Drone License Step-by-Step Guide So You Can Make Money

drone-license-infographic-thumbnailHave you thought to yourself “Hey, is there a drone license I can obtain so I can make some money?” If so, you are in the right place.

This page is a how-to guide on getting your drone license which is called all sorts of things such as a remote pilot certificate, commercial drone license, UAV certificate, drone permit, drone pilot license, etc. The correct term is a remote pilot certificate, but throughout this article, I will be referring to the remote pilot certificate and drone license interchangeably.

This guide is based upon my knowledge as a current FAA certificated flight instructor (CFI & CFII) and aviation attorney. I suggest you take time and skim through the drone license table of contents below which lists many FAQs regarding the drone license. Also below are two step-by-step portions: (1) brand new pilots trying to obtain their drone license and (2) current manned aircraft pilots seeking to obtain their drone license to fly their drones commercially.

Drone License Guide Table of Contents



Quick FAQ’s Surrounding the “Drone License”

1.Why do you use the term “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.  If you were new to this area, what would you type in Google?  Drone license or remote pilot certificate? A simple search on 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 not some thrown together article from a professional marketing person who has very little aviation experience.


2. 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 known as a “drone license”) to operate your drone commercially. This 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.).


3. Does My Business Have to Obtain a 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.


4. Why Is It Called a Remote Pilot Certificate and Not a 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.


5. 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. The previous fine per violation was $1,100, but it has recently gone up to $1,414 per violation. 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.


6. How Can I Obtain the Drone License?

You have two ways to obtain your 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 drone license has different steps from the other. Keep reading below for super detailed step-by-step instructions for EACH of these methods.


commercial drone pilot license7. I’m Brand New. What are the Steps to Obtaining a the Drone License?

You’ll have to take the remote pilot initial knowledge exam at a knowledge testing center. Note: if you took a test on the FAA’s website and received a certificate like what is on the right, this is NOT a Part 107 initial knowledge test for new pilots. The certificate to the right is from the online training course which is only for current manned aircraft pilots transitioning over to drones. A non-manned aircraft pilot cannot use this method to obtain the drone license.


8. Who Can Take the Part 107 Remote Pilot Exam?

To obtain your 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
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center

9. 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.

 10. Is it Harder to Obtain the 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.

In my article on the statistics surrounding those obtaining their drone license,  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% for 2015. 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.


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:

  1. Figure out how far you need 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 study guide has 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.
  2. Immediately schedule a time to take the FAA Part 107 knowledge test at one of the testing sites. There are only two companies that offer the Part 107 exam: CATS and PSI/Lasergrade.
    • Figure out which test site you want to take the test at. There are currently 696 of these centers around the world. Both PSI/Laser Grade and CATS do a $10 off discount for current AOPA members. If you want to become a current AOPA student member, you can sign up here. 
    • Find out the site ID so you know who to call. LAS = PSI/ Laser Grade  ABS = CATS
    • Test option 1: CATS is registering and taking appointments for the test!
      • CATS – call and get an appointment for a date.
        • This is their main testing number. Call 1-800-947-4228 and press 3. Monday through Friday
          5:30 AM PST to 5:00 PM PST Saturday & Sunday
          7:00 AM PST to 3:30 PM PST
    • Test option 2: PSI/Lasergrade(August 13) Is also registering people for the Part 107 initial knowledge exam
      •  Call 1-800-211-2754 or  1-800-733-9267 to register for your test.
  3. Start studying for the test. 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 41 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 below and be able to download the PDF to study on the go.
  1. 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.
  2. 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 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 – Contact me to get things set up. Remember. I’m not your attorney until you sign an attorney-client agreement!)
      • Criminal – (in case you get arrested because of some drone ordinance you stumbled upon).
  1. Take and pass the Part 107 initial knowledge test.
  2. 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 FAQ About the Drone License

1. 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.


2. Do model aircraft individuals have to get a 107 exam?

No. Section 107.1 says Part 107 does not apply to “Any aircraft subject to the provisions of part 101 of this chapter[.]” Part 101 is the section for model aircraft. You are going to have to meet the criteria of Part 101 or you will be forced to fly under Part 107. One area that has not been fully clarified is whether FPV racing will be allowed to fly under Part 101 since FPV racing does not fully comply with the FAA’s 2014 Model Aircraft Interpretation which said FPV could not be used to see and avoid other aircraft. The preamble to Part 107 in Pages 73-77 said they will issue a final interpretation on the 2014 interpretation sometime coming up but they did NOT address the interpretation in Part 107. Interestingly, Part 107 DOES allow for FPV provided you use a visual observer.  See page 149 of the Part 107 Preamble.


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

No, everyone on the internet incorrectly classified everything as either commercial or non-commercial when the correct way to do it is model or non-model. 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. They would need to get authorized some other way to fly.


4. 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.


5. When does Part 107 go into effect?

August 29, 2016.


6. Where can I take the 107 knowledge exam?

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


7. 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, 41 sample Part 107 exam questions that are answered and explained, and 24 super hard brand-new practice questions NO ONE ELSE HAS.

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:

8. 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 seems to be growing and (2) I don’t know all the factors the FAA and TSA are looking at now.


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

drone pilot licenseThat 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.


10. 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 a recurrent exam within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test.


11. 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.


12. 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.”


The TSA Background Check for the Drone License Questions


1. 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.


2. 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.


3. 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.


4. 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. 


5. 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.


6. 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.

FREE Drone Pilot License Study Guide!

  • 100 + pages.
  • 41 FAA practice questions with answers.
  • 24 exclusive sample questions.
  • 6 "cram" pages.
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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.


Flight Plan for a Current Manned Aircraft Pilot to Obtain the Drone License:

  1. Read the 3-page Part 107 Summary.
  2. Go, download, and read the latest edition of Part 107. The regulations start on page 590. Anytime you have a question about something, make a note and keep reading. The large majority of the whole document is the FAA repeating the comments made to the NPRM and the FAA’s response and rationale for the regulation. Treat it like the FAA’s commentary on the individual regulations. Anytime you have an issue with a particular word or regulation, use the ctrl + f function in Adobe to find the relative sections that discuss the key term you are interested in.
  3. Read the Advisory Circular to Part 107 Notice that the advisory circular has parts that parallel the parts in Part 107 to help answer any questions you have about the regulations.
  4. Do the remote pilot certificate application process below.

Drone License Application Process:

  1. Complete the online training course “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website.
  2. Complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate)
    1. Figure out if you want to do it online at IACRA or by paper (the paper form you print out is located here).
    2. 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)
    3. The FAA representative will then sign the application.
  1. An appropriate FSDO representative, a FAA designated pilot examiner (DPE), or an airman certification representative (ACR) will issue the applicant a temporary airman certificate (a CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate; they can process applications for applicants who do not want a temporary certificate). The CFI will submit the information on IACRA and you’ll receive your temporary electronically so many days later.
  2. A permanent remote pilot certificate (drone pilot license) will be sent via mail once all other FAA internal processing is complete.

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

1. How long does my temporary certificate last? 

§ 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.”


2. 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.”


3. 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.


FAQs From Those with Pending Section 333 Exemptions

1. I filed a 333 petition and it is still pending. Now what?

The FAA will post a letter to your docket. See here for an example of what one looks like. The FAA is breaking the petitions down into three tiers: (1) operations that can be done within 107, (2) operations that can be done within 107, but need a waiver, and (3) operations that cannot be done within 107 even using a waiver.  Aerial data collection and closed-set exemption petitions are going into tier 1 which means the FAA is closing your docket and no further action is needed from you. You are going to have to go fly under Part 107 and you won’t be given a 333 exemption.


2. But my exemption was just about to be approved. Am I goofed?

There was a line drawn in the sand. Exemption petitions or amendments that were posted to regulations.gov by June 22nd are being put into 1 of 3 tiers. Exemptions posted June 23 and onward will NOT be analyzed and put into one of 3 tiers. But going back to the answer to question 1, you most likely will be Tier 1 and the docket will be closed.

There isn’t much you can do. I wouldn’t try to fight it. Just go and obtain your drone license which is easier to operate under than the 333 exemptions anyways.

3. Has the FAA gone through all the petitioners posted up until June 22, 2016?

All of them have been analyzed.


4. Which tier does a closed-set TV/movie filming petition go?

Tier 1. Remember that Part 107 does not allow operations over people and would need a waiver. We were hoping that petitions asking for closed-set operations would be put in Tier 2 to have a waiver to operate over participating actors operating under the MPTOM. The FAA analyzed the newer summary Section 333 exemptions (~March  and onward) that were granted and determined that they do not allow operations over participating actors; thus, closed-set petitions cannot go into Tier 2.  Restriction 28 says:

  1. Over or near people directly participating in the operation of the UAS. People directly participating in the operation of the UAS include the PIC, VO, and other consenting personnel that are directly participating in the safe operation of the UA.
  2. Near but not over people directly participating in the intended purpose of the UAS operation. People directly participating in the intended purpose of the UAS must be briefed on the potential risks and acknowledge and consent to those risks. Operators must notify the local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) with a plan of activities at least 72 hours prior to flight operations.


5. Why did the FAA choose to do a cut-off?

One primary reason is Part 11 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. Part 11 governs the FAA rulemaking process, which exemptions are a part of.  14 C.F.R 11.81 says, “You must include the following information in your petition for an exemption . . . The specific section or sections of 14 CFR from which you seek an exemption[.]” There was no Part 107 before. All the exemptions were asking for exemptions from certain parts of Part 61, Part 91, etc. Now we have Part 107. We need to file petitions for exemption from particular regulations of Part 107. We didn’t have the final rules before so we couldn’t have anticipated the specific regulations that we wanted exemptions from.

Practically, it is also easier to just get everyone to obtain their drone license than fix thousands of legally deficient exemption petitions.

6. I waited all this time and the FAA is just goofing me up?

The FAA’s response would be that you should have filed sooner. They have thousands of pending 333 petitions.


FAQs From Those Who Already Have Section 333 Exemptions

I have a 333 and want to do a job tomorrow. Can I do it or do I have to wait to get a 107 certificate? Page 81 of the Preamble to Part 107 says, “the FAA will allow any Section 333 exemption holder to either continue operating under the terms and conditions of the exemption until its expiration, or conduct operations under Part 107 as long as the operation falls under Part 107.” Some time later you should switch over to Part 107 before the 333 exemption expires. Think of it like hats. You have a 333 hat right now. When 107 is being issued and you pick it up, you then have the choice to put on one hat or the other but remember you can’t mix and match parts of the hats.


Do we still need to get COAs to operate near airports like we did with the 333s? You are required to get an airspace authorization or waiver if you are doing operations in Class B, C, D, or E airspace. So you still need a COA or COW near actual legitimate airports. Gone are the days where we had to deal with the middle of nowhere private airports or the heliports that were completely all over the place like a herd of toddlers that somehow got into craft sparkles.


Wait. I read Part 107 and it said ATC permission. It didn’t say anything about waivers. Where are you getting this COA idea from?  The FAA further clarified this area by their own FAQ page which says:

How do I request permission from Air Traffic Control to operate in Class B, C, D, or E airspace? Is there a way to request permission electronically?
You can request airspace permission through an online web portal on the FAA’s UAS website. This online portal will be available on August 29, 2016.


Can I contact my local air traffic control tower or facility directly to request airspace permission?
No. All airspace permission requests must be made through the online portal.


What advantage do 333 guys have now?  You have the ability to transition over to Part 107 when you feel like it. Many are rushing in to get their drone license but the test will not be available until August and the new pilots will have to pass a TSA background check – along with a ton of other people. For non-part 61 pilots, the date of taking the exam and date of having a temporary certificate in their hand are going to be two different dates. Another advantage is that the 333 operators with airspace COAs will have an advantage to those without. There could be delays in implementation by the FAA which affects the 107 people but not the 333 people. Ultimately, the 107 is going to replace the 333 exemptions, except for a few situations like 55 pound and heaver, VLOS package delivery, carrying hazardous material, etc.


Can a Part 107 remote pilot fly under our 333 exemption as pilot in command? Prior to June 2016, no 333 exemption had this provision so NO. You can’t mix and match parts and pieces of the 333 and the 107. It is either/or. For example, let’s say you have a COA already for your 333 in Class D airspace, you can’t take that COA and apply it over to your 107 certificate.


So why would I fly under Part 107 as opposed to the 333 exemption? There is no 500 foot bubble rule, no NOTAMs, no sport pilot license at a minimum, no visual observer requirement, etc.


Can I renew my 333 exemption? This depends on whether you can do the operations under 107 or not. Most of the exemptions were for aerial data collection which can be done under Part 107 so they will most likely not be renewed. See page 87 of the preamble to Part 107 for more details. Just go and get your drone license and make money.


Want to Continue Learning About Part 107? Need Drone License Study Material?

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.

FAA Safety Notice: Tips for CFIs Processing Remote Pilot & Student Pilot Applications
Notice Number: NOTC7141

“While tens of thousands of applications for these certificates have been successfully processed by recommending officials during the past year, a significant number of applications have had to be returned to CFIs for needed corrections. This delayed the issuance and delivery of the certificates and sadly resulted in having some of our applicants waiting for certificates longer than they and we would have liked. Points below emphasize what you as a CFI can do to keep the certification system working efficiently.

Be certain the applicant uses his or her legal name. Advise applicant to use the same legal name on his or her application for any knowledge test and all subsequent certificate applications. When there is a mismatch in names between an application and a knowledge test or a mismatch between a current and previous application, the current application is rejected. The applicant may have to visit a Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) in order to effect a name change.

IACRA allows an applicant to change his or her name in the user profile. If the applicant’s name is not his or her full legal name (limited to 50 characters), then you should tell the applicant to amend his or her name in the IACRA user profile and start a new application. It’s very important to get this right on the applicant’s first  application submitted—the student pilot or remote pilot application that is submitted to the FAA Airman Registry as a legal document. The address the applicant uses must be a residential address, and not a business address. If a business address is detected, the application will also be rejected for correction by the registry.

Don’t forget to send all paper applications to the local FSDO for review.  About a third of the rejected remote pilot certificate applications in the past year were paper applications that were mistakenly sent directly to AFS-760 by the recommending CFI. Remember to include the FAA Course Completion Certificate for an existing pilot’s remote pilot certificate application.

Consider that IACRA helps to ensure a complete and correct application and instantly submits the application to AFS-760. Although the Airmen Certification Branch, AFS-760, will accept a paper application using a paper FAA Form 8710-1 (for a student pilot certificate application) or FAA paper Form 8710-13 (for a remote pilot certificate and/or rating application), the chance of a return for correction is lower when IACRA is used by the CFI and the IACRA process is much faster.

Note that whenever the CFI acts as a recommending official, the applicant must be in the same room as the CFI during the application process. The CFI can’t accept an application for a student or remote pilot certificate through the mail, over the phone, by fax, or even by messenger service.  This ensures that there is proper vetting of the applicant’s ID and that the applicant is the rightful bearer of the documents presented. The IACRA process gives the CFI a checklist.  As part of the process the CFI logs off and the applicant must log on to the same console to complete the application process. So, never use anyone else’s user id and password for the system for the sake of convenience since it could lead to some serious issues down the road for those involved. Always check the applicant’s identity carefully and in person.

It’s also a great idea to include the applicant’s email and telephone number on an application in case contact for correction is necessary. As a CFI, you can write in your own phone number in the comment section of an application as a courtesy to FAA personnel who may need to contact you about the application. Otherwise, they will have to contact you by mail using your address on file.

For questions or to learn more please email [email protected]


Jonathan Rupprecht

Mr. Rupprecht is an aviation attorney who focuses on drones. Read more about his background as a commercial pilot, flight instructor, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University grad, and legal author. He has had media appearances on Forbes, Newsweek, Politico, NPR, Marketwatch, The Independent, Motherboard, and other sources. Feel free to send Jonathan a message here.