must consider that the rest of the reporting requirements for serious incidents listed in section 830.5 apply regardless of UAS weight.  Listed serious incidents that apply to small UAS include the following events:

  • Flight control system malfunction or failure: For an unmanned aircraft, a true “fly-away” would qualify. A lost link that behaves as expected does not qualify.
  • Inability of any required flight crewmember to perform normal flight duties as a result of injury or illness.  Examples of required flight crewmembers include the pilot, remote pilot; or visual observer if required by regulation.  This does not include an optional payload operator.
  • In-flight fire, which is expected to be generally associated with batteries.
  • Aircraft collision in flight.
  • More than $25,000 in damage to objects other than the aircraft.
  • Release of all or a portion of a propeller blade from an aircraft, excluding release caused solely by ground contact.
  • Damage to helicopter tail or main rotor blades, including ground damage, that requires major repair or replacement of the blade(s).
  • An aircraft is overdue and is believed to have been involved in an accident.

EXAMPLES

Below are examples of potential events.

  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and crashes into a tree, destroying the aircraft:  Not an accident, (though substantial damage, too small, and no injuries), but the operator is required to notify the NTSB of a flight control malfunction. NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS has a fly-away and strikes a bystander causing serious injury:  Accident (resulted in serious injury). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB. The NTSB must investigate the accident and determine a probable cause.
  • A small multirotor UAS hits a tree due to pilot inattention on a windy day:  Not an accident (too small, even if substantial damage). However, the operator is required to notify the NTSB if other criteria of 830.5 are met.  NTSB may initiate an investigation and report with a determination of probable cause.
  • A large, experimental UAS (400 lbs) has a structural failure and crashes in a remote area:  Accident (substantial damage and gross takeoff weight of 300 lbs. or greater). The operator is required to immediately notify the NTSB.  NTSB must investigate and determine a probable cause.

drone-crash-flowchart

We’d also like to remind unmanned aircraft operators that none of Part 830 is intended to apply to hobbyist or recreational operators as described in section 336 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012[7] and applicable FAA guidance.

We hope this advisory serves as a useful reminder to the UAS community that the NTSB remains committed to performing its long-standing mission to support air safety through accident and incident investigation, while placing a minimum burden on this growing industry.

This guidance applies to any unmanned aircraft operated under Part 107, 333, civil COA, experimental certificate, etc.  UAS operators should note that they may have additional reporting requirements to the FAA, military, or other government agencies depending on the applicable regulations under which they are operating.

For further information or questions, you may contact:

Bill English

National Transportation Safety Board

Major Investigations (AS-10)

[email protected]


4.2 What Happens After I Call the NTSB Phone Number?

After contacting the NTSB’s 24-hour ROC, your notification will be taken and forwarded to the appropriate NTSB division for processing. The reported event will be evaluated and a determination will be made whether or not the NTSB will investigate the event. All aircraft accidents as defined by 49 CFR 830.2 are investigated in some capacity, as are select incidents. If an investigation is opened into an event, an investigator will then contact the operator/reporting party to request additional information.


4.3 While I’m Waiting, Do I have to Protect the Aircraft Wreckage?

Yes.

49 CFR § 830.10 says,

(a) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident for which notification must be given is responsible for preserving to the extent possible any aircraft wreckage, cargo, and mail aboard the aircraft, and all records, including all recording mediums of flight, maintenance, and voice recorders, pertaining to the operation and maintenance of the aircraft and to the airmen until the Board takes custody thereof or a release is granted pursuant to §831.12(b) of this chapter.

(b) Prior to the time the Board or its authorized representative takes custody of aircraft wreckage, mail, or cargo, such wreckage, mail, or cargo may not be disturbed or moved except to the extent necessary:

(1) To remove persons injured or trapped;

(2) To protect the wreckage from further damage; or

(3) To protect the public from injury.

(c) Where it is necessary to move aircraft wreckage, mail or cargo, sketches, descriptive notes, and photographs shall be made, if possible, of the original positions and condition of the wreckage and any significant impact marks.

(d) The operator of an aircraft involved in an accident or incident shall retain all records, reports, internal documents, and memoranda dealing with the accident or incident, until authorized by the Board to the contrary.


4.4 I called the NTSB phone number. I am currently waiting for an NTSB investigator to contact me. Is there anything I can do now to assist the investigation?

If the event meets the criteria of 49 CFR 830 and is determined to be an aircraft accident, the NTSB investigator assigned to the case will require the operator to complete NTSB Form 6120.1 – Pilot Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report. 49 CFR 830.15 requires you file the form “within 10 days after an accident, or after 7 days if an overdue aircraft is still missing.” Should you be directed to complete Form 6120.1 – “Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report”, please do as follows:

  • Obtain the form from the requesting NTSB office or download a form-fillable PDF version.
  • The form-fillable version can be edited and saved repeatedly, or simply printed and filled out manually using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader (or equivalent software).
  • DO NOT submit the form until you are contacted by an investigator and are provided with instructions regarding where to send the form. Forms can be submitted by email, FAX, or post mail.
  • Keep in mind that Form 6120.1 has many boxes and fields that are not very applicable to drone pilots. Just do the best you can in filling it all out. The investigator will contact you if there are any questions.

Filing of this report with the assigned investigator satisfies the requirements of 49 CFR 830.15 – Reports and statements to be filed. DO NOT submit a report form in-lieu of providing an initial notification of an aircraft accident to the NTSB ROC.


5. The Reporting Requirements to Make to the FAA

There are two types of reporting made to the FAA: (1) when there has been a deviation from the regulations and requested to report, and (2) when there has been an accident.

Upon Request Following a Deviation Due to an Emergency

107.21 In-flight emergency.

(a) In an in-flight emergency requiring immediate action, the remote pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent necessary to meet that emergency.

(b) Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (a) of this section must, upon request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.

After an Accident (Within 10 Days)

The FAA gives you 10 days to respond. I would highly suggest you take this time to contact an attorney. Remember that the FAA can prosecute you if you did something stupid.

107.9 Accident reporting.

No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria of either paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, a remote pilot in command must report to the FAA, in a manner acceptable to the Administrator, any operation of the small unmanned aircraft involving at least:

(a) Serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness; or

(b) Damage to any property, other than the small unmanned aircraft, unless one of the following conditions is satisfied:

(1) The cost of repair (including materials and labor) does not exceed $500; or

(2) The fair market value of the property does not exceed $500 in the event of total loss.

The FAA provided more guidance on this regulation on page 4-3 in their Advisory Circular 107-2:

“1. At least serious injury to any person or any loss of consciousness. A serious injury is an injury that qualifies as Level 3 or higher on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine (AAAM). The AIS is an anatomical scoring system that provides a means of ranking the severity of an injury and is widely used by emergency medical personnel. Within the AIS system, injuries are ranked on a scale of 1 to 6, with Level 1 being a minor injury, Level 2 is moderate, Level 3 is serious, Level 4 is severe, Level 5 is critical, and Level 6 is a nonsurvivable injury. The FAA currently uses serious injury (AIS Level 3) as an injury threshold in other FAA regulations.”

“Note: It would be considered a “serious injury” if a person requires hospitalization, but the injury is fully reversible (including, but not limited to, head trauma, broken bone(s), or laceration(s) to the skin that requires suturing).”  [“In addition to serious injuries, this rule will also require accident reporting for accidents that result in any loss of consciousness because a brief loss of consciousness may not rise to the level of a serious injury.”[8]]

“2. Damage to any property, other than the small UA, if the cost is greater than $500 to repair or replace the property (whichever is lower).”

“Note: For example, a small UA damages a property whose fair market value is $200, and it would cost $600 to repair the damage. Because the fair market value is below $500, this accident is not required to be reported. Similarly, if the aircraft causes $200 worth of damage to property whose fair market value is $600, that accident is also not required to be reported because the repair cost is below $500.”


5.1 Why is the $500 Number Important?

When you do your pre-flight walk around, you should be figuring out what is $500 and cheaper in in the area. The FAA said, “Property damage below $500 is minimal and may even be part of the remote pilot in command’s mitigations to ensure the safety of the operation. For example, a remote pilot in command may mitigate risk of loss of positive control by positioning the small UAS operation such that the small unmanned aircraft will hit uninhabited property in the event of a loss of positive control.”[9]


5.2 What Do I Report to the FAA?

Remember that the NTSB try to find causes to promote safety and does NOT do enforcement actions while the FAA DOES do enforcement actions.  The FAA gave us a clue as to how they will handle this going forward, “the confined-area-of-operation regulations discussed in section III.E.3 of this preamble, such as the general prohibition on flight over people, are designed with the express purpose of preventing accidents in which a small unmanned aircraft hits a person on the head and causes them to lose consciousness or worse. Thus, if there is a loss of consciousness resulting from a small UAS operation, there may be a higher probability of a regulatory violation.”[10]

You are really between a rock and hard place if there is a crash. Why? Because law enforcement or someone else will likely report the accident to the FAA. If you don’t report, you will get in trouble.  If you do report, you COULD get in trouble. You might want to contact an attorney during this 10 day period before you file the report.  Remember that everything you report can and will be used against you.

Submitting the Report. The accident report must be made within 10 calendar-days of the operation that created the injury or damage. The report may be submitted to the appropriate FAA Regional Operations Center (ROC) electronically or by telephone. Electronic reporting can be completed at www.faa.gov/uas/. Reports may also be made to the nearest jurisdictional FSDO (http://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/). The report should include the following information:

  1. sUAS remote PIC’s name and contact information;
  2. sUAS remote PIC’s FAA airman certificate number;
  3. sUAS registration number issued to the aircraft, if required (FAA registration number);
  4. Location of the accident;
  5. Date of the accident;
  6. Time of the accident;
  7. Person(s) injured and extent of injury, if any or known;
  8. Property damaged and extent of damage, if any or known; and
  9. Description of what happened.

FAA REGIONALOPERATIONS CENTERS LOCATION WHERE ACCIDENT OCCURRED:

  • DC, DE, MD, NJ, NY, PA, WV, and VA 404-305-5150
  • AL, CT, FL, GA, KY, MA,ME,MS, NC, NH, PR, RI, SC, TN, VI, and VT 404-305-5156
  • AK, AS, AZ, CA, CO, GU, HI, ID, MP,MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and WY 425-227-1999
  • AR, IA, IL, IN, KS, LA, MI,MN,MO, ND, NE, NM, OH, OK, SD, TX, and WI 817-222-5006

6. Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) aka “The NASA Report.”

The ASRS system is run by NASA which is why this report is nicknamed the “NASA Form” or the “NASA Report.”  “The FAA also notes that the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) is available for voluntary reporting of any aviation safety incident or situation in which aviation safety may have been compromised. The FAA offers ASRS reporters guarantees and incentives to encourage reporting by holding ASRS reports in strict confidence and not using ASRS information against reporters in enforcement actions. Further, the FAA agrees that data collection is a valuable tool for determining a baseline for performance, reliability, and risk assessment. The FAA plans to develop a tool where remote pilots of small UAS can voluntarily share data which may not meet the threshold for accident reporting. This would provide a means for evaluation of operational integrity for small UAS.”[11]

Unfortunately, the FAA said, “The FAA disagrees that SMS and ASRS systems should be covered on the [Part 107] knowledge test[]. . . . because ASRS is not currently required knowledge for part 61 pilot certificate holders.” This means you aren’t required to KNOW this but you SHOULD. On top of the FAA NOT requiring you to know this, they mention NOTHING about this report in AC 107-2. Remember, this report benefits you more than the FAA.

Keep in mind that the report goes to NASA, not the FAA. NASA is a completely separate agency from the FAA, just like NTSB. “There has been no breach of confidentiality in more than 34 years of the ASRS under NASA management.”


6.1 Why Should I file a “NASA Report?”

Advisory Circular 00-46E says,

“The FAA considers the filing of a report with NASA concerning an incident or occurrence involving a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII or the 14 CFR to be indicative of a constructive attitude. Such an attitude will tend to prevent future violations. Accordingly, although a finding of violation may be made, neither a civil penalty nor certificate suspension will be imposed if:

(1) The violation was inadvertent and not deliberate;

(2) The violation did not involve a criminal offense, accident, or action under 49 U.S.C. § 44709, which discloses a lack of qualification or competency, which is wholly excluded from this policy;

(3) The person has not been found in any prior FAA enforcement action to have committed a violation of 49 U.S.C. subtitle VII, or any regulation promulgated there for a period of 5 years prior to the date of occurrence; and

(4) The person proves that, within 10 days after the violation, or date when the person became aware or should have been aware of the violation, he or she completed and delivered or mailed a written report of the incident or occurrence to NASA.

There are no limitations on how many NASA Reports you can file. Immunity will not be granted if you received an enforcement action and have been found in violation of the FAR’s within the previous 5 years from the date of occurrence.


6.2 So I should always file a NASA Report? It looks like a “get out of jail free card.”

No! If you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, then that information will NOT be
deidentified before NASA sends the information to the Department of Justice for criminal actions or the FAA and NTSB for accidents.  This means the report you filed with your name, phone number, address, and a whole bunch of other goodies is going to be sent over to the guys who can prosecute you! How convenient. So if you did something criminal or were involved in an accident, ESPECIALLY if you are unsure if you fall into one of those categories or not, you should contact me. Flying intentionally into a 99.7 TFR is a criminal penalty.

Keep in mind that this is a waiver from disciplinary action. You will still have a violation show up on your pilot record.


6.3 Great. So there aren’t any other issues with NASA reporting?

Not exactly. Section 91.25 says, “The Administrator of the FAA will not use reports submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration under the Aviation Safety Reporting Program (or information derived therefrom) in any enforcement action except information concerning accidents or criminal offenses which are wholly excluded from the Program.” The problem is that is Part 91 and NOT part 107. The FAA didn’t include a Part 107 equivalent.

We know that NASA won’t give over the info. The FAA can find out a lot of info on their own and can initiate an enforcement action. The idea of the NASA Form was to prevent the imposition of a civil penalty or suspension when the FAA got the info on their own. The FAA indicated in the Part 107 preamble they would continue to honor the program. However, they could change their mind in the future, it isn’t a regulation, and go after people who have filed a NASA Form, but they would get insane amounts of pressure from the safety community to not do that. I’m just making you aware of this situation.

I hope this helps you guys understand what you need to do and when you need to contact me after a crash. Keep in mind that this was only about the FAA and NTSB, not about other potential liability issues that could come about as a result of the crash.

[1] http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/rsumwalt/Documents/Sumwalt_141020.pdf

[2] Id. citing 49 U.S.C. § 1154(b).

[3] See 81 Fed. Reg.  42063 (June 28, 2016).  This action fulfills Congress’s direction in section 332(b) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Pub. L. 112-95, for the Secretary of Transportation and the FAA to issue a final rule on small unmanned aircraft systems that will allow for civil operations of UAS in the National Airspace System.

[4] Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 provides that “[i]f the Secretary of Transportation determines that … certain unmanned aircraft systems  may operate safely in the national airspace system,  the Secretary  shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.”

[5] The FAA Blanket COA for any Operator issued a Valid Section 333 Grant of Exemption (FAA Form 7711-1).

[6] 75 Fed. Reg. 51955 (August 24, 2010).

[7] Section 336(c) states that the term the term ‘‘model aircraft’’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

[8] Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, 81 Fed. Reg. 42, 178 (June 28, 2016).

[9] Id. at 42,178.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. at 42,179.

How to fly your drone at night. (Section 107.29 Operation at Night.)

Section 107.29 Operation at Night.

Important Note: Section 107.29 was amended and amended again.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, no person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system at night unless—

(1) The remote pilot in command of the small unmanned aircraft has completed an initial knowledge test or training, as applicable, under §107.65 after April 6, 2021; and

(2) The small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.

(b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.

(c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following:

(1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise;

(2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and

(3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.

(d) After May 17, 2021, no person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system at night in accordance with a certificate of waiver issued prior to April 21, 2021 under §107.200. The certificates of waiver issued prior to April 21, 2021 under §107.200 that authorize deviation from §107.29 terminate on May 17, 2021.

Previous RegulationBack to Drone Regulations DirectoryNext Regulation


My Commentary on Section 107.29 Operation at Night.

  • Visual Observer is Not Needed. The night waivers that were given out all required a visual observer for the operations. That was annoying. 107.29 removed that.
  • A person may still need a night waiver. Yes, I know you may be like, “Aren’t we past that now!?” Subsection (d) says the waivers granted prior to March 16, 2021 are terminated but doesn’t say any future ones are. There are times where you might want a 107.29 waiver such as (1) you don’t have anti-collision lights or cannot mount them (FPV racers), (2) you want to fly without them (cops chasing bad guys), (3) your built in lights cannot be seen for 3 miles, or (4) the lights cannot flash but are solid. If you need help with a 107.29 waiver, please contact me.
  • Night Training. The initial knowledge exam will now quiz on night operations. We have a night operations training course here.
  • Flashing. The original 107.29 did not have a flashing requirement but this was changed with the amendment to “flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision” which creates problems for people because what does that mean? 14 CFR 101.17 says, “No person may operate a moored balloon or kite, between sunset and sunrise unless the balloon or kite, and its mooring lines, are lighted so as to give a visual warning equal to that required for obstructions to air navigation in the FAA publication Obstruction Marking and Lighting.” That publication references different types of obstructions (wind turbines, towers, etc.) and flashes per minute range between 20-60. See Table A-1 in that publication. See also AC 150/5345-43J Table 3-5. See the aircraft position light and anticollision light installation AC 20-30B Table 3.
  • Intensity. The original 107.29 said you could reduce the intensity but never had a lower limit. The FAA changed this with the amendment to say, “The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so.”
  • Anti-Collision Lights. One of the requirements says the drone must have an anti-collision light that is visible for at least 3 statute miles. There are after market anti-collision lights you can attach to your drone if it is not equipped with sufficient lighting. Please check out to see if your lighting is really visible as some lights are not.
  • 30 Minute Thing Was Deleted. Alot of people get confused to the different definitions surrounding night. That whole 30 minute thing created weird scenarios with flying in higher latitudes outside of Alaska because the Air Alamac and the 30 minutes were not synced. Let’s clear this all up. The bold emphasis is mine. Pay particular attention to the words and context.
    • 14 CFR § 1.1 says, “Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the Air Almanac, converted to local time.”
    • 14 CFR § 61.57(b) says, “Night takeoff and landing experience. (1) Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft carrying passengers during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise, unless within the preceding 90 days that person has made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop during the period beginning 1 hour after sunset and ending 1 hour before sunrise[.]”
    • 14 CFR § 91.209 says, “No person may:  (a) During the period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon)— (1) Operate an aircraft unless it has lighted position lights; . . . (b) Operate an aircraft that is equipped with an anticollision light system, unless it has lighted anticollision lights. However, the anticollision lights need not be lighted when the pilot-in-command determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to turn the lights off.”
    • 14 CFR Section 107.29
      • OLD 107.29 (from August 2016 – March 15, 2021) says, “(a) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during night. (b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. (c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following: (1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise; (2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and (3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.”
      • NEW 107.29 (March 16,2021 onwards) says,”(a) Except as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, no person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system at night unless— (1) The remote pilot in command of the small unmanned aircraft has completed an initial knowledge test or training, as applicable, under §107.65 after April 6, 2021; and (2) The small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. (b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. (c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following: (1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise; (2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and (3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.
    • Summary: The 30 minute thing is gone for 107.29. Notice that different parts of the FARs are cited. Basically, if you are a commercial drone operator, you have the option of operating under Part 107 (complying with 107.29) or under a Section 44807 exemption and all the applicable regulations. Interestingly, 14 CFR § 61.57(b) does NOT apply because you aren’t carrying passengers; however, some of the early section 333 exemptions (now section 44807 exemptions) had a 90-day currency requirement (see Aerial Mob’s exemption at restriction 12) but the 90-day currency situation was done away with as time went on with the exemptions. 14 CFR 91.209(a) is applicable only to those operating at night under Part 91.

Frequently Asked Questions About 107.29 Operation at Night.

Why would you want to fly your drone at night?

There are multiple reasons: real estate photography of the night skyline, wedding or event photography at night, animal population counting using thermal cameras, etc.

Can a recreational drone fly at night?

Yes, there is nothing restricting a non-recreational or recreational person from flying at night. You just comply with either 14 CFR 107.29 or 49 USC 44809.

What is legally needed to fly a drone at night?

The drone must have an anti-collision light that flashes and is visible for at least 3 statute miles. The remote pilot must also have passed an initial knowledge test or training under 107.65 (which will cover night operations among other things).

Do I need a drone night waiver after March 16, 2021?

Maybe? Some operations may need a waiver because their operations may require it (FPV with limited payload, cops chasing bad guys, etc.).

Do I need a visual observer to fly at night?

No. The use of a VO is up to the RPIC. The FAA said in the preamble to night and over people rule, 'The visual line of sight requirement in part 107, combined with other requirements, is sufficient to address the risk associated with night operations'

I want to use a visual observer, does the visual observer need any special night training? Does it need to be documented?

No. The FAA said in the preamble to the night and over people rule, 'this rule does not require a night vision test for remote pilots or visual observers.'

Can any person be a remote pilot or visual observer for a night flight?

No. The FAA said in the preamble to the night and over people rule, 'the FAA prohibits a person from manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.' See 107.17.

What does flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision mean?

It wasn't defined. Read what I said in the commentary section of this article.

My drone has a solid anticollision light on it. Is that good enough?

No. It needs to be flashing. The FAA said in the preamble, 'requiring anti-collision lights for operations during both civil twilight and at night to flash, rather than be static, is appropriate.'

How do I know my anticollision light can be seen for 3SM? DO I have to go out and test it?

The FAA said in the preamble, 'The remote pilot may rely on manufacturer statements indicating the anti-collision lighting is visible for 3 statute miles and has a flash rate that is sufficient to comply with the requirements of this rule. However, the remote pilot ultimately remains responsible for verifying that anti-collision lighting is operational, visible for 3 statute miles, and has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision at the operating location.'

Does my anticollision light have to be a certain color?

The FAA said in the preamble, 'Prescriptive color requirements would unnecessarily restrict design. Since August of 2016, the FAA has issued over 4,000 waivers that permit operations at night. While none of these waivers include color or type requirements, many of these small unmanned aircraft utilize white anti-collision lights to meet the 3 statute mile visibility requirement. No commenters explained how a prescriptive color requirement would mitigate the risk of operations at night. Overall, requiring a specific color or type of light is unnecessary. This rule's performance-based requirement is appropriate for the level of risk associated with night operations and allows for flexibility as technology evolves. The NAAA stated some small unmanned aircraft may be equipped with anti-collision lights that are not compatible with the Night Vision Goggles (NVG) that agricultural pilots typically wear. In these cases, the pilot would not see the small unmanned aircraft at night while looking through the NVG. The FAA recognizes the NVG incompatibility with certain lighting may be an issue for agriculture and medical helicopters. Existing operational regulations specific to the use of NVGs for manned pilots limit hazards to manned aircraft, making specific color or design elements for small unmanned aircraft unnecessary. While this rule does not require specific characteristics of the anti-collision lighting, remote pilots remain obligated, before each operation, to consider the environment in which they are operating, particularly in areas that are known to have regular agricultural operations at night.'

Don't we still need position lights in addition to anti-collision lights?

Position lights are the red, green, and white lights used to determine orientation of the aircraft. The FAA said in the preamble, 'Position lighting might assist a remote pilot in meeting the applicable visual line-of-sight requirements in § 107.31(a), such as knowing the unmanned aircraft's location, attitude, altitude, and direction of flight. However, this rule does not require position lighting because it is not the only means by which a remote pilot could meet these requirements. Although position lighting is not necessary for safe operation, a remote pilot may use position lighting if he or she determines it would be the best solution for safe operation.'


Advisory Circular 107-2 Section 107.29 Daylight operation.

[Updating Soon.]

 


FAA’s COMMENTARY FROM THE PREAMBLE OF:

2020 Final Rule Amending the 2016 Rule

IX. Operations at Night
A. Proposed Requirements and Comments Received
The NPRM proposed to permit routine operations of small UAS at night, subject to specific requirements. The FAA proposed to amend § 107.29 to permit operations at night when: (1) The small unmanned aircraft has an anti-collision light that is visible for 3 statute miles, and (2) the remote pilot in command has completed an updated knowledge test or recurrent training, as applicable, to ensure familiarity with the risks and appropriate mitigations for nighttime operations. Additionally, the FAA proposed adding the anti-collision lighting requirement to the list of regulations subject to waiver in § 107.205.

Many commenters supported the proposal to allow small UAS operations at night without a waiver. Comments in favor of routine night operations significantly outnumbered comments in opposition to the proposed change. Several commenters expressed concern about the risk of midair collisions between manned and unmanned aircraft. Commenters referred to the inherent lack of situational awareness in night operations and stated remote pilots were insufficiently trained to address adequately the complexity of the airspace. After reviewing these concerns about midair collisions and situational awareness, the FAA determined several existing operating requirements of part 107 combined with the requirements of this final rule provide a sufficient level of safety to allow for night operations. Similar to the NPRM, the final rule requires that remote pilots operating at night equip their small unmanned aircraft with an anti-collision light visible for 3 statute miles, but adds the requirement for the anti-collision lights to flash at a rate sufficient to avoid a collision.

Many commenters appeared to misunderstand the purpose of anti-collision lighting. The purpose of anti-collision lighting is not for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight and see the orientation of their small unmanned aircraft, but for the awareness of other pilots operating in the same airspace. Section 107.29(b) already requires that anti-collision lighting be visible for 3 statute miles for civil twilight operations to help prevent midair collisions.

AMOA and AAMS, commenting jointly, questioned whether the FAA had examined the available sightings data and confirmed its reliability as its basis for expanding small UAS operations at night. The commenter noted that data collected from 1998-2017 indicates 36% of all helicopter air medical flights were conducted at night and 49% of the accidents from 1998-2017 occurred during night operations, and that routine night operations could put air medical flights at greater risk. The commenter asserted the FAA did not adequately address the potential threats posed by increased small unmanned aircraft activity in the NPRM, particularly to helicopter air medical flights.

The FAA analyzed available data, including thousands of waivers allowing night operations, and determined allowing routine small UAS operations at night, subject to compliance with certain requirements, will be safe. Although the FAA reviews small unmanned aircraft sighting reports, the FAA did not rely on those reports as justification for this rule, because many of those reports are unverifiable due to a lack of detailed information provided by the reporter of a small unmanned aircraft sighting. Because small UAS operations under part 107 are limited to 400ft AGL and below, the effect on helicopters of night operations is minimal. Although the introduction of routine night operations could introduce more complexity to the airspace,[65] compliance with sufficient mitigations will provide for safe operations.

In addition, other risk mitigation measures limiting the risk of midair collisions at night exist: Fewer general aviation aircraft fly at the altitudes in which small unmanned aircraft operate. Manned aircraft have restrictions on minimum safe altitudes, which places the majority of operations well above the 400 ft AGL limit for part 107 operations. Pilots authorized to operate manned aircraft below 400 ft AGL during daylight hours can visually see the terrain and obstacles to navigate the airspace. At night, these visual cues do not exist and many general aviation aircraft that could operate during daylight at lower altitudes lack sophisticated equipment like night vision goggles, a radar altimeter, Forward Looking Infrared, Radar, or a Heads Up Display, typically found on military or emergency service aircraft. Because general aviation aircraft may lack electrical systems such as aircraft lighting, or other necessary safety features, operating such aircraft at night would cause a significant increase in the level of risk of the operation.

NAAA voiced concern about pilot difficulty of spotting a small unmanned aircraft while the pilot is operating at a very low altitude in what is already a high task load environment. They pointed to a 2015 test conducted by the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, which determined that it was difficult for pilots who conduct agricultural aviation operations to detect and track a small unmanned aircraft at the same time as maneuvering their aircraft for agricultural operations. Pilots operating manned aircraft at low altitudes would experience difficulty in identifying small unmanned aircraft operating at night, but, as discussed previously, numerous mitigations exist to decrease the likelihood of a midair collision. With regard to the report made by the Colorado Agricultural Aviation Association, while the study provided data, the report only tested four pilots operating during daylight hours. In addition, the Agency disagrees with NAAA’s determination that night operations would be difficult to identify, as operating with an anti-collision light at night would increase the visibility of the small unmanned aircraft.

Several commenters expressed concern about the risk small unmanned aircraft pose for commercial aircraft. The period of flight in which a manned, commercial aircraft is at or below 400 ft AGL is just prior to landing and seconds after takeoff. These phases of flight occur in the immediate vicinity of the runway, an area of airspace in which small UAS operations under part 107 are prohibited from flying without authorization. The requirement for anti-collision lights that are visible for 3 statute miles and that have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision, along with the existing requirements to maintain visual line of sight, give way to manned aircraft, and obtain authorization to operate in controlled airspace are all practical mitigations to address the risks posed by small UAS operations at night.

B. Knowledge Requirements for Remote Pilots Conducting Operations at Night
Only remote pilots who complete an updated aeronautical knowledge test or updated training will meet the remote pilot qualification requirements to act as pilot in command of a small UAS at night. As with all persons who received their remote pilot certificate prior to the enactment of this rule, part 61 pilots previously holding a remote pilot certificate will also need to complete the updated training before acting as pilot in command of a small UAS at night.

The Agency proposed to revise the regulations to require that the remote pilot complete a knowledge test or training concerning small UAS operations at night. This rule finalizes those additions, as proposed. Applicants who are eligible to obtain a remote pilot certificate must complete an updated knowledge test prior to conducting operations at night. This rule also requires existing holders of a part 107 remote pilot certificate to complete updated training prior to operating as a remote pilot at night.

The updated knowledge test and training will assess applicants’ and pilots’ knowledge of risks and situations that are not present during daylight operations. The new testing and training will include questions on anti-collision light requirements, when the anti-collision light is allowed to be dimmed, how to determine aircraft position, obstacle avoidance with lack of visual cues, what aircraft may be conducting low level night operations, night physiology, circadian rhythm effects, and other topics. Through this education, the remote pilot will have the knowledge to operate a small UAS at night safely and implement the appropriate protocols and tools to mitigate risks they have identified for their operation.

The updated testing and recurrent training required to conduct night operations will be made available on the FAA website on March 1, 2021. This date provides a 15 day period for new applicants or current Remote Pilot Certificate holders to complete the updated testing or training, as applicable, for those who seek to conduct night operations on the effective date of this rule.

After the effective date of this rule, remote pilots operating under a waiver received prior to the effective date will be allowed to continue to operate at night under the provisions of that waiver without meeting the updated recurrent training requirement for a period of 60 days. All night waivers issued prior to the effective date of this rule that authorize deviation from § 107.29 Daylight Operation terminate on May 17, 2021. This date provides time for waiver holders to come into compliance with this rule and allow the holder to request a new certificate of waiver, if applicable, prior to the termination date.

Several commenters suggested the night operation testing and training be separate from the general part 107 training. One commenter suggested the FAA offer incentive licensing endorsements, in which a certain minimum score on the night operations section of the part 107 knowledge test would allow the remote pilot to operate a small UAS at night. Some commenters, including Airlines for America (A4A), recommended the FAA impose a nighttime practical training requirement for remote pilot certification, particularly for pilots who do not hold a part 61 certificate or related nighttime endorsement. The inclusion of night operations does not introduce a level of complexity to the operations conducted under part 107 that would necessitate practical training. A single curriculum for both the aeronautical knowledge test and recurrent training will cover all necessary topics for operations under part 107. To operate at night, all remote pilots must either take the updated initial knowledge test or complete the applicable recurrent training that includes the new subject areas on night operations. In this regard, it is necessary to standardize the training and testing; incentive licensing endorsements the FAA issues for other skills are not appropriate for knowledge testing or training. The standardization this rule provides is appropriate for small UAS operations at night.

A few commenters requested the Agency decline to require pilots who have certificates under part 61 to complete recurrent training specific to night operations. The Agency disagrees. Small UAS operations at night have operational needs and safety requirements that differ from manned aircraft operations at night. This rule requires part 61 pilots to take the recurrent training in its entirety, including those sections pertinent to night operations, despite having taken manned-aircraft-specific nighttime training for their part 61 certification. Several commenters made suggestions regarding the content of the test and course material. Some commenters, including AOPA, AMOA, and AAMS, suggested the initial testing, initial training, and recurrent training for night operations emphasize collision avoidance with other unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft. They asked whether the additional testing for night operations will specifically address limited depth perception and difficulty of perceiving reference points during night operations. Under this rule, in addition to the existing testing and training that addresses collision avoidance, additional subject areas will address night physiology, lighting requirements, and night illusions from the perspective of the remote pilot.

One commenter suggested the FAA produce a study guide with subject matter specific to small UAS operations at night. The FAA plans to publish a revised Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standard (ACS) and a revised iteration of Advisory Circular (AC) 107-2 to address changes pertaining to the certification of small UAS remote pilots. This AC will also provide updated guidance for conducting small UAS operations in accordance with part 107. In response to the suggestion that the FAA produce a UAS-specific study guide with subject matter relevant to operating at night, the FAA has updated the Remote Pilot—Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide (FAA-G-8082-22), and renamed it Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operating Handbook (FAA-H-8083-24).[66] Furthermore, applicants may supplement through self-study, which could include taking an industry-offered online training course, an in-person training course, or any combination thereof.

One commenter suggested the Agency require one or more visual observers who have taken the night vision test to participate in operations at night. The visual line of sight requirement in part 107, combined with other requirements, is sufficient to address the risk associated with night operations; therefore, this rule does not require a night vision test for remote pilots or visual observers. One commenter said the proposal would impose more cost on the operator and increase the barriers to UAS night operations. Another stated the additional testing and training requirements would not improve the safety of night operations. This rule establishes the recurrent training process, the completion of which will be free of cost to remote pilots. This rule does not impose any changes to the costs of the initial knowledge test.

C. Anti-Collision Lighting
The NPRM stated the small size of most small unmanned aircraft (as compared to their manned counterparts), combined with reduced visibility during darkness, favors requiring anti-collision lighting to reduce the risk involved with small UAS operations at night. The Agency stated it anticipated the presence of anti-collision lights would provide other aircraft with awareness of a small unmanned aircraft’s presence. As stated in the NPRM, the anti-collision light is not the sole means of avoiding midair collisions between a manned aircraft and a small unmanned aircraft. Prior to and throughout the operation, this rule requires the remote pilot to ensure the anti-collision lights are operating, are visible for 3 statute miles, and have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision at the operating location. The anti-collision light also does not relieve the remote pilot from complying with the remaining requirements of part 107, which include yielding right of way to all other aircraft. Although the risk of a midair collision at night is low due to the altitude and volume of aircraft operating at night, additional risk mitigation measures are appropriate for the safety of other aircraft that may be operating at night. The requirement to have an anti-collision light for night operations is also consistent with the requirements in part 107 for small UAS operations during civil twilight.

1. FLASH RATE
As noted in the proposed rule, the FAA’s requirement for anti-collision lights for twilight operations under the final rule for part 107 was based on the daylight operations requirements for ultralight vehicles.[67] Such vehicles may only operate during civil twilight hours as long as they are equipped with “an operating anti-collision light visible for at least 3 statute miles.” [68] When promulgating that requirement, the FAA clarified that such anti-collision lights are “any flashing or stroboscopic device that is of sufficient intensity so as to be visible for at least 3 statute miles.” [69] Given the comments received in response to the NPRM, this rule provides additional clarification concerning the anti-collision light requirement. As demonstrated by the comparison to ultralight anti-collision lights above, requiring anti-collision lights for operations during both civil twilight and at night to flash, rather than be static, is appropriate. This rule requires anti-collision lights used in accordance with § 107.29 to flash at a sufficient rate to avoid a collision.

Many commenters expressed support for the proposed anti-collision lighting requirement, with some commenters recommending changes or additions to the requirement. Some commenters opposed the requirement. Several commenters addressed specific characteristics of the anti-collision lighting, including flash rate.

The Helicopter Association International (HAI), along with A4A, AGC, NAAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), stressed the need for standardization in unmanned aircraft anti-collision lighting, with respect to flash rate, signature, visibility requirement, intensity, type of lighting, and configuration. A few commenters recommended the FAA work with industry to develop standards specific to small unmanned aircraft or rely on existing standards for manned aircraft. A commenter recommended clarifying the requirement in the proposed rule.

While the NPRM only proposed small unmanned aircraft have an anti-collision light, the Agency has since determined the anti-collision lights should flash. In addition to the requirement for the light to be visible for 3 statute miles, anti-collision lighting with a sufficient flash rate to avoid a collision will aid in creating awareness to all pilots of the presence of the small unmanned aircraft.

Under this rule, the remote pilot is responsible for ensuring the anti-collision lights are operating, are visible for 3 statute miles, and have a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision at the operating location, both prior to conducting and during each night operation. The performance-based requirements for anti-collision lighting—with regard to intensity, flash rate, fields of coverage, and other relevant characteristics—will ensure the small unmanned aircraft is sufficiently visible to other aircraft. The remote pilot may rely on manufacturer statements indicating the anti-collision lighting is visible for 3 statute miles and has a flash rate that is sufficient to comply with the requirements of this rule. However, the remote pilot ultimately remains responsible for verifying that anti-collision lighting is operational, visible for 3 statute miles, and has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision at the operating location.

The FAA does not require manned aircraft pilots to distinguish between the lights for airplanes and rotorcraft, or antennas and windmills, but only to avoid those obstacles. This requirement, therefore, will result in the small unmanned aircraft becoming more conspicuous to other operators, regardless of whether other operators identify it as a small unmanned aircraft. A manned aircraft pilot would be most likely to distinguish movement of external lighting against a stagnant, dark background rather than specific lighting characteristics.

2. DESIGN OF ANTI-COLLISION LIGHTS
The Agency proposed to require small unmanned aircraft operating at night to have an anti-collision lighting component visible for 3 statute miles, rather than a light that fulfills prescriptive design criteria. The proposed rule requested comments regarding whether a specific color or type requirement should apply to the anti-collision light, as well as an explanation of how a prescriptive standard might ensure safety of the small UAS operations.

The FAA received numerous comments addressing a color requirement for the anti-collision lights. Comments in support of performance-based requirements for anti-collision lights outnumbered those in favor of more prescriptive requirements. Many commenters opposed the idea of specific anti-collision lighting color or type requirements, including Small UAV Coalition, AUVSI, News Media Coalition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, APPA, EEI, and NRECA, commenting jointly; the People’s Republic of China; DJI; Skydio; and numerous individuals.

Commenters opposed to a specific color standard generally noted a prescriptive requirement could stifle innovation without providing any safety benefits. A number of individual commenters stated no specific color or type of lighting should be required, as the FAA has not included such a requirement for waivers that permit operations at night. DJI commented that a different, or additional, lighting requirement from those provided in the part 107 waivers would require manufacturers to develop new designs and equipment without apparent benefit. Both DJI and the People’s Republic of China asked for scientific data in the event the Agency requires specific colors for anti-collision lights.

Several commenters explicitly supported requiring some kind of color or type requirement for anti-collision lights. Some commenters suggested requirements for plain red and white lights would suffice, but emphasized the FAA should not require color definitions as detailed as those codified at § 23.1397. AOPA noted the proposed rule does not identify whether the Agency considers white strobe lights, red beacon lights, or if any color or lighting configuration as sufficient for anti-collision lights that are visible for at least 3 statute miles. Another commenter similarly recommended a red (front) and white (rear) color pattern. Several commenters recommended following the existing practices of manned aviation operators regarding the colors of lights. Other commenters recommended the FAA impose specific colors or color patterns for certain situations, such as when an aircraft descends or experiences an operational system failure. One commenter recommended the FAA consider requiring colors that are compatible with color-blindness. NIOSH stated specifying an anti-collision light color would improve safety, given that color is a significant factor for improving the visibility of an object.

Prescriptive color requirements would unnecessarily restrict design. Since August of 2016, the FAA has issued over 4,000 waivers that permit operations at night. While none of these waivers include color or type requirements, many of these small unmanned aircraft utilize white anti-collision lights to meet the 3 statute mile visibility requirement. No commenters explained how a prescriptive color requirement would mitigate the risk of operations at night. Overall, requiring a specific color or type of light is unnecessary. This rule’s performance-based requirement is appropriate for the level of risk associated with night operations and allows for flexibility as technology evolves.

The NAAA stated some small unmanned aircraft may be equipped with anti-collision lights that are not compatible with the Night Vision Goggles (NVG) that agricultural pilots typically wear. In these cases, the pilot would not see the small unmanned aircraft at night while looking through the NVG. The FAA recognizes the NVG incompatibility with certain lighting may be an issue for agriculture and medical helicopters. Existing operational regulations specific to the use of NVGs for manned pilots limit hazards to manned aircraft, making specific color or design elements for small unmanned aircraft unnecessary. While this rule does not require specific characteristics of the anti-collision lighting, remote pilots remain obligated, before each operation, to consider the environment in which they are operating, particularly in areas that are known to have regular agricultural operations at night.[70]

3. WAIVERS
The NPRM proposed making the anti-collision lighting requirement for small UAS night operations subject to waiver and invited comments on this aspect of the proposal. The Agency stated it would consider granting a certificate of waiver allowing nighttime small unmanned aircraft operations without an anti-collision light visible for 3 statute miles if an applicant demonstrates sufficient measures to mitigate the risk associated with the proposed operation. As discussed later in this section, allowing waivers of the anti-collision lighting requirement will accommodate unique operational circumstances without reducing safety.

EPIC opposed allowing waivers of the anti-collision lighting requirement for small UAS operations at night, noting concerns about security, privacy, and the potential for nefarious use. Neither this rule nor any potential waivers from the anti-collision requirement authorize the use of small unmanned aircraft for criminal activities. All persons requesting a waiver from the anti-collision requirement must include a description of the proposed operation and explain how they will mitigate any risks. The FAA will only issue waivers for operations that can occur safely.

AMOA and AAMS, commenting jointly, asked the Agency to clarify under what conditions it would grant a waiver of the anti-collision lighting requirement. The FAA expects waiver applicants to establish a deviation from the anti-collision lighting requirement would not reduce the level of safety of the operation. The FAA declines to prescribe specific criteria that would apply to all applications for waiver, as doing so would be impractical. In response to comments suggesting the FAA should develop separate processes for law enforcement and first responders, the FAA declines to create a separate process for a particular subset of part 107 operators.

D. Position Lighting Not Required
The proposed rule did not provide a requirement for position lighting. The Agency invited comments from the public, however, on whether it should require position lighting, in addition to the anti-collision lighting.

Several commenters, including AOPA, EPIC, and AMOA and AAMS, commenting jointly, recommended requiring position lighting for night operations. Several of these commenters said the position lighting should be similar to those found on manned aircraft. AOPA noted that night operations are inherently challenging and visual line of sight would be better maintained with lights that aid in determining directional movement of the aircraft. EPIC agreed that small unmanned aircraft position lighting would be important for collision avoidance and to convey the position of the small unmanned aircraft to manned aircraft. The Director of the Autonomous Aerial Systems Office at the University of Montana encouraged the FAA to require position lighting in addition to anti-collision lighting that is consistent with current navigational standards, stating this requirement would improve safety in see-and-avoid situations in addition to improving remote pilots’ situational awareness of aircraft position.

Many commenters supported the FAA’s decision to not require position lighting for small unmanned aircraft. For example, DJI stated position lighting should not be required “because in many circumstances the remote pilot has the ability to determine the position, direction and orientation of the drone in other ways at night.” DJI also noted it might be helpful at times to turn off the position lighting to capture the type of data required for the operation without interference of these lights, which are typically more visible to the on-board camera or sensor than other lights because they are located at the ends of motor arms. Several commenters noted that, although position lighting may provide a visual reference to determine the location of the small unmanned aircraft, it may not provide accurate information about the orientation of the small unmanned aircraft in flight.

Position lighting might assist a remote pilot in meeting the applicable visual line-of-sight requirements in § 107.31(a), such as knowing the unmanned aircraft’s location, attitude, altitude, and direction of flight. However, this rule does not require position lighting because it is not the only means by which a remote pilot could meet these requirements. Although position lighting is not necessary for safe operation, a remote pilot may use position lighting if he or she determines it would be the best solution for safe operation.

E. Miscellaneous Night Operations Considerations
AMOA and AAMS also noted the NPRM does not discuss testing for the acuity of a remote pilot’s night vision and said they believe remote pilots should be required to attest annually to this visual capability. As discussed in the 2016 final rule, operations under part 107 do not require airman medical certificates, given the low risk associated with small UAS operations, the limited operational range of visual line of sight operations, and the requirement that the remote pilot may operate only within their capabilities.[71] As stated in the part 107 final rule, even with normal vision, a small unmanned aircraft might be so small that the operational space must be reduced to meet the visual line-of-sight requirements of §  107.31. Furthermore, the FAA prohibits a person from manipulating the flight controls of a small UAS or acting as a remote pilot in command or visual observer if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.[72]

Some commenters requested the rule include additional requirements on the remote pilot, on the small unmanned aircraft, or on the operating environment for operations at night. MAC said regulations allowing night operations must ensure the safety of all aircraft operations in both the airport environment and the NAS. They also said the FAA should establish measures to identify clearly a small unmanned aircraft at similar distances to those that apply to manned aircraft. Exclusions from these requirements could include the use of small UAS for the purposes of airport safety, security, and operation activities, especially in situations of emergency response. A commenter suggested requiring remote pilots perform their intended night operations during the day prior to execution, map out the flight path, and ensure awareness of any obstacles. Commenters requested altitude restrictions, speed restrictions, and distance or operational radius limitations for night operations. A commenter also suggested requiring the remote pilot to have a radio on the appropriate frequency to detect any air traffic in the area. The current regulations under part 107, combined with the requirements in this final rule, contain adequate restrictions for operations at night.[73] As discussed earlier, as of September 2020, the FAA has issued over 4,000 waivers allowing nighttime small UAS operations since August 2016. These operations have been conducted safely and the Agency does not have data indicating that the restrictions in this rule would be inadequate.

A commenter believed the FAA should require that remote pilots operating at night be AMA members, register their small unmanned aircraft with the FAA, and use “tracking” lighting for both day and night operations. The FAA requires registration for all small unmanned aircraft that operate under part 107. This requirement is sufficient for providing the FAA an avenue for oversight. Furthermore, as noted earlier, remote pilots are not prohibited from using position (or “tracking”) lighting to assist in meeting the visual line-of-sight requirement; however, for the reasons stated above, this rule does not require position lighting.

NAAA recommended all small UAS be equipped with “ADS-B In-like” technology. NAAA and an individual commenter both suggested all small UAS operating under part 107 be equipped with technology that would allow them to sense the presence of and avoid manned aircraft. Part 107 requires remote pilots to maintain visual line of sight of the small unmanned aircraft at all times and give the right of way to all aircraft. Manned aircraft are not required to be equipped with ADS-B Out in all classes of airspace. For example, ADS-B Out is not required in Class G airspace. Therefore, requiring ADS-B In for small unmanned aircraft would not be sufficient in all circumstances to aid the remote pilot in detecting manned aircraft. Given this existing requirement, requiring ADS-B In-like technology is not necessary.

NAAA also suggested, to operate safely at night, small unmanned aircraft should have a registered N-number on an indestructible and unmovable plate attached to the small unmanned aircraft and should have an electronic identification and tracking technology so that it can be tracked by law enforcement. The registration and marking requirements as implemented by the Registration and Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft rule, and amended by the External Marking Requirements for Small Unmanned Aircraft interim final rule, are sufficient for operations conducted under part 107. The Agency declines to impose additional registration requirements that would apply to operations at night, as no safety benefit would result from such requirements.

F. Effect on Human Activity
The NPRM invited comments on whether characteristics or effects of anti-collision lighting at low altitude could have an effect on normal human activities, and if so, potential mitigations or alternatives the FAA should consider. Some commenters stated anti-collision lighting could affect human activities.

NIOSH stated, “[i]t is reasonable to assume that in some situations anti-collision lights could distract people” who are working and that, depending on their activities, this effect could have significant safety risks. NIOSH said it is not aware of any evidence supporting a mitigation strategy and recommended “exploring potential mitigation methods that follow the hierarchy of controls.” This rule does not require use of the hierarchy of controls for small UAS operations at night because considering every possible scenario or assessing how distracting anti-collision lights may be to non-participants is not possible. Anti-collision lighting in night operations is a critical component in making small unmanned aircraft sufficiently conspicuous when operating under part 107. The safety need for such lighting outweighs the concerns these comments present.

Motorola Solutions stated anti-collision lighting at low altitudes could affect normal human activities associated with lights coming from unidentified sources and with unknown justification. The commenter said operations performed by public safety officers can mitigate the effect of unidentified unmanned aircraft light sources by replacing or augmenting the anti-collision lights with other lights such as those officers use for public safety operations. Requiring specific colors or additional lights for certain types of operations will not reduce the effect on human activity.

Droneport Texas, LLC said anti-collision lighting might startle or distract those engaged in normal human activities. To mitigate such distractions, the commenter recommended a remote pilot be allowed to reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lights that are “observable uniquely from the bottom side” of the aircraft and change them from flashing to a steady display. This rule requires all anti-collision lights to flash at a rate sufficient to avoid a collision. Furthermore, the remote pilot may use their discretion to determine the circumstances under which they could safely reduce the intensity of, but not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting.

DJI commented that, to mitigate the effects of anti-collision lighting on human activities, the FAA could encourage lights be placed on top of the small unmanned aircraft where it is most visible to manned traffic above and less bothersome to people below; however, DJI said it is unaware of complaints from the public about lighting, so such guidance should not be made a requirement. This rule does not include any prescriptive design criteria for anti-collision lighting. However, no provision of this rule precludes the placement of anti-collision lights on the top of a small unmanned aircraft.

One commenter suggested anti-collision lights could have an effect on the public due to light pollution and visual disturbances caused by the high intensity light and said the strobe effect could distract manned aircraft. Another commenter stated the purpose of the anti-collision lighting requirement is to call attention to the small unmanned aircraft, “in effect to distract the viewer.” The commenter further stated that, depending on the frequency and density of operations, blinking or strobe lights could disturb people engaging in traditional outdoor activities or even normal activities in their homes. The Agency anticipates anti-collision lighting will be no more distracting to individuals engaging in outdoor activities at night than the light from various other artificial sources. Red and white lights are often used at night, on vehicle headlights and taillights, street lights, school bus strobes, and other sources. The benefits of allowing small UAS operations at night in accordance with these requirements outweigh the potential drawback of distracting people on the ground. The FAA has carefully considered these concerns, however, and has prepared a finding of the categorical exclusion that applies to this rule, which assesses light emissions and visual impacts, and is available in the public docket for this rulemaking.

One commenter asked the FAA to consider allowing municipalities to designate certain public, open spaces as night flight zones. One commenter opposed operations at night and the use of anti-collision lighting over parklands and “Dark Sky” communities where municipalities restrict artificial lighting and suggested the FAA follow restrictions on train horns and allow communities to request prohibitions of night operations within the municipality. This commenter further noted the FAA has responsibilities under the Department of Transportation Act, Sec. 4(f), for any lighting if it impairs in any way night skies, vistas, and contemplative recreation in protected areas such as wilderness and parks.

The National Conference of State Legislature and the National Association of Counties stated the importance of State and local authorities’ ability to regulate UAS on a State and county level. One commenter suggested allowing different UAS regulations in different states. Other commenters expressed concerns about local entities placing requirements on the airspace and operating requirements.

States and municipalities may use their police powers, such as those relating to land use, zoning, privacy, anti-voyeurism, trespass, and law enforcement operations, to address small UAS operations in the community. Through their land use and zoning power, municipalities have authority to determine the placement of aircraft takeoff and landing areas within the community. However, municipalities do not have authority to enact operational restrictions on aviation safety or the efficiency of the navigable airspace, including regulation of unmanned aircraft flight altitude, flight paths or operational bans. The applicability of the Department of Transportation Act, Section 4(f), is discussed in the supporting documentation for the categorical exclusion documentation, which is included in the public docket for this rulemaking.

All aircraft operations in the navigable airspace, whether manned or unmanned, and whether during the day or at night, are regulated by the Federal government. Congress has long vested the FAA with authority to regulate the areas of airspace use, management, and efficiency; air traffic control; safety; navigational facilities; and aircraft noise at its source.[74] In addition, a citizen of the United States has a statutory public right of transit through the navigable airspace.[75] The FAA is aware of the International Dark-Sky Association and its work in encouraging communities, parks, and protected areas to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education. Designated dark sky communities would be free to request UAS operators minimize nighttime operations, citing their community’s dedication to the preservation of the sky through the implementation and enforcement of outdoor lighting ordinances to promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship. However, under the Federal statutory and regulatory framework, communities would not have the authority to prohibit small UAS operations at night or regulate small unmanned aircraft lighting.

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On the effective date of this rule, persons are permitted to conduct operations at night, provided they successfully complete the updated initial aeronautical knowledge test, initial training, and recurrent training, as applicable, which addresses the requirements of operating at night and that the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. Section IX.B. of this preamble provides a discussion of this requirement. The updated knowledge area on night operations for initial and recurrent training will be available on March 1, 2021, and will be accessible through the FAA website. The initial aeronautical knowledge test will have the updated knowledge area on night operations and will be available on March 1, 2021 at the knowledge testing centers. However, remote pilots without a waiver from § 107.29 will need to wait until March 16, 2021 before operating at night.

Sixty days after the effective date of the rule, no person may operate a small UAS at night in accordance with a certificate of waiver issued prior to the effective date of the rule. Existing waivers from § 107.29 granted prior to the effective date will terminate 60 days after the effective date of the rule. Similarly, on the effective date of this rule, pilots will be subject to the recurrent training requirement finalized in this rule, rather than the recurrent knowledge test. Remote pilots conducting operations in accordance with a current night waiver will need to complete the updated night operations knowledge area either by retaking the initial aeronautical knowledge test or completing the recurrent online training within 60 days from the effective date of this rule. The other amendments described in Section XI will also take effect on the effective date of this rule. The FAA did not receive any comments specific to the effective and compliance dates of this final rule, with the exception of comments that discussed coordination with the Remote Identification final rule, as discussed in the following section.

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The final rule enables entities to conduct operations over people and at night using eligible small UAS. Part 107 waiver analysis by AUVSI shows that between June 2016 and March 2020, a total of 4,144 waivers have been granted by the FAA.[115] A vast majority of the waivers granted are for § 107.29, daylight operations (3,813 waivers granted), followed by § 107.39 operations over people (125 waivers granted). These two waiver categories account for 95 percent of the waivers granted to date, and demonstrates the desire among entities to be able to conduct these types of operations. The AUVSI analysis shows a majority of the waivers granted have been for entities with fewer than 10 employees that generate a revenue of under $1 million annually.


2016 Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule

Due to the reduced visibility associated with nighttime operations, the NPRM proposed to prohibit the operation of a small UAS outside the hours of official sunrise and sunset. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will maintain the prohibition on nighttime operations but will allow small UAS operations to be conducted during civil twilight if the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles. The nighttime-operations prohibition in this rule will also be waivable. Approximately 25 commenters generally supported the proposed prohibition on operations outside the hours of official sunrise and sunset. ALPA noted that the prohibition is consistent with the ARC recommendations. The Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan
Airports Commission (Metropolitan Airports Commission) asserted that nighttime operations introduce a number of visual illusions, and unlike manned-aircraft pilots, small
UAS operators will not be required to complete comprehensive training programs that teach pilots how to deal with these illusions. The City and County of Denver, Colorado noted that allowing operations only in the lightest of conditions will increase the probability of avoidance in the event of a conflict.

Federal Airways provided some conditions and limitations under which they would support nighttime operations of UAS, but ultimately noted that if the goal is to be as least burdensome as possible, limiting operating hours to daylight hours only would eliminate the need for further specification in lighting requirements. The American Association of Airport Executives and Barrick Gold of North America, Inc. concurred with the nighttime operation prohibition, but added that in the future, technological advances may provide the opportunity to allow nighttime operations.

Other commenters objected to the proposed prohibition on nighttime operations. Skycatch, Clayco, AECOM and DPR Construction, commenting jointly, and several individuals, suggested that the proposed prohibition on nighttime operations be entirely eliminated from the final rule. Cherokee Nation Technologies and The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation asserted that nighttime operations can be safer than daytime operations because there is less air traffic and there are fewer people on the ground. EEI and AUVSI suggested that nighttime UAS operations are safer and less disruptive than nighttime manned-aircraft operations such as helicopters circling overhead. Virginia Commonwealth University Honors Students said the proposed ban on nighttime operations ignores the use of other senses, particularly sound, to detect and avoid other aircraft. DJI stated that because manned aircraft operating at night are required to be equipped with lighting, UAS operators would be able to satisfy their see-and-avoid requirements, even when operating at night.

A large number of commenters who opposed the daytime-only restriction of small UAS operations proposed several methods of mitigating hazards. The mitigation strategies were generally related to improving visibility to support see-and-avoid, augmenting seeand-avoid with technology, implementing additional restrictions for operations at night, and requiring additional certification or training. For example, the Airborne Law Enforcement Association, NBAA, and the National Ski Areas Association said nighttime operations of small UAS could be conducted safely if the aircraft is equipped with proper lighting. The National Association of Broadcasters, National Cable & Telecommunications Association and Radio Television Digital News Corporation, commenting jointly, and the Associated General Contractors of America supported nighttime operations in well-lit areas, such as closed sets or sites of sporting events. The Kansas State University UAS Program cited preliminary research that, it argued, indicates that UAS equipped with navigation lights are often easier to see at night than during the day.

Nighttime operations pose a higher safety risk because the reduced visibility makes it more difficult for the person maintaining visual line of sight to see the location of other
aircraft. While the existence of other lighted manned aircraft may be apparent due to their lighting, the distance and movement of small unmanned aircraft relative to the distance and movement of those aircraft is often difficult to judge due to the relative size of the aircraft. In addition, visual autokinesis (the apparent movement of a lighted object) may occur when the person maintaining visual line of sight stares at a single light source for several seconds on a dark night. For this reason, darkness makes it more difficult for that person to perceive reference points that could be used to help understand the position and movement of the lighted manned aircraft, the small unmanned aircraft, or other lighted object.

The lack of reference points at night is problematic for small UAS subject to part 107 because they are not required to have any equipage that would help identify the precise location of the small unmanned aircraft. As such, a remote pilot in command operating under this rule will generally rely on unaided human vision to learn details about the position, attitude, airspeed, and heading of the unmanned aircraft. This ability may become impaired at night due to a lack of reference points because all a remote pilot may see of his or her aircraft (if it is lighted) is a point of light moving somewhere in the air. For example, a lighted small unmanned aircraft flying at night may appear to be close by, but due to a lack of reference points, that aircraft may actually be significantly farther away than the remote pilot perceives. An impairment to the remote pilot’s ability to know the precise testing. Finally, the article concluded by noting that “more analysis is needed.” As a result, the FAA does not
currently have sufficient information to evaluate the research cited in the comment. position, attitude, and altitude of the small unmanned aircraft would significantly increase the risk that the small unmanned aircraft will collide with another aircraft.

In addition to avoiding collision with other aircraft, remote pilots in command must also avoid collision with people on the ground, as well as collision with ground-based structures and obstacles. This is a particular concern for small UAS because they operate at low altitudes. When operating at night, a remote pilot may have difficulty avoiding collision with people or obstacles on the ground which may not be lighted and as a result, may not be visible to the pilot or the visual observer. As such, this rule will not allow small UAS subject to part 107 to operate at night (outside of civil twilight) without a waiver.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and several individuals recommended that small UAS operations be permitted between civil dawn and civil dusk. The commenters stated that there is sufficient light during civil twilight to see and avoid ground-based obstacles. One commenter compared UAS to ultralight vehicles, citing precedent in § 103.11(b), which allows ultralight vehicles to be operated during civil twilight, provided the vehicle is equipped with an operating anti-collision light visible for at least 3 statute miles. The Drone User Group Network suggested that with appropriate
lighting, a small UAS would in fact be more visible in low light than during the day, thus enabling the remote pilot to exercise his or her visual-line-of-sight responsibility. Many of the comments cited photography as a type of operation that could be conducted during twilight hours.

Civil twilight is a period of time that, with the exception of Alaska, 84 generally takes place 30 minutes before official sunrise and 30 minutes after official sunset. The
FAA agrees with commenters that operations during civil twilight could be conducted safely under part 107 with additional risk mitigation because the illumination provided
during civil twilight is sufficient for terrestrial objects to be clearly distinguished during clear weather conditions. As a result, many of the safety concerns associated with nighttime operations are mitigated by the lighting that is present during civil twilight. That is why current section 333 exemptions permit twilight UAS operations. Accordingly, this rule will allow a small UAS to be operated during civil twilight.

However, while civil twilight provides more illumination than nighttime, the level of illumination that is provided during civil twilight is less than the illumination provided between sunrise and sunset. To minimize the increased risk of collision associated with reduced lighting and visibility during twilight operations, this rule will require small unmanned aircraft operated during civil twilight to be equipped with anti-collision lights that are visible for at least 3 statute miles.

A remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of the anti-collision lights if, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. For example, the remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of anti-collision lights to minimize the effects of loss of night vision adaptation. The FAA emphasizes that anti-collision lighting will be required under this rule only for civil twilight operations; a small unmanned aircraft that is flown between sunrise and sunset need not be equipped with anticollision lights.

The FAA acknowledges that current exemptions issued under Public Law 112-95, section 333 allow civil twilight operations without a requirement for anti-collision lighting. However, the section 333 exemptions do not exempt small UAS operations from complying with § 91.209(a), which requires lighted position lights when an aircraft is operated during a period from sunset to sunrise (or, in Alaska, during the period a prominent unlighted object cannot be seen from a distance of 3 statute miles or the sun is more than 6 degrees below the horizon). As such, UAS currently operating under a section 333 exemption have lighting requirements when operating during civil twilight. However, while current section 333 exemptions rely on position lighting, it would
be impractical for this rule to prescribe specifications for position lighting for civil twilight operations because a wider range of small unmanned aircraft will likely operate under part 107. Position lighting may not be appropriate for some of these aircraft. Thus, instead of position lighting, small unmanned aircraft operating under part 107 will be required to have anti-collision lights when operating during civil twilight.

The FAA also notes that meteorological conditions, such as haze, may sometimes reduce visibility during civil twilight operations. Accordingly, the FAA emphasizes that, as discussed in the following section of this preamble, this rule also requires that the minimum flight visibility, as observed from the location of the ground control station, must be no less than 3 statute miles.

Several commenters, including the Nature Conservancy, MPAA, Commonwealth Edison Company, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, and the Newspaper Association of America, suggested that certain types of operations should be exempt from the proposed nighttime prohibition. These operations include: emergency operations, public service operations, hazardous material response, railroad incident management, public utility inspection and repair, pipeline monitoring, thermal roof inspections using infrared technology, conservation-related operations in sparsely populated areas, ski area operations where people and property can be easily avoided, news-reporting, and filming in controlled, well-lit areas. The American Farm Bureau and several other commenters
claimed that certain UAS operations are best conducted at night. These operations include research and humanitarian operations, crop treatments, wildfire fighting, nocturnal wildlife monitoring, infrastructure monitoring, and operations using infrared and thermal imaging cameras. The Property Drone Consortium stated that a daylight-only requirement would restrict the ability of its members to conduct thermal imaging using small UAS.

Commonwealth Edison stated that the proposed restriction to daylight-only operations would constrain the ability to use small UAS to respond to emergencies that occur outside of daylight hours. Similarly, NRECA stated that the restriction to daylight operations would severely impede its members’ ability to respond to electrical grid emergencies caused by weather. Both Commonwealth Edison and NRECA suggested that the final rule include deviation authority to allow nighttime operations if it can be shown that such operations can be conducted safely. Similarly, Boeing, the University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, and DJI recommended that the proposed nighttime-operation prohibition be amended to allow waivers to be authorized by the Administrator to accommodate time-critical and emergency operations that may need to be conducted at night if those operations can be conducted safely.

The FAA agrees with commenters that there could be benefits to allowing certain small UAS operations at night, such as search and rescue or firefighting operations when those operations are conducted as civil operations. As such, the nighttime-operation prohibition in this rule will be waivable. The FAA will consider granting a certificate of waiver allowing a nighttime small UAS operation if an applicant can demonstrate sufficient mitigation such that operating at night would not reduce the level of safety of the operation. The American Petroleum Institute recommended an exception for Alaska’s North Slope, an area of significant operations for the oil and gas industry. The commenter noted that there are no daylight hours for approximately 3 months of the year in that area. The same safety concerns exist in northern Alaska as they do anywhere in the United States during periods of darkness. However, as discussed previously, this rule will allow small UAS operations to be conducted during civil twilight. This will add significantly greater flexibility to Alaska operations because for the northernmost portions of Alaska, the sun never rises for as many as 64 days a year. By allowing operations to take place during civil twilight, this rule will allow small UAS operations year round, even in Alaska’s North Slope. In addition, as discussed previously, the FAA will consider granting a certificate of waiver for specific nighttime operations if the applicant can demonstrate that operating at night will not reduce the safety of the operation.

Qualcomm, FLIR Systems, the Drone User Group Network, and several individuals supported operations at night utilizing technology such as night-vision cameras to allow the aircraft to be safety piloted. The Association of American Railroads contended that risks associated with nighttime operations could be mitigated by requiring small unmanned aircraft to be equipped with sense-and-avoid technology approved by the FAA. Kapture Digital Media and another commenter asserted that night-vision-enabled FPV cameras are available that would aid in seeing-and-avoiding other aircraft and hazards at night. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture suggested that the FAA prescribe a performance based standard in lieu of daylight-only restrictions, thus allowing for the integration of new risk-mitigating technologies as they are developed and refined. The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association suggested that risks related to low-light and nighttime operations could be mitigated through technological equipage.

For the reasons discussed earlier in this preamble, existing vision-enhancing devices, such as FPV, do not currently provide a field of vision sufficient for the user to safely see and avoid other aircraft. Current sense-and-avoid technology would also insufficiently mitigate the risk associated with flying at night because this technology is still in its early stages of development. As of this writing, there is no sense-and-avoid technology that has been issued an airworthiness certificate. The FAA will keep monitoring this technology as it develops and may incorporate it, as appropriate, into certificates of waiver, future UAS rules, or possible future revisions to part 107.

Several commenters suggested permitting nighttime operations by further segmenting the small UAS category of aircraft by lesser weights or lower operational altitudes. However, even a relatively light small unmanned aircraft could cause a hazard by colliding with another aircraft in the NAS or an object on the ground. As discussed previously, these safety risks are more prevalent at night due to reduced visibility. While low weight could be one mitigation measure that a person could use to support a waiver application, this factor, by itself, would be unlikely to mitigate the additional risk associated with a nighttime small UAS operation.

Embry-Riddle and the Florida Department of Agriculture, Consumer Services’ UAS Working Group (Florida Department of Agriculture) proposed allowing operators possessing additional certification to fly at night. Textron Systems and several individuals recommended additional training for night operations.

As discussed previously, this initial small UAS rulemaking effort is intended to immediately integrate the lowest risk small UAS operations into the NAS. The FAA plans to address higher risk operations and the mitigations necessary to safely conduct those operations, such as the mitigations suggested by the commenters, in future agency actions. The FAA will consider the commenters’ recommendations as part of future rulemaking efforts to integrate higher-risk UAS operations, such as nighttime operations, into the NAS. AUVSI, Prioria Robotics, and a joint submission from Skycatch, Clayco, AECOM, and DPR Construction pointed to Australia and New Zealand as examples of countries where nighttime operations have been safely conducted in areas with established UAS regulations. In keeping with U.S. obligations under the Convention on International Civil Aviation, it is FAA policy to conform to ICAO SARPs to the maximum extent practicable. However, there are currently no ICAO SARPs that correspond to the nighttime-operation provisions of these regulations. Because the integration of UAS into the NAS is an incremental process, the FAA will continue expanding UAS operations to include those that pose greater amounts of risk, utilizing data gleaned from industry research, the UAS test sites, and international UAS operations.

Matternet and the Mercatus Center at George Mason University cited § 101.17, stating that kites and moored balloons operate safely at night, with specific lighting requirements, even though they are not equipped with the kinds of sense-and-avoid technologies likely included in small UAS systems.

As discussed previously, sense-and-avoid technology does not currently provide sufficient mitigation to enable nighttime operations. In addition, while kites and moored balloons operated under part 101 are permitted to operate at night, § 101.15 requires the kite or moored balloon operator to notify the nearest ATC facility of the details of the operation at least 24 hours prior to each operation. Because kites and moored balloons governed by part 101 operate in a fixed location, this ATC notification allows ATC to disseminate details of the operation to other aircraft in the area. Conversely, with some exceptions, small UAS operating under part 107 in Class G airspace will not be required to communicate with ATC prior to or during the operation.

One commenter suggested that small UAS operations be limited to the period between one half hour after official sunrise and one half hour before official sunset, arguing that it is not uncommon for small unmanned aircraft to have low-visibility color schemes. However, it is not necessary to further reduce operations conducted near sunset or sunrise to mitigate the risk of small UAS operations in low light conditions. As discussed previously, low-light conditions provide sufficient lighting to mitigate many of the safety concerns underlying the prohibition on nighttime operations.

Previous RegulationBack to Drone Regulations DirectoryNext Regulation

FAA Part 107 Test Questions (72 Test Questions Explained) [2021]

Interested in finding some practice FAA Part 107 test questions to help study? Tired of finding out-of-date material that hasn’t been updated for the new regulatory changes?

This article will discuss the 72 sample Part 107 knowledge test questions based upon my knowledge as a practicing aviation attorney and current FAA certificated flight instructor.

Yes, the Part 107 initial knowledge exam will be 60 questions but I started collecting all the questions the FAA has published online so you could get your hands on as many as you can for studying. You want to study as many questions as possible because you will have 120 minutes to complete the test. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 18 questions wrong or a minimum of 42 questions right.

You also might be wondering if there is a recurrent knowledge exam. There used to be  one but the FAA changed this in January 2021 to allow recurrent training to be done online.


How to use this page to study for the Part 107 Knowledge Test

  1. You should have already studied Part 107. If you have not, I created free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide. The study guide has the material the FAA suggested you study, but I added essential material they left out. It also include 5 “cram” summary pages of the test material. It also comes with the 72 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained.
  2. You should take the practice quiz that I have below. At the end of the quiz it will give you a breakdown of what areas of the quiz you need to study.
  3. For the areas you are deficient, you should study the subject based upon the ACS code listed. Here is an article I did on the ACS.
  4. Once you feel you have mastered these questions, move on to Part 107 Test Questions for Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (my
    super insanely hard 22 questions page) which I created to help people really dig super deep.
  5. If you sign up for my drone law newsletter, you’ll receive the PDF of the entire 72 questions answered and explained.

Part 107 Practice Initial Knowledge Exam Quiz


Need More Material to Study?


72 Sample FAA Part 107 Knowledge Exam Questions:

I obtained these questions from the FAA. I have 72 FAA created sample questions below. The correct answer is bold and italicized. My comments are in the brackets.

You can make an initial exam from the questions below.  Like baking a cake, we need the proper percentages of ingredients.

Area Percentage
I – Regulations 15-25%
II- Airspace 15-25%
III- Weather 11-16%
IV- Loading & Performance 7-11%
V – Operations 35-45%

Keep in mind that I already did this for the automated quiz above so it’s a perfectly balanced quiz of 60 questions.

The questions below are done in order of how they are in the Airmen Certification Standards to help you study questions that are similar.

Need more practice questions than the ones below? I’ve been creating online training courses for the sister company Rupprecht Drones.  Some people want to learn at a faster rate or don’t have time to read, so to meet their needs, I created online courses  that are at Rupprecht Drones. I’m planning on creating many more online courses to help individuals quickly learn the material for the remote pilot knowledge exam so frequently check in. These courses also are great for company training and recurrent training to keep the pilots and crew proficient.

The breakdown of questions below:

I – Regulations (22 questions)
II- Airspace (13 questions)
III- Weather (6 questions)
IV- Loading & Performance (4 questions)
V – Operations (28 questinos)


Area I. Regulations (Initial 15-25%)

A. General

UA.I.A.K4 A small UA causes an accident and your crew member loses consciousness. When do you report the accident?

A) No accidents need to be reported.

B) When requested by the UA owner. [You might be confused. If there is a deviation from the regulations, only upon request from the FAA, do you need to provide a report. 107.21 says, “(b) Each remote pilot in command who deviates from a rule under paragraph (a) of this section must, upon request of the Administrator, send a written report of that deviation to the Administrator.”]

C) Within 10 days of the accident. [107.9 Accident reporting. “No later than 10 calendar days after an operation that meets the criteria of either paragraph (a) or (b) of this section[.]”]

B. Operating Rules

UA.I.B.K1 Registration requirements for small unmanned aircraft systems. Under what condition would a small UA not have to be registered before it is operated in the United States?

A. When the aircraft weighs less than .55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on-board or attached to the aircraft.

B. When the aircraft has a takeoff weight that is more than .55 pounds, but less than 55 pounds, not including fuel and necessary attachments. [This is weight range for Part 48. Remember that Part 47 is for the 55lbs and heavier drones!]

C. All small UAS need to be registered regardless of the weight of the aircraft before, during, or after the flight. [Nope.]

UA.I.B.K1 Registration requirements for small unmanned aircraft systems. According to 14 CFR part 48, when must a person register a small UA with the Federal Aviation Administration?

A. All civilian small UAS weighing greater than .55 pounds must be registered regardless of its intended use. [See 48.1 and 48.15.]

B. When the small UA is used for any purpose other than as a model aircraft.

C. Only when the operator will be paid for commercial services.

UA.I.B.K1 Registration requirements for small unmanned aircraft systems. According to 14 CFR part 48, when would a small UA owner not be permitted to register it?

A. The owner is less than 13 years of age. [48.25 says, “(b) A small unmanned aircraft must be registered by its owner using the legal name of its owner, unless the owner is less than 13 years of age. If the owner is less than 13 years of age, then the small unmanned aircraft must be registered by a person who is at least 13 years of age.” Keep in mind that they are trying to make you know Part 48. There are other answers as to why a person could not register via Part 47 such as being a foreign citizen.]

B. All persons must register their small UA.

C. If the owner does not have a valid United States driver’s license. [Part 48 doesn’t require this and Part 47 doesn’t require it either.]

UA.I.B.K1 Where must a small unmanned aircraft’s serial number be listed when using either standard remote identification or a broadcast module?

A. The aircraft’s Document of Compliance.
B. The manufacturer’s Method of Compliance.
C. The Certificate of Aircraft Registration. [ Read 48.110]

UA.I.B.K6a A small UA must be operated in a manner which

A) does not endanger the life or property of another. [Just looking at this. If you knew you one of these was correct, this is the most important of all 3 of them.]

B) requires more than one visual observer. [You don’t need a visual observer unless you are doing something special like over in 107.31 such as FPV racing].

C) never exceeds 200 feet AGL

UA.I.B.K6b  You plan to release golf balls from your small UA at an altitude of 100 feet AGL. You must ensure the objects being dropped will

A) not create an undue hazard to persons or property. [Section 107.23 says, “No person may: … (b) Allow an object to be dropped from a small unmanned aircraft in a manner that creates an undue hazard to persons or property.”]

B) land within 10 feet of the expected landing zone.

C) not cause property damage in excess of $300.

UA.I.B.K8  After having dinner and wine, your client asks you to go outside to demonstrate the small UAs capabilities. You must

A) pass a self-administered sobriety test before operating a small UA.

B) not operate a small UA within 8 hours of consuming any alcoholic beverage. [8 hours bottle to throttle. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t even buzzed or if the alcohol has got into your system yet.]

C) ensure that your visual observer has not consumed any alcoholic beverage in the previous 12 hours.

UA.I.B.K9 Daylight operation. According to 14 CFR part 107, what is required to operate a small UA within 30 minutes after official sunset?

A. Use of anti-collision lights. [§107.29(b) says, (b) No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft system during periods of civil twilight unless the small unmanned aircraft has lighted anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision. The remote pilot in command may reduce the intensity of, but may not extinguish, the anti-collision lighting if he or she determines that, because of operating conditions, it would be in the interest of safety to do so. (c) For purposes of paragraph (b) of this section, civil twilight refers to the following: (1) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins 30 minutes before official sunrise and ends at official sunrise; (2) Except for Alaska, a period of time that begins at official sunset and ends 30 minutes after official sunset; and (3) In Alaska, the period of civil twilight as defined in the Air Almanac.”]

B. Must be operated in a rural area.

C. Use of a transponder.

UA.I.B.K14  During a flight of your small UA, you observe a hot air balloon entering the area. You should

A) yield the right-of-way to the hot air balloon. [107.37 says, “(a) Each small unmanned aircraft must yield the right of way to all aircraft, airborne vehicles, and launch and reentry vehicles. Yielding the right of way means that the small unmanned aircraft must give way to the aircraft or vehicle and may not pass over, under, or ahead of it unless well clear.”]

B) ensure the UA passes below, above, or ahead of the balloon.

C) expect the hot air balloon to climb above you altitude.

UA.I.B.K16 Prior authorization required for operation in certain airspace. According to 14 CFR part 107, how may a remote pilot operate an unmanned aircraft in class C airspace?

A. The remote pilot must have prior authorization from the Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility having jurisdiction over that airspace. [You are going to have to have an airspace waiver. §107.41 says, “No person may operate a small unmanned aircraft in Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport unless that person has prior authorization from Air Traffic Control (ATC).” The FAA is handling those authorizations via a waiver process currently. Let me know if you need one! ]

B. The remote pilot must monitor the Air Traffic Control (ATC) frequency from launch to recovery. [This is the smart thing to do and maybe also required via the waiver, but it isn’t required per the regulations.]

C. The remote pilot must contact the Air Traffic Control (ATC) facility after launching the unmanned aircraft. [Um. The idea would be to call before launching, not after.]

UA.I.B.K16 (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 78.) You have been hired to use your small UAS to inspect the railroad tracks from Blencoe (SE of Sioux City) to Onawa. Will ATC authorization be required?

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-blencoe

A) Yes, Onawa is in Class D airspace that is designated for an airport.

B) No, your entire flight is in Class G airspace.

C) Yes, you must contact the Onawa control tower to operate within 5 miles of the airport.

UA.I.B.K20 Preflight familiarization, inspection, and actions for aircraft operations. According to 14 CFR part 107, who is responsible for determining the performance of a small unmanned aircraft?

A. Remote pilot-in-command. [See 107.19. Learn the short version of this regulation. “If anything goes wrong, it is most likely the PIC’s fault.” You shouldn’t let anyone force you into flying somewhere or doing something you feel is unsafe. You are getting the whacking if anything goes wrong, not them.].

B. Manufacturer.

C. Owner or operator.

UA.I.B.K21a According to 14 CFR part 107, what is the maximum groundspeed for a small UA?

A) 87 knots. [87 knots is 100 MPH]

B) 87 mph.

C) 100 knots. [100MPH, not knots].

UA.I.B.K21b (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 78.) You have been contracted to inspect towers located approximately 4NM southwest of the Sioux Gateway (SUX) airport operating an unmanned aircraft. What is the maximum altitude above ground level (AGL) that you are authorized to operate over the top of the towers?

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-sioux-gateway1

A) 400 Feet AGL.

B) 402 feet AGL.

C) 802 feet AGL. [This is Class D airspace and you would have to get a COA to operate here. I have NEVER seen one been given out for over 400ft. Yes, you could technically get a 400ft+ waiver and a COA to exercise it or get a special COA to operate within 400ft of a structure but it is extremely rare. Technically, under 107, if you are within 400ft of the structure you can go up to 400ft above the top of it (402 AGL is what the map says) which makes it 802 AGL.]

UA.I.B.K22 Upon request by the FAA, the remote pilot-in-command must provide

A) a logbook documenting small UA landing currency. [107.7 says, “Any other document, record, or report required to be kept under the regulations of this chapter.” The big word is required. Does 107 require a logbook? No. Is it smart to have? Yes.]

B) a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. [107.7 Inspection, testing, and demonstration of compliance. (a) A remote pilot in command, owner, or person manipulating the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system must, upon request, make available to the Administrator: (1) The remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating[.]”]

C) any employer issued photo identification.

UA.I.B.K25 When may a remote pilot reduce the intensity of an aircraft’s lights during a night flight?

A. At no time may the lights of an sUAS be reduced in intensity at night.

B. When a manned aircraft is in the vicinity of the sUAS. [This makes no sense. The lights are critical when manned aircraft are around.]

C. When it is in the interest of safety to dim the aircraft’s lights.

C. Remote Pilot Certification with an sUAS rating (*)

UA.I.C.K2 The refusal of a remote PIC to submit to a blood alcohol test when requested by a law enforcement officer

A) is grounds for suspension of revocation of their remote pilot certificate. [See 107.59]

B) can be delayed for a period up to 8 hours after the request.

C) has no consequences to the remote pilot certificate.

E. Operations Over People

UA.I.E.K3a To conduct Category 1 operations, a remote pilot in command must use a small unmanned aircraft that weighs

A. 0.55 pounds or less. [Correct.]

B. 0.65 pounds or less.

C. 0.75 pounds or less.

UA.I.E.K3d Which Category of small unmanned aircraft must have an airworthiness certificate issued by the FAA?

A. 4.

B. 3.

C. 2

F. Remote Identification (RID)

UA.I.F.K1 What must a person, who is manipulating the controls of a small unmanned aircraft, do if the standard remote identification fails during a flight?

A. Land the aircraft as soon as practicable.

B. Notify the nearest FAA Air Traffic facility.

C. Activate the aircraft’s navigation lights. [Drones are not even required to have navigation lights under 107]


Area II. Airspace Classification and Operating Requirements (Initial 15-25%)

A. Airspace Classification (*)

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-redbird

UA.II.A.K1a (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 25, Area 3.) The floor of Class B airspace at Dallas Executive (RBD) is

A) at the surface.

B) 3,000 feet MSL. [Class B airports are huge up side down wedding cakes. The B overhangs the Class D airspace. If you see the Class D top says [-30]. The minus means up to but NOT including 3,000. Right near it you see the 110/30 which means Class B is 3,000-11,000 ft.

C) 3,100 feet MSL

 

 remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-savannah

UA.II.A.K1b General airspace: Class C controlled airspace. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 23, area 3.) What is the floor of the Savannah Class C airspace at the shelf area (outer circle)?

A. 1,300 feet AGL. [It is NEVER AGL. There is a lot that can be said here, but if you want to know more, study out barometers and the different types of altitude.]

B. 1,300 feet MSL. [Remember the two zeros are chopped off. SFC means surface. Why is this important? Because you might need to do a job under the Class C shelf. If you don’t know this right off the top of your head, you are leaving money on the table. Remember that Class C operations require a waiver (COA). You need to be able to say quickly, “Yes, we can do that job” or “No, we can’t do that job and I’ll have to file a COA to fly in Class C airspace.” If you need help filing a COA in Class C, contact me.]

C. 1,700 feet MSL.

UA.II.A.K1b General airspace: Class C controlled airspace. According to 14 CFR part 107 the remote pilot in command (PIC) of a small unmanned aircraft planning to operate within Class C airspace

A. must use a visual observer. [Nope. Only Part 107 FPV racers or 44807 operators need a VO.]

B. is required to file a flight plan. [You don’t have to be on a flight plan to fly in Class C.]

C. is required to receive ATC authorization. [Bingo. Why? Because the FAA ATC wants to make sure you can fly in certain locations. Pro tip: Look at the runway of the Class C airport in Figure 23.  The runways are North, South, East, and West. If you are flying in the “doughnut hole,” then you better know where the landing and departing traffic will be flying. Keep in mind that for some airports, especially at coastal airports, almost rarely use their northerly or southerly runways because the wind is almost always blowing east or west. You might be able to get a COA for those north or south areas of the airport easier. As always, if you need help getting one, contact me.]

UA.II.A.K1c (This is a question I created). What type of airport is Pueblo Airport?

Class B

Class C

Class D

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-fentress

UA.II.A.K1d (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 20, Area 1.) The Fentress NALF Airport (NFE) is in what type of airspace?

A) Class C.

B) Class E. [You can tell this based upon the dashed magenta line which indicated E at the surface.]

C) Class G.

Figure 59 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions
UA.II.A.K2 Special use within airspace. (Prohibited, restricted, warning, military operations, alert, and controlled firing.) (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 59, area 2.) The chart shows a gray line with “VR1667, VR1617, VR1638, and VR1668.” Could this area present a hazard to the operations of a small UA?

A. No, all operations will be above 400 feet.

B. Yes, this is a Military Training Route from 1,500 feet AGL. [It is extremely important to know this so you can expect low-flying military helicopters flying this route. Some of which may be at 400ft or below. Here is what the AIM says: “(a) MTRs with no segment above 1,500 feet AGL must be identified by four number characters; e.g., IR1206, VR1207. (b) MTRs that include one or more segments above 1,500 feet AGL must be identified by three number characters; e.g., IR206, VR207.” What does this mean? They can ALWAYS be flying in your airspace.]

C. Yes, the defined route provides traffic separation to manned aircraft.

 remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-gila-bend

UA.II.A.K2 (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 75, Area 6.) During preflight planning, you plan to operate in R-2305. Where would you find additional information regarding this airspace?

A) In the Aeronautical Information Manual. [This will have only general information, not specific.]

B) In the Charts Supplements U.S. [This is the best answer. There is a section in the Chart Supplement for the Southwest for this specific restricted area.]

C) In the Special Use Airspace area of the chart. [This is an answer but the chart supplement provides more information. The side portion of the sectional chart will give you information regarding altitudes, times, etc.]

Figure 21 of the Part 107 Devils lake MOA sample knowledge test questions

UA.II.A.K2 Special use within airspace. (Prohibited, restricted, warning, military operations, alert, and controlled firing.) (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 21.) You have been hired by a farmer to use your small UA to inspect his crops. The area that you are to survey is in the Devil`s Lake West MOA, east of area 2. How would you find out if the MOA is active?

Devils Lake MOA

A. Refer to the legend for special use airspace phone number. [Ok. This answer is wrong. You won’t be getting any telephone numbers here. You’ll get VHF frequencies on the side of the map where the MOAs are listed.   How do you find the MOAs on the side? This is annoying because most of you guys are using some type of digital map. This is how you find it on Skyvector. You make sure the sectional chart at the top right is clicked and then you move over all the way to the left and you’ll see a list of all the MOAs. This MOA is from 4000-17,999. For practice, let’s pretend that it goes all the way to the ground. We need to figure out if it is active. The 135.25 frequency won’t help because you’ll almost never get ahold of anyone with your handheld. This is how to figure out if it is active or not. You can either (1) Check to see if there is an active NOTAM on https://www.notams.faa.gov/dinsQueryWeb/which has its own MOA tab, (2) check on https://pilotweb.nas.faa.gov/PilotWeb/(3) call up 1-800-WX-BRIEF, or (4) call via phone the ARTCC over the area which would be Minneapolis Center. Here is the FAA web page to find the ARTCC phone numbers.  If you are interested in setting up flight programs and want a more comprehensive set of guidelines that includes this information and more, contact me.]

B. This information is available in the Small UAS database. [What? I don’t know what this means. There is no such thing.]

C. In the Military Operations Directory. [No such thing.]

national-security-area

UA.II.A.K3 (This is a question I created). What is the dashed magenta line in a circle east of the Pueblo Airport represent?

A. Class E at the surface airspace.

B. This is an isogonic line. [While an isogonic is a dashed magenta line. It is a long dashed magenta line. You can actually see one in this picture just east of the national security area and Class E at the surface airspace. Notice all three answers are in this picture to show you the contrast.]

C. This is a national security area. [This is NOT Class E at the surface. The dashed circle is a national security area. The thinner dashed line in the shape of a box is Class E at the surface extension.]

UA.II.A.K3 Your surveying company is a title sponsor for a race team at the Indianapolis 500. To promote your new aerial surveying department, you decide to video part of the race using a small UA. The FAA has issued a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) for the race in the area you plan to fly. In this situation

A. you may fly your drone in the TFR since your company is sponsoring a team at the race. [No. Race sponsors or stadium owners, etc. don’t control the TFR.]

B. the TFR applies to all aircraft; you may not fly in the area without a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization. [Correct generally.].

C. flying your drone is allowed if you notify all non-participating people of the closed course UA operation.

B. Airspace Operational Requirements (*)

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-plantation

UA.II.B.K1 (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 23, Area 4.) What is the required flight visibility for a remote pilot operating an unmanned aircraft near the Plantation Airport (JYL)?

A) 5 statute miles.

B) 1 statute mile.

C) 3 statute miles. [I think this is trying to confuse the manned aircraft guys because visibility for Class G operations for manned aircraft is 1 mile of visibility and 3 for E airspace (starts at 700ft AGL around Plantation). Part 107 has visibility at 3 SM of visibility.]

Figure 20 area 2 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions

UA.II.B.K4 (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 20, area 2.) Why would the small flag at Lake Drummond of the sectional chart be important to a remote pilot?

A— This is a VFR check point for manned aircraft, and a higher volume of air traffic should be expected there. [Lots of aircraft means greater chance for mid-air collision.]

B— This is a GPS check point that can be used by both manned and remote pilots for orientation.

C— This indicates that there will be a large obstruction depicted on the next printing of the chart.

Figure 20 area 3 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions

UA.II.B.K5 The NOTAM system including how to obtain an established NOTAM through Flight Service. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 20, area 5.) How would a remote PIC “CHECK NOTAMS” as noted in the CAUTION box regarding the unmarked balloon?

A. By utilizing the B4UFLY mobile application. [That would be a nice feature but I don’t know how much money the FAA will put into this app. That app is more like an airspace for dummies app. Learn how to read charts so you know where you can legally fly to make more money.]

B. By contacting the FAA district office. [Nope. However, you should reach out to meet with these guys sometime. Let them know you are trying to be compliant and professional. Better to “set the stage” with that than if they come after you and remember you as the guy who did  _________.]

C. By obtaining a briefing via an online source such as: 1800WXBrief.com. [You could do this. I suggest reading my article on 5 Ways to Prove You Did a Pre-Flight Briefing.]


Area III. Weather (Initial 11-16%)

A. Sources of Weather

[METAR KLAX 121852Z 25004KT 6SM BR SCT007 SCT250 16/15 A2991 SPECI KMDW 121856Z 32005KT 1 1/2SM RA OVC007 17/16 A2980 RMK RAB35]

UA.III.A.K2 Aviation routine weather reports (METAR). (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 12.) What are the current conditions for Chicago Midway Airport (KMDW)?

A. Sky 700 feet overcast, visibility 1-1/2SM, rain. [Time, wind direction and speed, visibility in SM, clouds, Temperature/ dew point, altimeter in inches of mercury. It is almost always the same format. Just go through and find the two wrong answers.]

B. Sky 7000 feet overcast, visibility 1-1/2SM, heavy rain. [This can quickly be eliminated because it is always two zeros after the end for the altitude of the base of the clouds. It would be 700, not three zeros to make 7000.]

C. Sky 700 feet overcast, visibility 11, occasionally 2SM, with rain. [Clever. Really clever. Looking at the other material, like LAX above which shows 6SM, that should have clued you in that the value for that place should be a number in statute miles.

[SPECI KJFK 121853Z 18004KT 1/2SM FG R04/2200 OVC005 20/18 A3006]

UA.III.A.K2 Aviation routine weather reports (METAR). (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 12.) The wind direction and velocity at KJFK is from

A. 180° true at 4 knots. [This is how you remember if something is true or magnetic. “If it is in print, it must be true.” The only exceptions are for runways, VOR compass rose, and AWOS/ASOS headings when you call from a phone.]

B. 180° magnetic at 4 knots.

C. 040° true at 18 knots.

B. Effects of Weather on Performance

UA.III.B.K1a Weather theory: Density altitude. What effect does high density altitude have on the efficiency of a UA propeller?

A. Propeller efficiency is increased.

B. Propeller efficiency is decreased. [A high density altitude decreases the power output of a normal aspirated engine because there are less air molecules in the combustion. Most drones are electric so I’m taking this out of the equation. There are fewer air molecules flying over the wing (the propeller) which results in a decrease in lift.]

C. Density altitude does not affect propeller efficiency.

UA.III.B.K1c Weather theory: Atmospheric stability, pressure, and temperature.  What are the characteristics of stable air?

A. Good visibility and steady precipitation. [It would be poor visibility].

B. Poor visibility and steady precipitation. [Yes! stratiform clouds, smooth air, poor visibility in haze and smoke, and continuous precipitation.]

C. Poor visibility and intermittent precipitation. [No intermittent is more like unstable air that creates cumulonimbus clouds]

UA.III.B.K1d Weather theory: Air masses and fronts. What are characteristics of a moist, unstable air mass?

A. Turbulence and showery precipitation. [Cumuliform clouds, turbulent air, good visibility, and showery precipitation are all characteristics of unstable air.]

B. Poor visibility and smooth air. [Poor visibility and smooth air are characteristics of stable air.]

C. Haze and smoke. [Haze and smoke are the causes of the poor visibility in stable air!]

UA.III.B.K1j Weather theory: Fog. You have received an outlook briefing from flight service through 1800wxbrief.com. The briefing indicates you can expect a low-level temperature inversion with high relative humidity. What weather conditions would you expect?

A. Smooth air, poor visibility, fog, haze, or low clouds. [A temperature inversion means some warm air on top of some cold air. The cold air underneath on the ground, along with a high relative humidity, means you are expecting fog in the cooler area. You should also check the METARS for the airports in the area as you will most likely have a temperature/dewpoint spread that is low. Example 12/10. The air will be smooth because there is little convection.]

B. Light wind shear, poor visibility, haze, and light rain. [The cold air underneath means you are not going to have much convection so light wind shear is a wrong answer.]

C. Turbulent air, poor visibility, fog, low stratus type clouds, and showery precipitation. [Once again, you are going to have very little convection because of the cold air.]


Area IV. Loading and Performance (Initial 7-11%)

A. Loading and Performance

UA.IV.A.K1b General loading and performance: Balance, stability, and center of gravity. To ensure that the unmanned aircraft center of gravity (CG) limits are not exceeded, follow the aircraft loading instructions specified in the

A. Pilot’s Operating Handbook or UAS Flight Manual. [I don’t know of any drone manufacturers who have created a manual which allows you to calculate the CG.  Manned aviation manuals have ways you can calculate so you don’t exceed CG limits. I think some of the reasons why the drone manuals don’t have them are because (1) the manufacturers are “toy” manufacturers who know little about aerodynamics, (2) they don’t want to waste money on something that isn’t required, and (3) the drones they sell can’t carry any payload so the CG is static.]

B. Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). [Great for general aviation info but bad for specific aircraft info.]

C. Aircraft Weight and Balance Handbook. [This looks like a great answer but it isn’t. This handbook is helpful for studying for the test but won’t tell you anything about your specific aircraft.]

UA.IV.A.K1b General loading and performance: Balance, stability, and center of gravity. A stall occurs when the smooth airflow over the unmanned airplane`s wing is disrupted, and the lift degenerates rapidly. This is caused when the wing

A. exceeds the maximum speed. [You won’t stall at this speed. Your wings will pop off because of drag.]

B. exceeds maximum allowable operating weight. [This isn’t true. You can fly somewhat overweight all day long (not legally), but it isn’t going to cause your wings to stall or pop off. We care about flying overweight in turbulent air or when doing abrupt maneuvers that can over stress the aircraft and break it. This is why we have maneuvering speed in manned aircraft so we know what speed to keep our aircraft below so we don’t break it in the event of a full control deflection because the aircraft will stall before it exceeds its category limits for what the aircraft was certificated for.  There are no aircraft category G limits like manned aircraft. All Part 107 aircraft are not required to have an airworthiness certificate like manned aircraft. So flying a drone “overweight” isn’t the same as flying a certificated manned aircraft over the weight which might exceed category limits in a full control deflection.]

C. exceeds its critical angle of attack. [You aren’t going to be flying if you hit this angle no matter how fast you are going. Here is a great example of a Sukhoi Su-35 Russian jet doing the Cobra maneuver which exceeds its critical angle of attack. ]

UA.IV.A.K1a. The importance and use of performance data to predict the effect on the aircraft’s performance of an sUAS. When operating an unmanned airplane, the remote pilot should consider that the load factor on the wings may be increased anytime

A. the CG is shifted rearward to the aft CG limit. [This wouldn’t increase load factor. If the airplane uses an elevator for pitch, this would actually DECREASE load factor.]

B. the airplane is subjected to maneuvers other than straight and level flight.

C. the gross weight is reduced. [Gross weight reduction would DECREASE load factor.]

loadfactor

UA.IV.A.K1a.The importance and use of performance data to predict the effect on the aircraft’s performance of an sUAS. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 2.) If an unmanned airplane weighs 33 pounds, what approximate weight would the airplane structure be required to support during a 30° banked turn while maintaining altitude?

[Explanation: In a turn of 30 degrees of bank and while maintaining level flight (no altitude loss because you slightly pitched up), you will have a 1.154 load factor. This means that in this turn you will be feeling like you are pulling 1.154 G’s.  33 pounds x 1.154 = 38.082 pounds].

A.34 pounds.

B. 47 pounds.

C. 38 pounds.


Area V. Operations (Initial 35-45%)

A. Radio Communications Procedures

Figure 2 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions

UA.V.A.K3 Recommended traffic advisory procedures. (such as: self-announcing of position and intentions by manned aviation operations and activities.) (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 26, area 2.) While monitoring the Cooperstown CTAF you hear an aircraft announce that they are midfield left downwind to RWY 13. Where would the aircraft be relative to the runway?

A. The aircraft is East. [Runway 13 has a magnetic heading of 130. Keep in mind that our VFR sectionals are in true, not magnetic, but VORs and runway headings are magnetic. You know which way the airplane took off by looking at the runway orientation. The runways on the map tend to be pretty close to what they are in real life. The airport pattern in the U.S. goes to the left (because the captain or pilot tends to fly on that side and has a better view of the runway and it is the law). The exceptions to this are if ATC at a tower, visual markings or lights, AFD, or the sectional with an RP symbol next to the airport say otherwise. There is no RP on Cooperstown so it is left. So if airplanes are going left, you should fly on the right hand pattern side right? WRONG! Helicopters are required by law to avoid the flow of fixed-wing aircraft and tend to be lower.]

B. The aircraft is South.

C. The aircraft is West.

B. Airport Operations (*)

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-minot

UA.V.B.K2 (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 21, Area 1.) After receiving authorization from ATC to operate a small UA near Minot International airport (MOT) while the control tower is operational, which radio communication frequency could be used to monitor manned aircraft and ATC communications?

A) UNICOM 122.95

B) ASOS 118.725.

C) CT-118.2. [This is the control frequency and also is the CTAF frequency.]

UA.V.B.K6a Sources for airport data: Aeronautical charts. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 21.) What airport is located approximately 47 (degrees) 40 (minutes) N latitude and 101 (degrees) 26 (minutes) W longitude?

A. Mercer County Regional Airport.  [This is definitely not even close. This airport is in the low minutes of 47 degrees North.)

B. Semshenko Airport. [Ah yes, this is a close private airport. You can tell it is private because of the Pvt. Careful measurements will let you know that this is not the airport]

C. Garrison Airport. [Let’s make this simple. Ladder sounds kind of like latitude. You climb the ladder going north. (Keep in mind it is north only if you are in the Northern Hemisphere) For minutes, just think of them as tick marks. There is a box with 30 tick marks in it, a line, and then another 30 tick marks. Total you get 60 minutes. For longitude, also called meridians, think of the Prime Meridians running through Greenwich, England. Why is this useful? To figure out if the coordinates of the potential job site are in airspace which requires a COA. I use coordinates all the time when I’m working with my clients to figure out if they need a COA or not. Can your attorney do that?]

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-coeur

UA.V.B.K6a Sources for airport data: Aeronautical charts. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 22, area 2.) At Coeur D`Alene which frequency should be used as a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) to monitor airport traffic?

A. 122.05 MHz. [This is the frequency to contact Boise Flight Service on.]

B. 135.075 MHz. [This is the AWOS, not the CTAF. You can check out the airport weather on this frequency. Would also be great to find out what the surface winds are blowing at that location.].

C. 122.8 MHz. [This is the CTAF].

 remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-elizabeth-city

UA.V.B.K6a (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 20, Area 4.) A small UA is being launched 2 NM northeast of the town of Hertford. What is the height of the highest obstacle?

A) 399 feet MSL.

B) 500 feet MSL.

C) 500 feet AGL. [This is a very sneaky question. If you read carefully in the aeronautical chart user’s guide on page 12 it says, “Whenever possible, the FAA depicts specific obstacles on charts. However, in high-density areas like city complexes, only the highest obstacle is represented on the chart using the group obstacle symbol to maximize legibility.”]

Figure 26, area 4

UA.V.B.K6a Sources for airport data: Aeronautical charts. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 26, area 4.) You have been hired to inspect the tower under construction at 46.9N and 98.6W, near Jamestown Regional (JMS). What must you receive prior to flying your unmanned aircraft in this area?

A. Authorization from the military. [This isn’t military airspace.]

B. Authorization from ATC. [This is Class E airspace going to the surface ASSOCIATED with an airport. The magenta dashes indicate this. Read my article on 107.41 for an in-depth discussion on E-extensions and E associated with an airport. The magenta halo indicates Class E airspace starts at 700ft. To convert to decimal points, you divide 60 (The number of tick marks per degree. Remember there are 30 tic marks per quadrant but two quadrants make up a degree.) by 10 and you’ll get 6 tick marks per .1 According to Part 107, you’ll need authorization to operate within Class E at the surface airspace. ]

C. Authorization from the National Park Service. [There is no national park here.]

remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-parachute remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-trenton

UA.V.B.K6a (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 24, Area 3, and Legend 1.) For information about the parachute operations at Tri-County Airport, refer to

A) notes on the border of the chart.

B) Chart Supplements U.S. [The parachute sign is next to the airport. Legend 1 clues you in to look at the chart supplement even.]

C) the Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) publication.

 remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-sioux-gateway1

UA.V.B.K6a (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 78. Near the center of the figure.) What class of airspace is associated with SIOUX GATEWAY/COL DAY (SUX) Airport?

A) Class B airspace.

B) Class C airspace.

C) Class D airspace. [This is evidenced by the blue dashes. Technically, it also have some E at the surface airspace extensions which are marked by the dashed magenta lines.]

 remote-pilot-knowledge-test-practice-question-card-airport

UA.V.B.K6a (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 24, Area 6.) What type of airport is Card Airport?

A) Public towered.

B) Public non-towered.

C) Private non-towered. [It is private because it has a big R on it. You can tell it is not towered because it is magenta and not blue.]

Figure 20 area 3 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions

UA.V.B.K6a Sources for airport data: Aeronautical charts. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 20, area 3.) With ATC authorization, you are operating your small unmanned aircraft approximately 4 SM southeast of Elizabeth City Regional Airport (ECG). What hazard is indicated to be in that area?

A. High density military operations in the vicinity.

B. Unmarked balloon on a cable up to 3,008 feet AGL. [It says MSL right on the sectional. Even if it didn’t, it would have to be MSL because pilots flying don’t have an accurate way of determining AGL and are using their aneroid barometers which is trying to put out an indicated altitude ball parkish to MSL.]

C. Unmarked balloon on a cable up to 3,008 feet MSL. [Keep in mind that if you are flying 4SM from the airport, you are within 4 nautical miles from the airport. Class D airports generally have a radius of 4NM. You would need an airspace waiver to operate in this area. Contact me if you need one! ]

Figure 26 of the Part 107 sample knowledge test questions

UA.V.B.K6a Sources for airport data: Aeronautical charts. (Refer to FAA-CT-8080-2H, Figure 26.) What does the line of latitude at area 4 measure?

A. The degrees of latitude east and west of the Prime Meridian. [This is partially true. It is correct to say degrees of latitude but incorrect to say west. Latitude goes north & south like you are climbing a latter.]

B. The degrees of latitude north and south from the equator. [Like you are climbing a later going up or down. Just remember which hemisphere you are in. 99% of you guys aren’t going below the equator so it will be north most of the time.]

C. The degrees of latitude east and west of the line that passes through Greenwich, England. [Just answer A repackaged.]

UA.V.B.K6b Sources for airport data: Chart Supplements U.S. (formerly Airport/facility directory) The most comprehensive information on a given airport is provided by

A. the Chart Supplements U.S. (formerly Airport Facility Directory). [This will tell you all sorts of things such as the phone number to the airport manager.]

B. Notices to Airmen (NOTAMS). [Um no. These will tell you SOME things about the airport.]

C. Terminal Area Chart (TAC). [This map is a 2x zoomed in version of the sectional.]

C. Emergency Procedures (*)

UA.V.C.K1 Emergency planning and communication. When using a small UA in a commercial operation, who is responsible for briefing the participants about emergency procedures?

A. The FAA inspector-in-charge. [Um. No. The FAA inspector is the person who investigates your goof up.]

B. The lead visual observer. [Nope. But this person is great for doing the “coffee & doughnuts” briefing.]

C. The remote PIC.  [Bingo! Being the pilot in command means you are responsible. Period. For everything. For example, if you don’t properly brief your VO and a FAA inspector ramp checks and the VO doesn’t know what is going on, you get in trouble. It’s like being at the bottom of a gutter, all the garbage will flow your way.]

UA.V.C.K1 Emergency planning and communication. To avoid a possible collision with a manned airplane, you estimate that your small UA climbed to an altitude greater than 600 feet AGL. To whom must you report the deviation?

A. Air Traffic Control. [If you are flying without an airspace waiver, 600ft isn’t even in controlled airspace so you wouldn’t be contacting ATC. It might be wise to just quickly mention on the CTAF where you are if you were flying near a Class G airport and you had to do an emergency deviation up to 600ft.]

B. The National Transportation Safety Board. [See What Do I Do After a Drone Crash?]

C. Upon request of the Federal Aviation Administration. [See What Do I Do After a Drone Crash?]

UA.V.C.K2 What precautions should a remote PIC do to prevent possible inflight emergencies when using lithium-based batteries?

A) Store the batteries in a freezer to allow proper recharging. [Cold temperature really goofs up charging and use of LIPO batteries. It would have been better for them to create a risk question and highlight that your flight times using a cold LIPO batter are much lower than in warmer conditions.]

B) Follow the manufacturer`s recommendations for safe battery handling. [This is a “No-duh” type of answer.]

C) Allow the battery to charge until it reaches a minimum temperature of 100 ° [If CHARGING is making your batteries really warm, you should stop and try and figure out why they are getting this hot as you might have some type of failure that might lead to a failure. You also should consider charging your batteries in a safe place where if they catch on fire, you don’t goof up everything.]

D. Aeronautical Decision-Making (*)

UA.V.D.K1 Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). Safety is an important element for a remote pilot to consider prior to operating an unmanned aircraft system. To prevent the final “link” in the accident chain, a remote pilot must consider which methodology?

A. Crew Resource Management. [“Crew resource management (CRM). The application of team management concepts in the flight deck environment. It was initially known as cockpit resource management, but as CRM programs evolved to include cabin crews, maintenance personnel, and others, the phrase “crew resource management” was adopted. This includes single pilots, as in most general aviation aircraft. Pilots of small aircraft, as well as crews of larger aircraft, must make effective use of all available resources; human resources, hardware, and information. A current definition includes all groups routinely working with the flight crew who are involved in decisions required to operate a flight safely. These groups include, but are not limited to pilots, dispatchers, cabin crewmembers, maintenance personnel, and air traffic controllers. CRM is one way of addressing the challenge of optimizing the human/machine interface and accompanying interpersonal activities.”]

B. Safety Management System. [“SMS is the formal, top-down, organization-wide approach to managing safety risk and assuring the effectiveness of safety risk controls. It includes systematic procedures, practices, and policies for the management of safety risk.”]

C. Risk Management. [This is the part of the decision making process which relies on situational awareness, problem recognition, and good judgment to reduce risks associated with each flight.]

UA.V.D.K1 Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM). A local TV station has hired a remote pilot to operate their small UA to cover breaking news stories. The remote pilot has had multiple near misses with obstacles on the ground and two small UAS accidents. What would be a solution for the news station to improve their operating safety culture?

A. The news station should implement a policy of no more than five crashes/incidents within 6 months. [But why 5? 5 crashes a year? A month? This is just a standard with no data behind it.]

B. The news station does not need to make any changes; there are times that an accident is unavoidable. [There is not enough information to know they do not need to make any changes. Maybe they have identified all the risks and attempted to mitigate them. Generally, you could and should be trying to do something to increase safety.]

C. The news station should recognize hazardous attitudes and situations and develop standard operating procedures that emphasize safety. [The hazardous attitudes would be an easy fix with the crew to help identify any hazards in the group. The SOP helps prevent pilots from forgetting things. SOPs are great at managing risk. What gets measured gets managed. There needs to be data gathered after the flights to find out how to best optimize the SOPs. Over time, the SOPs will be improved by identifying risks, implementing mitigations in the SOPs to counter those risks, and measuring the effectiveness of those mitigations. SOPs aren’t stagnant.]

UA.V.D.K2 Crew Resource Management (CRM). When adapting crew resource management (CRM) concepts to the operation of a small UA, CRM must be integrated into

A. the flight portion only. [This is wrong because the pre-flight portion and post flight portion need attention also for safety. Who checked on TFRs, weather, etc? Who charged the batteries? Who is going to charge the batteries and log the before and after voltages?]

B. all phases of the operation. [“All groups routinely working with the flight crew who are involved in decisions required to operate a flight safely. These groups include, but are not limited to pilots, dispatchers, cabin crewmembers, maintenance personnel, and air traffic controllers.”]

C. the communications only. [Nope. Into everything when people are involved.]

UA.V.D.K2 When a remote pilot-in-command and a visual observer define their roles and responsibilities prior to and during the operation of a small UA is a good use of

A) Crew Resource Management. [CRM is really the effective use of all available resources: human, hardware, and information. This is highlighting the human portion.]

B) Authoritarian Resource Management. [This isn’t even an FAA term.]

C) Single Pilot Resource Management [This doesn’t even make sense in light of this question.]

UA.V.D.K4 Hazardous attitudes. Identify the hazardous attitude or characteristic a remote pilot displays while taking risks in order to impress others?

A. Impulsivity. [This is doing something quickly without thinking it out.]

B. Invulnerability. [This is doing something dumb but you think an accident won’t happen to you. Please see the many dumb people on Youtube flying their aircraft over streets in urban areas.]

C. Macho.  [You act macho to impress others.]

UA.V.D.K4 Hazardous attitudes. You have been hired as a remote pilot by a local TV news station to film breaking news with a small UA. You expressed a safety concern and the station manager has instructed you to “fly first, ask questions later.” What type of hazardous attitude does this attitude represent?

A. Machismo. [It isn’t this one because you aren’t trying to prove yourself to be awesome.]

B. Invulnerability. [Close. But it isn’t right. Invulnerability recognizes that the accident CAN happen, “but not to me.” Here there is NO recognition of the possibility of an accident being possible.]

C. Impulsivity. [From PHAK, “This is the attitude of people who frequently feel the need to do something, anything, immediately. They do not stop to think about what they are about to do, they do not select the best alternative, and they do the first thing that comes to mind.”]

E. Physiology

UA.V.E.K2 Drugs and alcohol use. Which is true regarding the presence of alcohol within the human body?

A small amount of alcohol increases vision acuity. [No, you may think that but it isn’t true.]

B. Consuming an equal amount of water will increase the destruction of alcohol and alleviate a hangover. [No, it just means you are going to be a drunk who has to go to the bathroom.]

C. Judgment and decision-making abilities can be adversely affected by even small amounts of alcohol. [Yes, being drunk can result in all sorts of poor life choices such as getting involved in Pokemon.

UA.V.E.K5 Stress and fatigue. You are a remote pilot for a co-op energy service provider. You are to use your UA to inspect power lines in a remote area 15 hours away from your home office. After the drive, fatigue impacts your abilities to complete your assignment on time. Fatigue can be recognized.

A. easily by an experienced pilot. [An experienced pilot should recognize that fatigue can creep up on them and they shouldn’t trust themselves.]

B. as being in an impaired state. [You should give your body proper rest so as to function optimally. Commercial pilots have rest requirements for a reason. You should also.]

C. by an ability to overcome sleep deprivation. [This isn’t fatigue. This is Redbull.]

UA.V.E.K6 Factors affecting vision. Which technique should a remote pilot use to scan for traffic? A remote pilot should

A. systematically focus on different segments of the sky for short intervals. [From the AIM 8−1−6. (c), “Because the eyes can focus only on this narrow viewing area, effective scanning is accomplished with a series of short, regularly spaced eye movements that bring successive areas of the sky into the central visual field. Each movement should not exceed 10 degrees, and each area should be observed for at least 1 second to enable detection. Although horizontal back-and-forth eye movements seem preferred by most pilots, each pilot should develop a scanning pattern that is most comfortable and then adhere to it to assure optimum scanning.]

B. concentrate on relative movement detected in the peripheral vision area. [Bad idea. From AC 90-48D 4.2.5, “It is essential to remember, however, that if another aircraft appears to have no relative motion, it is likely to be on a collision course with you. If the other aircraft shows no lateral or vertical motion, but is increasing in size, take immediate evasive action.”]

C. continuously scan the sky from right to left. [What about up and down also!? Additionally, you need some time to focus on a particular segment of sky.]

UA.V.E.K8 When preparing for a night flight, what should an sUAS pilot be aware of after assembling and conducting a preflight of an aircraft while using a bright flashlight or work light?

A. Once adapted to darkness, a persons eyes are relatively immune to bright lights. [Not true].

B. It takes approximately 30 minutes for a persons eyes to fully adapt to darkness. [Correct.]

C. The person should use a flash light equipped with LED lights to facilitate their night vision. [Not a good answer. Maybe if the LEDs were red LEDs that protect night vision but this is just too broad.]

F. Maintenance and Inspection Procedures (*)

UA.V.F.K1 Basic maintenance. Under what condition should the operator of a small UA establish scheduled maintenance protocol?

A. When the manufacturer does not provide a maintenance schedule. [Yes, because you should know what the mean time between failures is or have an idea on what are the typical problems certain drones encounter so you can PREVENT crashes.]

B. UAS does not need a required maintenance schedule. [I can hear it now from some of the droners “Maintenance…..We don’t need no stinkin maintenance.”]

C. When the FAA requires you to, following an accident. [It is cheaper to do maintenance on the front end rather than on the pieces on the backend.]

UA.V.F.K1 What actions should the operator of an sUAS do if the manufacturer does not provide information about scheduled maintenance?

A) The operator should contact the FAA for a minimum equipment list. [The reason the FAA delegated inspecting the drone to the remote pilot in command is the FAA can’t keep up to speed on the drones. They aren’t going to have some MEL.]

B) The operator should establish a scheduled maintenance protocol. [If you read AC 107-2 you would see they had a whole section on maintenance which should have clued you into this being a potential candidate for the correct answer]

C) The operator should contact the NTSB for component failure rates for their specific sUAS. [I guess you could do this but it seems like B is a way better answer.]

UA.V.F.K2 Preflight inspection. According to 14 CFR part 107, the responsibility to inspect the small UAS to ensure it is in a safe operating condition rests with the

A. remote pilot-in-command. [107.19 says, “(b) The remote pilot in command is directly responsible for and is the final authority as to the operation of the small unmanned aircraft system. (c) The remote pilot in command must ensure that the small unmanned aircraft will pose no undue hazard to other people, other aircraft, or other property in the event of a loss of control of the aircraft for any reason” How are you going to do that without doing an inspection on the aircraft and being familiar with it?  § 107.49 says, “(c) Ensure that all control links between ground control station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly; (d) If the small unmanned aircraft is powered, ensure that there is enough available power for the small unmanned aircraft system to operate for the intended operational time; and (e) Ensure that any object attached or carried by the small unmanned aircraft is secure and does not adversely affect the flight characteristics or controllability of the aircraft.” ]

B. visual observer. [No responsibility here but it would be smart to have the VO checking things also.]

C. owner of the small UAS. [Smart but not required.]


Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Part 107 test hard?

If you are a manned aircraft pilot, not that much. If you are brand new to aviation, it could be a steep learning curve especially for the aeronautical charts.

What score do you need to pass Part 107?

For the initial remote pilot knowledge exam you need a minimum of 70%.

How much does a Part 107 test cost?

The cost is around $150. Some organizations such as AOPA may provide a discount.

I hoped this helped guys. If you are needing legal help, don’t hesitate to contact me.

How to Get a Drone License: Tips to Save Time & Money [2021]

Are you interested in obtaining your “drone license” so you can fly your drone and not get in trouble? Are you tired of reading articles written by people with little to no experience in aviation and just want to have an experienced professional tell you what to do?

If so, you are in the right place.

This page is the ultimate guide to educating you on what you need to do to obtain your drone license. This article was not written by some content writer like many of the other website but by me. I’m a practicing drone attorney and current FAA certificated flight instructor. I’m going to leverage this knowledge and experience to help you so you can confidently fly your drone without having to wonder if some government inspector would find your drone flying in violation of the law.


Background (How We Got Here)

Drones have been flown for years but the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”)  really didn’t start doing much till around 2005. The FAA then published the infamous 2007 policy statement which declared “that people and companies other than modelers might be flying UAS with the mistaken understanding that they are legally operating under the authority of [Advisory Circular] 91-57. AC 91-57 only  applies to modelers, and thus specifically excludes its use by persons or companies for business purposes.” This is where the line started being drawn very deeply in the sand between recreational flyers and non-recreational flyers. The by-product of this policy statement was it essentially made commercial drone flying financially unreasonable, if you wanted to do it legally, because you would have to comply with all the Federal Aviation Regulations which were originally designed for manned aircraft.

In February 2012, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 was passed. This had beneficial provisions for recreational and non-recreational flyers.

Later in September of 2014, the FAA issued some exemptions under the FRMA’s Section 333 (now called Section 44807). These exemptions at least made commercial drone operations some what workable to do but were still plagued with the requirement to have a sport pilot license which could cost $$$ to obtain and the requirement to stay at least 500 feet away from property you didn’t own and people not participating in your operation. Recreational flying remained largely unchanged during this time.

In May 2016, the FAA issued an interpretation that educational institutions could fly under the recreational category.

The FAA had been working on some commercial drone regulations since 2009 but didn’t make it a priority. Eventually in 2015 a notice of proposed rule making was published and on August 29, 2016, Part 101 and Part 107 became law. Part 107 explains how to obtain a drone license for non-recreational flying while Part 101 was for recreational flyers. There was no drone license requirement for recreational drone flyers at this time.

The FAA Re-Authorization Act of 2018 unfortunately repealed the law that allowed recreational drones to be very unregulated but made it law that institution of higher education could fly under recreational drone laws for educational or research purposes. On 12/11/2020, the FAA withdrew Part 101 subpart E as a regulation because it caused confusion and was overruled by 49 USC 44809 which came from the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.


Overview of the Laws

Recreational Drone Test

The recreational drone laws have been in flux where the regulations were created, the law changed, but the old regulations staying on the books. Recreational pilots used to fly under 14 CFR Part 101 but the laws changed. Do NOT rely on Part 101 as it is no longer valid law. FAA withdrew Part 101 subpart E.

Currently, recreational fly according to 49 U.S.C. Section 44809. I have an in-depth article on recreational drone laws if you really want to understand everything and actually know exactly what are the recreational drone laws.

So do recreational drone pilots need to obtain a license? No, but they need to pass a test.

The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 created a new requirement that recreational drone fliers had to pass a knowledge and safety test. So it functionally acts like a license since you have to pass a test and you’ll use evidence of passing the test to prove you are compliant with the recreational drone laws.

This test has not been created because the FAA is still working on creating it. So how does one fly lawfully when they haven’t passed the test? The FAA published an updated Advisory Circular 91-57B explaining that until it is created, you could fly according that Advisory Circular.

Before you say “this is for me!”, I suggest you read my thoughts below on why I think recreational flyers should just obtain their remote pilot certificate and fly under that.

Commercial Drone License (Remote Pilot Certificate)

Pilots wanting to fly commercially have the option of flying under Part 107 or under Part 61 and Part 91. Each path has its own license requirements.

If you want to fly under Part 61 & 91 (because you are flying a big drone weighing 55 pounds and heavier or you are doing beyond line of sight package delivery), you’ll by default need a manned aircraft commercial pilot certificate. This is extremely burdensome and expensive. For 95% of these Part 91 operations, we just petition to the FAA to obtain an exemption from the regulations and fly instead with a remote pilot certificate. If you are confused by exemptions, waivers, COAs, etc., read my article where I compare the different methods of obtaining approval to fly.

For like 99% of the commercial drone pilots in the U.S., they fly under Part 107 because it is the easiest to fly under. If a pilot flies under Part 107, they will need to obtain a remote pilot certificate. This article will explain how to obtain this certificate. :)


Which One Is Right for Me?

Recreational drone laws are less burdensome than the non-commercial drone laws. To be in this special less regulated are, the flight must be for recreational purposes which includes educational institutions flying for education and research.

The FAA put out an interpretation memo in 2014 explaining the difference between recreational and non-recreational flights. Important: This interpretation was retracted but you can learn a lot about the FAA’s thoughts on this from this outdated memo because it gave examples.

  • Recreational
    • “Flying a model aircraft at the local model aircraft club.”
    • “Taking photographs with a model aircraft for personal use.”
    • “Using a model aircraft to move a box from point to point without any kind of compensation.”
    • “Viewing a field to determine whether crops need water when they are grown for personal enjoyment.”
  • Not Recreational
    • “Receiving money for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft.”
    • “A realtor using a model aircraft to photograph a property that he is trying to sell and using the photos in the property’s real estate listing. A person photographing a property or event and selling the photos to someone else.”
    • “Delivering packages to people for a fee.”
    • “Determining whether crops need to be watered that are grown as part of commercial farming operation.”

There are still scenarios that I’m not sure of. Read my section on my thoughts on why you should obtain a remote pilot certificate.

Also, if you are flying in furtherance of your job, even if you are not getting paid for the flight, you are definitely not recreational. So government employees like police and fire will not be eligible for flying as recreational.

At this point, you should have a real good idea of which category you fall into.


What Recreational Drone Flyers Need to Obtain

Recreational Drone Test

Currently, the recreational drone test has not been created and we’ll have to wait till it’s created. Fly according to AC 91-57B until it is created.

What to Study to Prepare for the Recreational Drone Test

The test will be on:

“(A) understanding of aeronautical safety knowledge; and

(B) knowledge of Federal Aviation Administration regulations and requirements pertaining to the operation of an unmanned aircraft system in the national airspace system.”

AC 91-57B compiled a list of study material. You can study for (B) by reading my recreational drone law article.


Why A Recreational Pilot Should Obtain a Commercial Drone license

I’ve been adamant about recreational flyers obtaining a remote pilot certificate for some years now. You can fly recreationally under Part 107. It doesn’t prohibit you. It’s actually better in multiple ways. Here are 3 ways:

Recreational Pilots Have a Bigger Downside.

I’ve been helping clients navigate responding to FAA investigations. I’ve seen how situations can go south really bad for the recreational guys. Here is the big gotcha……when you violate one of the recreational restrictions, you are no longer seen as recreational but as non-recreational and the rest of the regulations apply. Instead of just a violation for one thing, the violation makes all the Part 107 regulations apply which means you end up getting more violations.

Consider the outcome of these two flyers who both flew over people:

Recreational Flyer Under Section 44809 Recreational Under Part 107
Both Non-Compliant – Flying Over People 107.39
Both Non-Compliant – Flying in a way to cause undue hazard to people 107.19(c)
Both Non-Compliant – Flying in a careless reckless manner. 107.23
Fail to turn over documents to FAA or law enforcement upon request (because they don’t have a remote pilot certificate). 107.7(b) Compliant
Flying a drone without a remote pilot certificate. 107.12(a) Compliant
Acting as PIC without remote pilot certificate or current knowledge test. 107.12(b) Compliant
Flying without aeronautical currency (passed remote pilot knowledge text) 107.65 Compliant
7 Possible Charges 3 Possible Charges

You have less downside flying under Part 107.

Also, flying around people is problematic recreationally since an FAA safety inspector can have a hard time determining depth and might misjudge you flying over a person. The same goes for commercial pilots flying under Part 107. This is one reason I’ve suggested that if you are going to be flying near people, just go obtain the over people waiver. An over people waiver from me will most likely cost less than a civil penalty from a enforcement action from the FAA. If you need an over people waiver, contact me because I have obtained some.

More Protections

Here’s what the FAA’s own order on how to do enforcement actions says:

“The Pilot’s Bill of Rights (PBR), Public Law 112-153 (Aug. 3, 2012), as amended by Public Law 115-254 (Oct. 5, 2018), requires investigative personnel to provide airmen who are the subject of an investigation with timely PBR notification, i.e., written notice of the investigation, unless the notification would threaten the integrity of the investigation[.]”

It’s the pilot’s version of a Miranda warning.  Sweet huh? But it’s not required for recreational pilots. The same FAA order says,

“PBR notification is not required to be provided when the apparent violator is not the holder of an airman certificate (or the apparent violation cannot result in legal enforcement action against an airman certificate)”

Clarity and Predictability

People ask me questions on can they do such-n-such operations. Here are some examples:

  • Using your drone to take pictures to submit with your home insurance claim.
  • Volunteer fire rescue.
  • Volunteer search and rescue for missing people.
  • OOOOO and the most frequent of all time question……”I took a picture for fun last month. Turns out people want to buy it. Can I sell it now?”

There are all sorts of arguments and important points that can be made in these scenarios. And I’m sure you have arguments back. Or facts. Whatever. At the end of the day, it’s unpredictable as to how some FAA safety inspector is going to handle your unique factual scenario.

If you have a remote pilot certificate, the answer to all of the scenarios above is really simple.

People Are More Familiar With It.

This is just a practical one. Who in the world actually knows the current state of the recreational drone laws? Most cops fly under Part 107. If you get stopped and are complying with Part 107 (something they might be somewhat semi-proficient with), you could have less issues during a stop.


Who Can Obtain a Commercial Drone License?

To obtain your commercial drone license you must:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • For brand new pilots and non-current manned pilots, pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center which is $150 but some military guys can get it for $0. For current manned pilots, they can take a free online course.

General FAQ’s Surrounding the “Commercial Drone License”

Why do you use the term “commercial drone license” in the title of one of your blog posts when the correct term is remote pilot certificate?

I know the correct term is remote pilot certificate; however, when writing a blog post, it is important to write a title that would be understood by new individuals or the term used by newbies when searching on Google.  If you were new to this area, what would you type in Google?  Commercial drone license or remote pilot certificate? A simple search on Google search volume shows that “drone license” is more than twice the volume of “remote pilot certificate.” I wrote the articles for first-time pilots, not existing pilots who know how to speak “aviationese.” I also wrote the article to rank high in Google so high-quality information could be found on the drone license.

Do I Need a Pilot License’s to Fly a Drone Commercially?

Yes, but it is NOT one of the expensive manned aircraft pilot licenses most people think about. You only need the Part 107 remote pilot certificate (also informally known as a “commercial drone license”) to operate your drone commercially. This commercial drone license allows you to fly your drone for profit. Keep in mind that you are not limited to profit making flights. You can fly recreationally under Part 107 or as a government employee (police, fire, etc.).

Does My Business Have to Obtain a Commercial Drone License to Use Drones?

No, only individuals can obtain the drone license. However, businesses can obtain waivers or authorizations and allow their remote pilots to fly under those. There must be a remote pilot in command for each non-recreational flight and they must possess a current drone license.

Why Is It Called a Remote Pilot Certificate and Not a Commercial Drone Pilot License?

The term “pilot license” is what is used commonly to describe FAA airmen certificates. The FAA certificates aircraft, mechanics, airmen, remote pilots, etc., they don’t license.  For non-recreational drone operators, the proper term is a remote pilot certificate. These certificates are being issued with a small unmanned aircraft rating which means the pilot could only operate a drone that is under 55 pounds. I foresee the FAA adding ratings onto the remote pilot certificate for certain types of operations such as over 55-pound operations, night, beyond visual line of sight, etc.

What Happens If I Fly the Drone Commercially Without a Drone License?

You could get fined for each regulation you are violating under Part 107. The FAA has been prosecuting drone operators. You could be violating multiple regulations per flight. If you land and then take off again, that is 2x the number of fines since you are breaking the same regulations again on the second flight. Now you understand why Skypan ended up with a $1.9 million aggregate fine. They later however settled with the FAA for $200,000.

How Can I Obtain the Commercial Drone License?

You have two ways to obtain your commercial drone license:

(1) Pass the remote pilot initial knowledge exam, submit the information onto IACRA,  pass the TSA background check, & receive your remote pilot certificate electronically; or

(2) If you are a current manned aircraft pilot, take the free online training course from the FAA, submit your application on IACRA, receive your remote pilot certificate electronically.

Each method for obtaining the commercial drone license has different steps from the other. Keep reading below for super detailed step-by-step instructions for EACH of these methods.

I’m Brand New. What Are the Steps to Obtaining a the Drone License?

I have step-by-step instructions here.

What if I Have a Manned Aircraft Pilot Certificate Already?

You still have to obtain the remote pilot certificate (“drone license”). If you have a current biannual flight review and a manned pilot certificate, other than a student pilot certificate, your instructions are located here on how to obtain it.

Is it Harder to Obtain the Commercial Drone License than a Manned Pilot License? 

Any of the manned aircraft pilot licenses require actual flight experience while the remote pilot certificate a.k.a. “drone license” does not have any requirement for the person to have any flight experience.

The 2015 statistics for those taking their remote pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 88.29% and those taking the private pilot knowledge exam had a passage rate of 89.44%. Another interesting thing was that the majority of those obtaining their drone license early on were those with manned aircraft pilot licenses. They had the ability to take a free online training course and then apply on IACRA to obtain their drone license. They had to do very little studying to pass the free online training course which explains why the high rates.

Are there any discounts or coupons for the remote pilot knowledge test?

  • AOPA members were able to get a discount. Check to see if that is still the case.
  • JSAMTCC  “In November 2011, the JSAMTCC entered into an MOA with the FAA to provide the full array of airman knowledge tests to select groups of individuals associated with the five branches of the U.S. Military, the DOD, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” Read Chapter 6 for complete info.
    • Active-duty, guard, and reserve component personnel of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Navy
    • U.S. Military retirees;
    • U.S. Military dependents;
    • Department of Defense (DOD) civilians; and
    • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) civilians.

New Pilot Step-by-Step Guide to Obtain the Drone License.

To prevent any problems with obtaining the drone license, do these steps in the exact order of how they appear in this list.

Step 1. Figure When to Schedule the Test.

  • Take an honest inventory of the hours you have PER DAY to study for the test.
  • Multiply the hours by 5. (You are most likely going have things that pop up during the week and you’ll need a day to rest.)
  • Now you have an idea of how many hours per week you can dedicate to studying.
  • The free study guide I created has a bunch of pages. It’s fluctuating over time as I try and keep it current. Use the total number of pages in that free study guide to estimate how much time it will take to study.  For example, say it is a total of 538 pages to read. 538 pages x 2 minutes = 1,076 minutes of reading (17.93 hours). Keep in mind you are not a robot so you are going to have to go back over and study certain areas to retain the information. If you can set aside 5 hours a week to study, in roughly 3.5 weeks you could have completed all of the reading. I would add on 2 additional weeks for extra studying after you have completed all of the reading to go over the areas that you are having a hard time understanding.

Step 2. Schedule Test Quickly

Immediately schedule a time to take the FAA Part 107 knowledge test at one of the testing sites. Figure out which test site you want to take the test at.

Step 3.  Start Studying

I created free 100+ page Part 107 test study guide. The study guide has the material the FAA suggested you study, but I added essential material they left out. It also comes with 65 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained. Think of it as your “personal trainer” for Part 107 to get you into a lean mean testing machine. You can read the Part 107 test study guide online or you can sign up for the free drone law newsletter and be able to download the PDF to study on the go. Keep in mind the study guide was for initial test takers. 

Step 4. Make a Business Plan.

Now that you know what the rules are, make a business plan for operations under Part 107 once you obtain the drone license. Go back and skim over the Part 107 Summary and read about Part 107 waivers (COAs). You might want to branch out into non-107 types of operations.

Step 5. Figure Out Peripheral Issues

Once you have figured out what types of industries and operations you plan on doing, you should spend this time:

  • Building or updating your website.
  • Buying the aircraft or practicing flying your current aircraft.
  • Obtaining drone insurance for the aircraft that will perform the operations.
  • Finding an attorney for each of the particular areas of law listed below. You may not need the lawyer right away but you have time to calmly make decisions now as opposed to rapidly making decisions in the future when your business is growing. You won’t have time in the future as you do now. Put their numbers in your phone. Ideally, you should have a retainer/ billing relationship set up to get answers rapidly.
    • Business / tax – (Preferably both)
    • Aviation
    • Criminal – (in case you get arrested because of some drone ordinance you stumbled upon).

Step 6. Take and Pass the Part 107 Knowledge Test.

Starting January 13, 2020, you will NEED to obtain a FAA Tracking Number (FTN) from Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA) to take the test.

Step 7. Complete FAA Form 8710-13:

  1. By filling out the paper-based version of FAA Form 8710-13 and mailing it off  OR  
  2. Online for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA).
      • Login to IACRA with your username and password. If you don’t remember them, follow the “Forgot Username or Password” link.
      • Applicant Console
        • From the Applicant Console, you can start new applications and view any existing applications. Click Start New Application
        • Select ‘Pilot’ from the Application Type drop-down list. This will now show the different types of pilot certificates IACRA has available.
        • Click on Remote Pilot. Starting a Remote Pilot Application
      • The Application Process page will open, and the Personal Information section will be open. This section will be prepopulated with the information you entered when you registered. If no changes are needed, click the green Save & Continue button at the bottom of this section.
      • The Supplementary Data section will open. Answer the English Language and Drug Conviction questions. If you would like to add comments to your application, you can do so here. Click Save & Continue.
      • The Basis of Issuance section will open.
        • Enter all the information related to your photo ID. A US passport or US driver’s license is preferred.
        • Enter the knowledge test ID in the Search box. PLEASE NOTE: It can take up to 72 hours after you take your knowledge test before it is available in IACRA. When you find the test, click the green Associate Test button. Now click Save & Continue.
      • The Review and Submit section will open.
        • Answer the Denied Certificate question.
        • Summary information info will be displayed.
        • You must view the Pilots Bill of Rights, Privacy Act and Review your application before you can continue.
      • Sign and Complete
        • You should now sign the Pilots Bill of Rights Acknowledgement form.
        • Sign and complete your application.
        • Your application is now complete and will be automatically sent to the Airman Registry.
        • After 2-4 days, your temporary certificate will be available in IACRA. You will also receive an email reminder.
        • Your permanent certificate (“drone license”) will arrive by mail.

New Pilot FAQs About the Drone License

If I pass this Part 107 remote pilot exam, can I charge for the flight?

Yes, provided you fly within the requirements of Part 107 and have your drone license.

Part 107 isn’t for model aircraft people but just commercial people, right?

Part 107 has incorrectly been understood to be for commercial flyers.  It isn’t. It is for everyone that can fly under its operational parameters. It is just that non-recreational aircraft flyers can only fly in Part 107 which lead to everyone incorrectly thinking Part 107 is for commercial. This caused confusion because some entities are not recreational or commercial! Non-profit environmental organizations or fire departments are two good situations where they aren’t charging for the flight and cannot fall into model aircraft operations yet they aren’t commercial. Commercial, recreational, government employees, non-profits, etc. can all fly under Part 107.

How much does the remote pilot initial knowledge exam cost?

First time pilots have to take the initial knowledge exam which is estimated at $150.[1] Current manned pilots can either take the initial knowledge exam for $150 or take an initial online training course for free. Either of those are pre-requisites to submitting an application to obtain the drone license.

When does Part 107 go into effect?

August 29, 2016.

Where can I take the 107 knowledge exam?

You take it at a knowledge exam testing center. A complete list is located here.

How can I Study for the Part 107 Knowledge Test to Get My Drone License?

I created a FREE 100+ page Part 107 test study guide which includes all the information you need to pass the exam. Let me repeat. ALL the information needed to pass the test is in this study guide. Additionally, the study guide comes with  6 “cram” summary pages, 65 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained, and 24 super hard brand-new practice questions NO ONE ELSE HAS.

I have been creating online paid video courses which are being sold through a separate company called Rupprecht Drones.

There are many paid training sources out there. But I do not know of any of them that are FAA certificated flight instructors AND also practicing aviation attorneys. Be skeptical of most of the 107 courses out there as some of them had to hire FAA certificated flight instructors to teach the material. This implicitly means they do NOT know the subject. Did the flight instructor they hire edit the material or just merely be recorded. In other words, what quality assurance do you have that the paid 107-course creators didn’t botch something up in the post-production?

Additionally, here is a list of Part 107 articles for you to study further:

How Long Does It Take to Receive My Drone License After I Submit on IACRA?

If you have a pilot certificate and took the initial knowledge exam, you have already passed a TSA security threat assessment background check when you obtained your manned aircraft pilot certificate. This means you will have your drone license faster than someone brand new going through the process.

If you are brand-new, I canNOT estimate because (1) the TSA’s backlog of pending IACRA applications and (2) I don’t know all the factors the FAA and TSA are looking at now.

I saw some link on the Facebook forums about a Part 107 test. I took it and received a certificate. Is this my drone license?

That FAA online test is NOT the Part 107 initial knowledge exam you need to take to obtain your drone license. That test is ONLY for the current manned aircraft pilots who wish to obtain their drone license. That online test by itself isn’t ALL they need to do to obtain the drone license. They still need to do a few additional things.  See Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License for more information.

How many different exams are there?

The current manned aircraft pilots can take either the initial online training course or the Part 107 initial knowledge exam while the first time pilots can ONLY take the initial Part 107 knowledge exam. After you receive your drone license, you’ll have to pass recurrent training within 24 calendar-months to keep your currency.

I read some people on Facebook telling me about the law and the drone license……

Let me stop you right there. Getting aviation law advice off Facebook forums is like getting medical help off Craigslist – it’s dumb. Yes, I know there are a few good attorneys online that do help, but there are also a ton of posers. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk or get aviation law info off Facebook. It is stupid to get advice on the internet. If the person on the internet goofs up, what happens is your drone license is on the line and potentially a fine or arrest. They have little downside while you could lose your ability to make money from your drone license.

On top of this, some of the people on these Facebook groups are committing the unlicensed practice of law by picking up clients for legal work but are too ignorant of their own criminal laws to know they are breaking these laws. Offering to help you be compliant with the law – while breaking the law themselves.

What happens if I fail the Part 107 initial knowledge test? Am I forever prevented from obtaining the drone license? 

The FAA’s Advisory Circular says on page 27, “Retaking the UAS knowledge test after a failure:

  • 14 CFR part 107, section 107.71 specifies that an applicant who fails the knowledge test may not retake the knowledge test for 14 calendar days from the date of the previous failure.
  • An applicant retesting after failure is required to submit the applicable AKTR indicating failure to the testing center prior to retesting.
  • No instructor endorsement or other form of written authorization is required to retest after failure.
  • The original failed AKTR must be retained by the proctor and attached to the applicable daily log.”

TSA Background Check for the Drone License Questions

I Made Some Mistakes in My Past. What Do the TSA and FAA Look For? What Disqualified Me from Receiving a Drone License?

I don’t know all the factors. I can say the FAA really does not like alcohol and drug related crimes.  They also don’t like a breath refusal.

§107.57   Offenses involving alcohol or drugs.

(a) A conviction for the violation of any Federal or State statute relating to the growing, processing, manufacture, sale, disposition, possession, transportation, or importation of narcotic drugs, marijuana, or depressant or stimulant drugs or substances is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of final conviction; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

(b) Committing an act prohibited by §91.17(a) or §91.19(a) of this chapter is grounds for:

(1) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that act; or

(2) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

§107.59   Refusal to submit to an alcohol test or to furnish test results.

A refusal to submit to a test to indicate the percentage by weight of alcohol in the blood, when requested by a law enforcement officer in accordance with §91.17(c) of this chapter, or a refusal to furnish or authorize the release of the test results requested by the Administrator in accordance with §91.17(c) or (d) of this chapter, is grounds for:

(a) Denial of an application for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating for a period of up to 1 year after the date of that refusal; or

(b) Suspension or revocation of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.

I’m a new pilot, does TSA pre-check or global entry count? I want to get my drone license as quick as possible.

Don’t know.

I’m a part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate.

I’m a fire fighter, law enforcement officer, government agency employee, etc……can I get my 107 certificate and then go do government stuff?  

Sure. But keep in mind that sometimes it might be beneficial to get a Public COA to accomplish the mission as there are certain restrictions with Part 107. However, there are Part 107 waivers that can be obtained. Contact me as each situation is different. See my article on public COA vs Part 107. 

 I did a drone certification course with some company, does that count? Is that the same as a drone license?

No, your “certification” is worth nothing. A bunch of these drone courses popped up being taught by unqualified individuals who were far more proficient at WordPress and Mailchimp than they were at teaching weather and manuals. Only the FAA can certify you.

Do you have to have a pilot’s license to fly a drone?

It depends. If you are flying recreationally according to Part 101, you do NOT need to have a pilot license. If you are flying non-recreationally (commercial, etc.), then you would need a pilot certificate.


Current Manned Aircraft Pilots Step-by-Step Instructions to Obtain the Drone License

You may be either a sport, recreational, private, commercial, or air transport pilot. You CANNOT be a student pilot. Additionally, the pilot must be current according to 14 C.F.R. § 61.56. This can be done multiple ways but the most popular is they have a sign off in their logbook saying they have completed their bi-annual flight review (BFR).

For some, getting a BFR can be much more expensive than taking the Part 107 initial knowledge exam which costs $150. You can be a non-current pilot and take the initial knowledge exam, then submit your application on IACRA. You’ll receive your temporary drone pilot license (remote pilot certificate) electronically so many days later. If this is your situation, then do the “first-time pilot” steps above.

From the FAA 2020-2040 Forecast, the FAA stated that 31.36% of the remote pilots ALSO had a Part 61 manned aircraft certificate while 68.64% were only Part 107 airmen.

Step 1. Start Studying

Step 2. Complete the Online Training Course

Look for the “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.

Step 3. Fill Out Your Application

Complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate)

A. Figure out if you want to do it online at IACRA or by paper (the paper form you print out is located here).

B. Either way, you are going to need to validate applicant identity on IACRA or 8710-13.

    • Contact an FSDO, an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) to make an appointment to validate your identity. I would suggest doing this with the FSDO because the inspector can give you a temporary certificate at the same time! Look up your local FSDO and make an appointment. Note: FSDO’s almost always do not take walk-ins.  You can also go to a DPE but I think it is better to meet your local FSDO employees because they are the ones that will be doing the investigations in your area.
    • Present the completed FAA Form 8710-13 along with the online course completion certificate or knowledge test report (as applicable) and proof of a current flight review.
    • The completed FAA Form 8710-13 application will be signed by the applicant after the FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI examines the applicant’s photo identification and verifies the applicant’s identity. If you are using a CFI to help you process your application, make sure you and they read FAA article below called Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications.
      • The identification presented must include a photograph of the applicant, the applicant’s signature, and the applicant’s actual residential address (if different from the mailing address). This information may be presented in more than one form of identification.
      • Acceptable methods of identification include, but are not limited to U.S. drivers’ licenses, government identification cards, passports, and military identification cards (see AC 61-65 Certification: Pilots and Flight and Ground Instructors)
    • The FAA representative will then sign the application.

Step 4. Obtain Temporary Certificate 

Find an appropriate FSDO representative, a FAA designated pilot examiner (DPE), or an airman certification representative (ACR) who can issue the applicant a temporary airman certificate. A CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate. CFIs can process applications for applicants who want a temporary certificate and submit the information on IACRA so that the applicate will receive the temporary electronically so many days later.

Step 5.  Receive Permanent Certificate

A permanent remote pilot certificate (drone pilot license) will be sent via mail once all other FAA internal processing is complete.

Step 6. Set a reminder on your calendar to stay current.

The currency is limited so make sure you set a calendar reminder for about 2 months before it runs out. This is discussed more down below.

If you need legal services or want to set up enterprise operations to get all your in-house pilots certified, fleet and pilot management, or crew training, contact me at to help with those needs. I work with many other certified aviation professionals to help large companies integrate drones into their operations to be profitable and legal. When looking for aviation law help, don’t hire a poser – hire an attorney who is a pilot. 


Current Pilot FAQs Regarding the Drone License

How long does my temporary certificate last? 

Section 107.64(a) says, “A temporary remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating is issued for up to 120 calendar days, at which time a permanent certificate will be issued to a person whom the Administrator finds qualified under this part.”

Do I Have to Get Another Medical Exam Before I Fly Under My Drone License?

No, a remote pilot certificate does NOT require a medical certificate. However, section 107.17 says, “No person may manipulate the flight controls of a small unmanned aircraft system or act as a remote pilot in command, visual observer, or direct participant in the operation of the small unmanned aircraft if he or she knows or has reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft system.”

I’m a current part 61 pilot trying to obtain my remote pilot certificate, do I have to get TSA background checked?

No, you already had your check when you obtained your Part 61 certificate. This means you’ll receive your remote pilot certificate faster than a new pilot.


Currency (Every 24 Months You Have to Prove Your Aeronautical Knowledge) 

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.”

You need 1 of the following within the previous 24 calendar months to operate under Part 107; however, if you don’t meet this, you are grounded from flying under Part 107 but you still could fly recreationally under Part 101.

After I take my recurrent training, do I have to do anything else like IACRA?

If you already have your remote pilot certificate, you just need to keep the documentation to prove you did recurrent training. The IACRA thing was for getting the remote pilot certificate but you already have that.

Does your remote pilot certificate expire?

No, you don’t lose your remote pilot certificate. It really shouldn’t be termed recertification as you are NOT getting a certificate again or have to worry about losing the certificate. You just cannot exercise the privileges of the remote pilot certificate.

Everyone typically gets confused by what I just said. I’ll give you some examples.

  • Bob passes an initial aeronautical knowledge test on September 15, 2016 and received his remote pilot certificate. This means Bob needs to do (a),(b), or (c) no later than September 30, 2018. Otherwise, he’ll have to stop flying under Part 107 until he does (a), (b), or (c).
  • Tony passed the exam with Bob on September 15, 2016.   He received his remote pilot certificate. He did not take the recurrent training until October 10, 2018 and passed in the afternoon at 1:34PM. Tony could not fly from October 1-10 up till he passed the test around 1:33-34PM. Once he passed, he was good to go for another 24 months (October 31st, 2020 @ 11:59 PM).
  • Sam, who also passed with Bob and Tony on September 15, 2016, received his remote pilot certificate but didn’t really do much drone flying because of life circumstances. He managed to pass the recurrent training on December 14, 2019. He is good until December 31st, 2021.

Important point.  Please note that when calculating currency, you are going off of when you did (a), (b), or (c) above, NOT when you received your remote pilot certificate or what is dated on your certificate.

How do I check if someone else is current?

You would think the FAA would have just put expiration dates on the remote pilot certificates like they do with my flight instructor certificate but no. If you search the FAA airmen registry, you’ll just see date of issue but not when currency expires.

If you are checking a person’s currency (like if you are hiring a person or if you are a police officer stopping a drone flyer) you need to ask them for:

  • Method 1: their remote pilot certificate AND initial knowledge exam test report or recurrent training documentation or
  • Method 2: their Part 61 pilot certificate (but not student pilot certificate), how they meet the flight review requirements of 61.56, AND their initial or recurrent online training course certificate.

You find the date in method 1 or 2. You add two years and then find the last day of the month. It is important to know this as there might be some scam artists out there trying to save $150 by not taking a knowledge exam and hoping people don’t check.

Dude, are you saying I should bring along my knowledge exam with my remote pilot certificate with me when I fly?

Well, it is a good idea in case that someone you are dealing with also read my article and wonders if you really are current.

Additionally, the FAA said this, “The FAA does not specify the method by which the certificate holder stores and displays his or her knowledge test report or course completion certificate; however, the certificate holder must provide the documents to the FAA upon request.” So a second reason to keep it with you is in case the FAA stops you.


Where can I get some study material?

I have multiple courses over at www.rupprechtdrones.com on particular topics. They are designed to be inch-wide and a mile-deep as opposed to what’s generally available for 107 training. The courses cover many things not covered elsewhere. Just try it out.  You can sign up for a free trial and watch some of the videos.

Ok ok. So you still want the free stuff.

You have two methods:

(1) Click here to be taken to the free knowledge test study guide with everything located in it.

(2) Sign up for the PDF study guide. :) It’s a pop-up you might have ignored on the website.

You can use these articles to study for your drone license or use them to brush up on the material so you can stay proficient and safe.


Conclusion

It looks like we are off to a good start. You have the steps you need to take to achieve your goals and the study materials to assist. If you are trying to figure out next steps after you obtain the certificate, one way to set yourself apart from the typical 107 competition is to obtain waivers or authorizations.  If you are interested in any of the waivers to stand out from the crowd, don’t hesitate to contact me.

[1] https://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation_data_statistics/test_statistics/media/2015/annual/2015_Airman_Knowledge_Tests.pdf

[2] Id. on Page 2.

[3] https://www.faa.gov/data_research/aviation_data_statistics/civil_airmen_statistics/media/2015-civil-airmen-stats.xlsx