Section 107.61 Eligibility.
Subject to the provisions of §§107.57 and 107.59, in order to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating under this subpart, a person must:
(a) Be at least 16 years of age;
(b) Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. If the applicant is unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, the FAA may place such operating limitations on that applicant’s certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of the small unmanned aircraft;
(c) Not know or have reason to know that he or she has a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small unmanned aircraft system; and
(d) Demonstrate aeronautical knowledge by satisfying one of the following conditions:
(1) Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.73(a); or
(2) 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, complete an initial training course covering the areas of knowledge specified in §107.74(a) in a manner acceptable to the Administrator.
My Commentary on Section 107.61 Eligibility.
Eligibility. A person applying for a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating must meet and maintain the following eligibility requirements, as applicable:
• Be at least 16 years of age.
• Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language. However, the FAA may make an exception if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements due to medical reasons, such as a hearing impairment.
• Be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with the safe operation of an sUAS.
• Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center (KTC). However, a person who already holds a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61, except a student pilot certificate, and has successfully completed a flight review in accordance with part 61 within the previous 24 calendar-months is only required to successfully complete a part 107 online training course, found at www.faasafety.gov. For more information concerning aeronautical knowledge tests and training, see paragraph 6.6.
Application Process. This paragraph provides guidance on how a person can apply for a remote pilot certificate.
6.4.1 Applicants Without Part 61 Certificates. A person who does not have a part 61 pilot certificate or a part 61 certificate holder who has not completed a part 61 flight review in the previous 24 calendar-months must use the following process. A part 61 pilot who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may elect to use this process.
1. Pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test administered at a KTC (see paragraph 6.6).
2. Complete the Remote Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Form 8710-13).
• Option 1 (Online Form): This is the fastest and simplest method. The FAA Form 8710-13 application should be completed online using the electronic FAA Integrated Airmen Certificate and/or Rating Application (IACRA) system (https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/). The applicant must have already passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test. Once registered with IACRA, he or she will login with their username and password. Click on “Start New Application” and,
1) Application Type “Pilot”, 2) Certifications “Remote Pilot,” 3) “Other Path Information,” and 4) “Start Application.” Continue through the application process and, when prompted, the applicant will enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID from the knowledge test in IACRA. It may take up to 48 hours from the test date for the knowledge test to appear in IACRA. The KTC test proctor will be the one that verified the identity of the applicant. Once the applicant completes the online application in IACRA, he or she will sign the application electronically and submit it to the Airman Registry for processing. No FAA representative will be required to sign the application if the applicant was able to self-certify.
Note: When the applicant uses this online option, the application will be transmitted electronically from the applicant to the Airman Registry. The only electronic signature that will be reflected on the IACRA application will be the applicant’s. The applicant will then receive a confirmation email once his or her application has completed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting process. The email will provide information that will allow the applicant to log into the IACRA system and print a copy of the temporary certificate.
• Option 2 (Paper Application): An applicant could also submit a paper application. If the applicant chooses the paper method, the original initial aeronautical knowledge test report must be mailed with the application to the following address:
Airmen Certification Branch (AFS-760)
P.O. Box 25082
Oklahoma City, OK 73125
Note: A temporary airman certificate will not be provided to the remote pilot applicant if they do not hold a part 61 certificate. For this reason, it would be of the applicant’s best interest to utilize Option 1 (IACRA system) instead of the paper method, in order to receive a temporary airman certificate once the application has completed the TSA vetting process.
3. Receive permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA internal processing is complete.
6.4.2 Applicants with Part 61 Certificates. Instead of the process described above, a person who holds a part 61 pilot certificate, except a student pilot certificate, and has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may elect to apply using the following process:
1. Complete the online course (Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS), ALC-451) located within the FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) Web site (www.faasafety.gov) and receive a completion certificate.
2. Complete the Remote Pilot Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Form 8710-13).
• Option 1 (Online Application): In almost all cases, the application should be completed online using the electronic FAA IACRA system (https://iacra.faa.gov/iacra/). The applicant must include verification that he or she completed the online course or passed an initial aeronautical knowledge test. The applicable official document(s) must be uploaded into IACRA either by the applicant or the certifying officer.
• Option 2 (Paper): The application may be completed on paper. Using this method, the certificate of completion for the online course or original initial aeronautical knowledge test report must be included with the application. Please note that the processing time will be increased if a paper application is used.
3. Contact a FSDO, an FAA DPE, an ACR, or an FAA CFI to make an appointment to validate the applicant’s identification. The applicant must 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 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. The FAA representative will then sign the application. 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 (refer to AC 61-65). If using paper or IACRA method, an appropriate FSDO representative, a DPE, or an ACR will issue the applicant a temporary airman certificate.
Note: A CFI is not authorized to issue a temporary certificate. They can process applications for applicants who do not need a temporary certificate. If using IACRA and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative, the applicant can print their own temporary airman certificate after receiving an email from the FAA notifying them that it is available. If using the paper method and the applicant is utilizing a CFI as the FAA representative, the applicant will not be issued a temporary airman certificate. Once the FSDO has signed and approved the application, it will be mailed to the Registry for the issuance of the permanent certificate.
4. Receive permanent remote pilot certificate once all other FAA internal processing is complete.
6.5 Security Disqualification. After the FAA receives the application, the TSA will automatically conduct a background security screening of the applicant prior to issuance of a remote pilot certificate. If the security screening is successful, the FAA will issue a permanent remote pilot certificate. If the security screening is not successful, the applicant will be disqualified and a temporary pilot certificate will not be issued. Individuals who believe that they improperly failed a security threat assessment may appeal the decision to the TSA.
6.6 Aeronautical Knowledge Tests (Initial and Recurrent). It is important to have and retain the knowledge necessary to operate a small UA in the NAS. This aeronautical knowledge can be obtained through self-study, taking an online training course, taking an in-person training course, or any combination thereof. The FAA has published the Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standard (https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/testing/acs/) that provides the necessary reference material.
Note: The below information regarding initial and recurrent knowledge tests apply to persons who do not hold a current part 61 airman certificate.
6.6.1 Initial Test. As described in paragraph 6.4, a person applying for remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test given by an FAA-approved KTC. The initial knowledge test will cover the aeronautical knowledge areas listed below:
1. Applicable regulations relating to sUAS rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation;
2. Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small UA operation;
3. Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small UA performance;
4. Small UA loading and performance;
5. Emergency procedures;
6. Crew Resource Management (CRM);
7. Radio communication procedures;
8. Determining the performance of small UA;
9. Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol;
10. Aeronautical decision-making (ADM) and judgment;
11. Airport operations; and
12. Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures.
220.127.116.11 A part 61 certificate holder who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may complete an initial online training course instead of taking the knowledge test (see paragraph 6.7).
18.104.22.168 Additional information on some of the knowledge areas listed above can be found in Appendix B.
6.6.2 Recurrent Test. After a person receives a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating, that person must retain and periodically update the required aeronautical knowledge to continue to operate a small UA in the NAS. To continue exercising the privileges of a remote pilot certificate, the certificate holder must pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test within 24 calendar-months of passing either an initial or recurrent aeronautical knowledge test. A part 61 pilot certificate holder who has completed a flight review within the previous 24 calendar-months may complete a recurrent online training course instead of taking the knowledge test.
FAA’s Discussion on Section 107.61 Eligibility from the Final Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule
The NPRM proposed establishing eligibility requirements for a part 107 airman certificate and specifying when a certificate would be issued. The NPRM proposed that an applicant must be: (1) at least 17 years of age; (2) able to read, speak, write and understand the English language; and (3) vetted by the Transportation Security Administration. Additionally, the NPRM proposed that the applicant must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test and self-certify, at the time of application, that he or she does not have a medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS. As discussed in more detail below, the process for issuance of a remote pilot certificate will be as follows. First, an applicant will have to take and pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test. After taking the knowledge test, the applicant will be provided with an airman knowledge test report showing his or her test results. If the applicant passed the test, the applicant will then fill out an application for a remote pilot certificate using either the FAA’s electronic application process (referred to as the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system) or a paper application. The FAA
will then forward the applicant’s information to the TSA for security vetting to determine whether the applicant poses a security risk. Once TSA notifies the FAA that the applicant does not pose a security risk the FAA will issue an electronic temporary remote pilot certificate to an applicant who applied through the IACRA system. This temporary certificate (valid for 120 days after receipt) will be issued within 10 business days after receipt of an electronic application, and it will allow the applicant to exercise all the privileges of a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Once all other FAAinternal processing is complete, the FAA will issue the applicant a permanent remote pilot certificate.
Holders of a part 61 pilot certificate other than student pilot who have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months will have the option of a different certification process. These pilot certificate holders will be allowed to substitute completion of an online training course for the small UAS aeronautical knowledge test. Upon completion of the training course, the part 61 pilot certificate holder will then go to one of the following authorized portals: an FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), a designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR) for a pilot school, or a certificated flight instructor (CFI). The certificate holder will provide his or her remote pilot certificate application and supporting documentation to that portal to verify the applicant’s identity, fill out the pertinent portion of the application, and then forward the completed application to the FAA Airman Certification Registry. Because a part 61 pilot certificate holder has already been vetted by TSA, he or she will be issued a temporary remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, valid for 120 days, immediately upon the FAA’s receipt of the completed application via IACRA. Once all other processing is complete, the FAA will issue a permanent remote pilot certificate.
The FAA emphasizes that part 61 pilot certificate holders are not required to use the process discussed in the previous paragraph and can instead apply for a remote pilot certificate by taking the small UAS initial aeronautical knowledge test. Part 61 pilot certificate holders who pass the knowledge test will not be required to submit their application to a FSDO, DPE, ACR, or CFI. Instead these certificate holders may submit their applications via IACRA. Because these certificate holders have already been vetted by TSA, they will be issued a temporary remote pilot certificate, valid for 120 days, upon FAA’s receipt of their application via IACRA regardless of the method they use to qualify for the certificate (i.e. knowledge test or online training course).
a. Minimum Age
The NPRM proposed that a person must be at least 17 years of age to be eligible for a remote pilot airman certificate with a small UAS rating. This minimum age would be consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot, recreational pilot, and private pilot airman certificates with an airplane or rotorcraft rating. The FAA also invited comment on whether to adopt a minimum age of 16 years, which would be consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot and private pilot airman certificates with a glider or balloon rating. After review of the comments, the FAA adopts a minimum age of 16 for a person to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.
Fourteen commenters, including the Small UAV Coalition, AUVSI, and NAMIC, all agreed that the proposed minimum age of 17 generally strikes an appropriate balance between safety and operational viability for low risk small UAS operations, ensuring that baseline safety is enhanced without unduly burdening low risk small UAS operators or their operations. These commenters argued that the NPRM’s proposal is consistent with the requirements for other pilot certificates and, at this time, there is a lack of data and evidence to support lowering the age to 16. The commenters added that although persons under the age of 17 are already allowed to operate model aircraft, it is unclear if there is a strong need for allowing younger remote pilots to operate non-hobby and non-recreational small UAS.
University of North Dakota’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences added that 16-year-old student pilots are accompanied or monitored by an instructor, whereas, a small UAS operator would effectively be unmonitored. Federal Airways & Airspace also agreed with limiting the certification age to 17 years old, and pointed out that the National Institute of Mental Health has stated on their website that the rate of death by any injury of those aged 15 to 19 years old is six times higher than that for individuals aged 10 to 14 years old. Federal Airways & Airspace also mentioned that studies have shown that the human brain does not reach maturity until the early 20s, and the CDC states that those aged 16 to 19 are almost three times more likely than 20-year-olds to be in a fatal motor vehicle accident.
Several commenters recommended raising the minimum age above. Commenters including the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), Textron Systems, and Aerius Flight, recommended an 18-year-old eligibility requirement for small UAS operators, because it aligns with existing airman certification standards for other commercial flight operations. One commenter asserted that 18 is the appropriate age for an operator certificate because it is the age at which an individual is an adult and able to enter into legally binding contracts. The Air Line Pilots Association and Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO said small UAS operators should hold a commercial pilot certificate, and should therefore be a minimum of 18 years old. Several commenters recommended the minimum age requirement be raised even higher, to 21 or 25 years old. Conversely, 36 commenters, including NBAA, AIA, and the Kansas Farm Bureau, argued that the minimum age should be lowered to 16. One commenter asserted that: (1) flying a manned aircraft is considerably more complex than operating a small UAS; and (2) a small UAS has no people on board who would be injured in the event of an accident. Many other individuals argued that because of all the operating constraints contemplated by the NPRM, a 16-year-old should be able to safely operate a small UAS without exposing anyone to undue risk.
Nine commenters asserted that a minimum age of 16 would also align with current requirements for glider and balloon pilots. One commenter argued that the NPRM does not provide any justification to support why the operator of a small UAS must be older than a sport pilot, recreational pilot, or private pilot airman with a glider rating,129 or a student pilot of a glider.130 NBAA stated its belief that a lesser risk exists for small UAS operations conducted within the confines of the rule when compared to glider and balloon operations conducted within controlled airspace.
One of the commenters from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) argued that the minimum age should be dropped to 16. The commenter conducted research that it claimed supports the proposition that 16- year-olds have the same capacity for sophistication as 21-year-olds. Although the research is geared towards younger individuals voting in local elections, not operating aircraft, the commenter believed that it makes a general statement about the intellectual capacity of minors at the age of 16.
Prioria Robotics argued that the FAA should allow an apprenticeship-like certificate to be held by those younger than 18. Others argued that the minimum age for independent operation of a small UAS should be 16. One individual suggested that if the operator is under the age of 16, he or she should be required to be accompanied by a qualified operator who is over the age of 18.
The Washington State Department of Transportation, Aviation Division suggested that, with regard to minimum age, in many cases the maturity level difference of an operator between ages 16 and 18 may be imperceptible. This commenter suggested lowering the minimum age to 16 would rule out the likelihood of willful underage violation and provide a legal path forward for younger operators. The commenter also pointed out that in many states a driver’s permit can be obtained at age 15 and driver’s license at age 16.
The Kansas Farm Bureau also argued that the added year available for academic use, education, and experience are positives for future UAS operators. DJI similarly noted that a lower age limit could increase academic use of small UAS because more high school age students could be operators. Also, commenters argued that a high age limit would inhibit curiosity and innovation among younger people who are exploring the capabilities of UAS.
The Colorado Cattlemen’s Association did not object to the proposed minimum age requirement, but noted potential value in reducing the minimum age to 16 years old. The commenter noted that, while this approach would be a slight deviation from the current age requirement for non-commercial airman certificates, it would be consistent with the recognized lower risk associated with small UAS operations. The commenter also noted it would accommodate UAS operations for those beef producers who run family operations, many of which include older teenagers.
The FAA agrees that a certain level of maturity is required to operate any aircraft responsibly in the NAS. The FAA originally proposed a minimum age of 17 because it is consistent with existing FAA minimum age requirements for the sport pilot, recreational pilot, and private pilot airman certificates with an airplane or rotorcraft rating—the baselevel certificates authorizing pilots to operate these two categories of aircraft while not under the supervision of an instructor. However, the FAA does not use a minimum age of 17 for all part 61 pilot certificates. As noted in the NPRM and by the commenters, the proposed minimum age of 17 is not consistent with existing FAA minimum age eligibility requirements for sport and private pilot airman certificates with a glider or balloon rating. After further consideration, the FAA has determined that the risk posed by a small UAS operation is comparable to the risk posed by a glider or balloon operation. Balloon and glider operations generally take place during daytime visual meteorological conditions and are limited to a relatively confined geographical area. Balloon and glider aircraft also tend to be lighter and slower-moving aircraft, limiting the harm to people and property on the ground in the event of a mishap. Similarly, small UAS operations do not take place at night or in instrument meteorological conditions, and are operated in a limited geographical area as necessary for the remote pilot to maintain visual line of sight. Analysis of safety data for balloon and glider operations suggests that there is no significant difference in accident rates for 16-year-old pilots compared to 17- or 18-year-old pilots. Because the risk of a part 107 small UAS operation is comparable to the risk of a balloon or glider operation and because the minimum age for glider and balloon operations is 16,131 the FAA will lower the minimum age in this rule to 16 years old.
The FAA also notes that a minimum age of 16 is consistent with its current practice of allowing airmen conducting a small UAS operation under a section 333 exemption to hold a sport or private pilot certificate with a glider or balloon rating. Although the FAA does not track the age of persons operating small unmanned aircraft under section 333 exemption grants, the agency is not aware of any specific safety concerns associated with 16-year-old private pilots or sport pilots operating small UAS. The FAA notes that lowering the minimum age to 16 will also enable additional small UAS agricultural operations, such as those described by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.
Several commenters, including AIA, the Virginia Commonwealth University Honors Students, and the New Jersey Institute of Technology suggested that the minimum age should be no greater than 16. As noted in AIA comments, AIA and others believe that a driver’s license issued from within the U.S. should be considered as a prerequisite for a remote pilot certificate. The commenters recommended mimicking the process to obtain a driver’s license, in which a person first obtains a learner’s permit and then, following months of training and test-taking, obtains a license. This would enable 16-year-olds (depending on their State of residence) to obtain a certificate. According to the commenters, maintaining currency of the driver’s license would also imply certain motor skills, vision, and a minimal level of medical fitness to operate UAS.
Several individual commenters said the minimum age should be lowered even further to 14 years old. The commenters pointed out that 14-year-olds are capable of having certain after-school jobs, and are allowed to operate a glider or balloon as a student pilot. Event 38 Unmanned Systems said that it sees no logical reason for a minimum age requirement, and that anyone who can pass the operator test should be allowed to fly a UAS. Two other commenters also said there should be no minimum age requirement.
The FAA disagrees with commenters who suggest that the minimum age be less than 16 because age 16 is the youngest age at which a person can be certificated to operate an aircraft independently in the NAS. Because a remote pilot certificate allows people to operate their small UAS independently, it is critical that those people possess the maturity necessary to operate in a safe manner. The FAA also disagrees with commenters who provided the example of a driver’s license and a learner’s permit as a justification for lowering the minimum age below 16. In most states, the driving privileges of people under the age of 16 are significantly limited compared to the privileges granted at age 18. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, most states do not permit full driving privileges until 17 or 18 years of age. These privileges include high-risk situations such as the ability to drive unsupervised at night or with a certain number of passengers. The FAA also notes that driving a car does not use the same skills as operating a small UAS. For example, in order to successfully drive a car, drivers have to learn skills, such as parallel parking and making three-point turns, which have no applicability to small UAS operations. Requiring a U.S. driver’s license as a prerequisite to obtaining a remote pilot certificate would impose the cost of acquiring those skills on people who do not currently possess a driver’s license without a corresponding safety benefit. Accordingly, this rule will not require remote pilot certificate applicants to hold a driver’s license.
In response to commenters who recommended a lower minimum age to enable academic uses, or the suggestion for an apprenticeship-like certificate for those under 18 years of age, the FAA notes that this is unnecessary because this rule allows an uncertificated person to manipulate the controls of a small UAS, provided that: (1) they are under the direct supervision of a certificated remote pilot in command; and (2) the remote pilot in command is capable of taking over controls at any time during the flight. The FAA also notes that, depending on the purpose of the operation, small UAS operations conducted by community groups and non-profit organizations may be considered recreation or hobby operations, which are not regulated under part 107 if conducted in accordance with Public Law 112-95, section 336.
The Agricultural Technology Alliance, Illinois Farm Bureau, and GROWMARK suggested that the FAA treat age eligibility to operate a small UAS in the same manner as the operation of farm equipment—i.e., allowing individual State labor laws to control. Though it did not explicitly advocate for the use of State labor laws to determine eligibility, Predesa pointed out that child labor laws would apply to minors participating in commercial operations. The commenter recommended the FAA consider mandating an adult visual observer to assist a minor with an operator certificate when operating a small UAS for commercial purposes. The commenter also recommended that the FAA consider mandating an adult visual observer to assist a minor with an operator certificate when operating a small UAS for education in a private program for fee, in a university setting, or in a public school system.
The FAA does not agree with the recommendation to adopt State labor laws to set the minimum age requirement. State laws are not uniform, and this could result in a patchwork of regulations that would apply uneven requirements depending on one’s State of residence. The FAA also notes that not all operations conducted under part 107 will be commercial. For example, as discussed in section III.C.4 of this preamble, recreational 133 Section III.C.4 of this preamble contains further discussion of model aircraft operations. small UAS operations that do not meet all of the criteria specified in Public Law 112 95, section 336 will be conducted under part 107.
The FAA disagrees with Predessa’s suggestion that an adult visual observer should be mandated in order to assist a minor with a remote pilot certificate (i.e. someone between 16 and 18 years of age) when operating a small UAS. As discussed previously, the FAA currently allows 16-year-old pilots to operate, without supervision, glider and balloon manned aircraft and small UAS (under a section 333 exemption). The FAA has not observed an adverse effect on safety as a result of the pilot in those operations being 16 rather than 18 years old. Thus, while the FAA agrees that a visual observer enhances safety by providing additional situational awareness to the remote pilot, it is not necessary to mandate a visual observer based on the age of the remote pilot certificate holder or the type of operation being conducted.
Accordingly, the FAA has amended proposed § 107.61(a) to lower the minimum age to be eligible for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to 16 years old. The FAA notes, however, that an academic institution is permitted to establish its own (more restrictive) policies and procedures for operational small UAS training, which may include requiring the presence of adult visual observers for students who are younger than 18.
b. English Language Proficiency
In the NPRM, the FAA proposed to require that applicants for a part 107 airman certificate be able to read, speak, and understand the English language. These proposed English-language requirements would be consistent with all other airman certificates issued by the FAA, as well as the international standard for aircraft operations accepted by ICAO. However, the FAA also proposed an exception for people who are unable to meet one of the English-language requirements due to medical reasons. Such a person would be eligible for a certificate, but the FAA would be able to specify limitations on the certificate to account for that person’s medical condition.
Five commenters expressed support for requiring airman-certificate applicants to be able to read, speak, and understand the English language. There were no comments opposing this aspect of the proposal. Accordingly, this rule will require that applicants for an airman certificate be able to read, speak, and understand the English language. Three commenters opposed the proposed exception to the English-language requirements. One of these commenters stated that there should be no exceptions to the English-language requirement, while another commenter stated that there should be no
exception for persons whose medical reasons would preclude them from effectively communicating procedures or reading flight logs. A third commenter stated that a person who cannot speak English should not be permitted to operate anywhere near people on the ground because that person would be unable to communicate safety-relevant information to people in the vicinity of the operation.
Limiting the exception for the English-language requirements of this rule would impose a needless burden on airman-certificate applicants who have a medical condition. Specifically, if an applicant cannot read, speak, or understand the English language, the proposed exception would allow the FAA to impose restrictions on that applicant’s certificate ensuring that the person’s English-language inability does not adversely affect safety. For example, if an applicant is unable to communicate using speech, then the FAA may restrict that applicant’s certificate to operations where speech is not necessary for the safe operation of a small UAS.
Restrictions issued under this provision will be specific to each applicant, and as such, the FAA cannot make the categorical statements suggested by the commenters as to what will or will not be permitted for applicants with a specific English-language inability. The FAA notes that its English-language regulations for other airman certificates have a similar exception for applicants who have a medical issue, and the FAA has not observed any adverse safety effects from having this exception in the regulations. Accordingly, this final rule will retain the proposed exception for people who are unable to meet one of the English language requirements due to a medical condition. 14 CFR 107.61(b). However, the FAA emphasizes that, as with other airmen, it may specify limitations on a person’s airman certificate to ensure that the person’s medical condition does not endanger the safety of the NAS.
c. No Airman Medical Certificate Required
For the reasons discussed below, this rule will not require an airman medical certificate but will prohibit 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.
The FAA received approximately 115 comments from organizations and individuals on this subject. Several commenters stated than an airman medical certificate is not necessary to operate a UAS. Other commenters suggested adding a requirement for an airman medical certificate.
The FAA disagrees that a medical certificate should be required in this rule. With certain exceptions, the FAA currently requires an airman medical certificate for exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate, a recreational pilot certificate, a private pilot certificate, a commercial pilot certificate, and an airline transport pilot certificate. The primary reason for medical certification is to determine if the airman has a medical condition that is likely to manifest as subtle or sudden incapacitation that could cause a pilot to lose control of the aircraft, or impair the pilot’s ability to “see and avoid.” Small UAS operations present a lower risk than manned operations to manned aircraft and non-participating people on the ground, especially because the operations do not involve any human beings onboard the aircraft who could be injured in the event of an accident. Additionally, unlike manned-aircraft operations, remote pilots and visual observers will be operating within a confined area of operation, subject to operational limitations intended to minimize the exposure of the small unmanned aircraft to manned aircraft in flight and people on the ground. Because of these operational limitations, traditional FAA medical certification is not warranted for remote pilots or visual observers. The FAA also notes that the risks associated with pilot incapacitation are similar to the risks associated with loss of positive control. As discussed in that section, risks associated with loss of positive control are mitigated in this rule through: (1) preflight inspection of the control links, (2) a speed limit of 87 knots, and (3) a prohibition on operations of small unmanned aircraft over people not directly participating in the operation. Just as § 107.49(a)(3) will require remote pilots to ensure that all links between ground station and the small unmanned aircraft are working properly, § 107.17 will require the remote pilot in command to abstain from small UAS operations 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 flight.
Federal Airways & Airspace, ALPA, and several individual commenters expressed concern about the lack of a required vision exam. General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Aerospace Industries Association suggested that remote pilots hold a valid U.S. driver’s license to ensure a basic eye exam.
The FAA considers the visual-line-of-sight requirement for the remote pilot, the person manipulating the flight controls of the small UAS (if that person is not the remote pilot), and the visual observer (if one is used) to be able to see the aircraft’s direction, altitude, and attitude of flight to be preferable to a prescriptive vision standard. Even with normal vision, it is foreseeable that a small unmanned aircraft may be so small that the operational space must be reduced to meet the visual-line-of-sight requirements of § 107.31. Therefore, any demonstration of completing a vision exam would be less effective than this rule’s visual-line-of-sight requirements, and as such, the FAA will not adopt a vision exam requirement in the final rule.
The FAA also disagrees with comments suggesting the FAA require a U.S. driver’s license. According to the DOT Office of Highway Policy Information, 13 percent of the population aged 16 or older does not hold a state-issued driver’s license. As such, requiring a U.S. driver’s license would create an undue burden for many remote pilots without an equivalent increase in safety because the skills necessary to obtain a driver’s license are not the same as the skills needed to pilot a small UAS. Further, the FAA has historically allowed pilots of gliders and balloons to exercise the privileges of their pilot certificates without requiring a medical certificate or U.S. driver’s license, and this practice has resulted in no adverse effects on the NAS.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District supported the proposed requirement to disqualify persons with known physical or mental conditions that could interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft. Conversely, DronSystems commented that it would be impossible to enforce a prohibition on operations if an operator knows he or she has a medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of the small UAS.
The FAA notes that a similar regulatory provision already exists in part 61. Under § 61.53, a pilot certificate holder is obligated to abstain from acting as pilot in command during a period of medical deficiency. The requirement of § 61.53 applies regardless of whether or not a pilot certificate holder also holds a medical certificate.
One individual suggested that the FAA provide a list of disqualifying medical conditions.
The FAA has not established a list of disqualifying medical conditions under § 107.17 because there are a wide range of small UAS operations that could be affected differently by different medical conditions. For example, a person who is incapable of moving his fingers would not be able to safely operate a small UAS whose control station interface is manually manipulated with the fingers. However, that person may be able to safely operate a small UAS whose control station is operated through voice controls. A person participating in a small UAS operation is responsible for knowing his or her physical and mental limitations and evaluating whether those limitations would allow him or her to safely participate in the specific small UAS operation that he or she is considering. If that person is unsure as to the limitations of his or her physical or mental condition, he or she should consult with a physician. The FAA emphasizes that those with a medical history or who are experiencing medical symptoms that would prevent them from safely participating in a small UAS operation or that raise a reasonable concern cannot claim to have no known medical conditions.
One commenter stated that residents of Alaska have a disproportionately high rate of “seasonal bipolar disorder” or “polar night-induced solipsism syndrome,” and that Alaskans might therefore be disproportionately affected by this provision. This commenter suggests that the FAA remove “bipolar disorder—or at the least bipolar disorder and related conditions ‘with seasonal pattern’—from the list of mental conditions which may prevent someone from being able to operate” a small UAS.
The FAA notes that the commenter is referring to a list of medical conditions enumerated in § 67.107(a)(3), § 67.207(a)(3), and § 67.307(a)(3), referring to a candidate for a first, second, or third class medical certificate to have no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of a bipolar disorder. However, as discussed previously, part 107 does not include a list of disqualifying medical conditions. A person with bipolar disorder would violate § 107.17 only if his or her bipolar disorder was such that it would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
The FAA also notes that in the NPRM it proposed to require that an applicant for an airman certificate must submit a certified statement attesting to his or her physical and mental condition at the time of the application. However, upon further review, the FAA has decided to remove this provision from the rule because an applicant’s medical condition at the time he or she submits his or her application for a remote pilot certificate may change prior to operation of the small UAS.
d. Flight Proficiency and Aeronautical Experience
Because of the significantly reduced risk associated with small UAS operations conducted under part 107, the NPRM proposed to not impose flight proficiency or aeronautical experience requirements on applicants seeking a small UAS airman certificate. However, the FAA invited comments on whether flight proficiency or aeronautical experience should be required. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will not require applicants for a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating to demonstrate flight
proficiency or aeronautical experience.
Several commenters, including NBAA, Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, and NetMoby, agreed with the NPRM that the FAA should not require small UAS operators to demonstrate their proficiency in operating a small UAS prior to obtaining an operator certificate. These commenters reasoned that requiring a proficiency test is unnecessary because small UAS are not very difficult to operate and the test could be cost prohibitive for some operators. NetMoby added that there will be a market incentive for manufacturers to ensure that future operators are capable of flying their UAS.
Other commenters, including the AFL-CIO, AIA, and NAAA, disagreed with the proposal and suggested that the FAA require small UAS operators to demonstrate their proficiency in operating a small UAS prior to obtaining a remote pilot certificate. Some of the commenters asserted that this would be consistent with testing requirements used for part 61 pilot certificates.
Aviation Management and Modovolate Aviation suggested requiring a practical test or demonstration of aeronautical knowledge for certain aircraft or flying conditions (e.g., those weighing more than 4.4 pounds, operation beyond visual line-of-sight), but not for others (e.g., micro UAS, operation in only Class G airspace). Virginia Commonwealth University Honors Students suggested that separate tests should be required for each type of small UAS.
As discussed in section III.E.3.a of this preamble, small UAS operations conducted under this rule will operate in a confined area of operation. As a result of this confined area and due to the very low weight of the small unmanned aircraft, small UAS operations conducted under part 107 will generally pose a very low risk as compared to manned aircraft. As such, flight proficiency and aeronautical experience requirements (which apply to part 61 pilots) are unnecessary for remote pilots of a small UAS.
Flight proficiency testing is also not necessary for small UAS operations because, unlike a manned aircraft pilot, the remote pilot of a small UAS can easily terminate flight at any point. The light weight and lack of people onboard the small unmanned aircraft provides the remote pilot of that aircraft with a multitude of safe landing options. The remote pilot also has the option to sacrifice the small unmanned aircraft because there are no people onboard who would be endangered by that action. Conversely, a manned aircraft can only land at a location that can safely accommodate its large weight. The landing of a manned aircraft must also be accomplished in a manner that does not endanger the people onboard the aircraft. Because of the ease with which the flight of a small unmanned aircraft can be terminated and because of the overall low risk posed by small UAS operations that will be conducted under part 107, this rule will not include practical testing or flight experience requirements for a remote pilot certificate.
The FAA notes, however, that certain operational restrictions of part 107, such as operations within visual line of sight, are waivable if the applicant can demonstrate that his or her operation can safely be conducted under the terms of a certificate of waiver. In processing a waiver, the FAA may request additional mitigations, such as a demonstration of remote pilot proficiency, to ensure that the operation can be conducted safely.
The Nez Perce Tribe requested that the FAA provide additional flexibility to small UAS operators by allowing them to qualify for an operator certificate either via a written test, a practical test, or a demonstration of aeronautical experience. In response, the FAA notes that practical testing, aeronautical experience, and knowledge testing measure different things. Knowledge testing determines whether an applicant has acquired proficiency in the areas of knowledge being tested. Practical testing and aeronautical experience determines the applicant’s flight proficiency. Although practical testing and aeronautical experience may be used to assess some level of a person’s knowledge, the aeronautical knowledge test is the method used to directly assess an applicant’s knowledge. In this case, the FAA has determined that a remote pilot needs to have acquired the knowledge needed to safely operate a small UAS because small UAS operations will generally pose a very low risk as compared to manned aircraft. Thus, an aeronautical knowledge test is the appropriate vehicle to determine whether an applicant for a remote pilot certificate has acquired the necessary knowledge.
e. Formal Training
The NPRM did not propose to require formal training, but it invited comment on whether passage of an FAA-approved training course should be required either instead of or in addition to the aeronautical knowledge test. After reviewing the comments, the FAA has determined that it will not impose any specific training or flight instruction requirements for small UAS remote pilot certificate applicants.
Many commenters, including NAFI, NAAA, and A4A, stated that the FAA should require individuals to attend a training course before obtaining a small UAS operator certificate. NAFI asserted that an applicant may be able to pass an initial knowledge test through rote memorization and retain little useful information or application after passing the knowledge test. According to NAFI, the present FAA test management systems do not allow for the robust, multi-version testing that is truly able to test to the application level of learning. Commenters argued that training should encompass various topics and forms such as scenarios, multi-rotor aircraft, educational contact time from a flight instructor, and simulations.
Conversely, National Roofing Contractors Association, NBAA, Southern Company, Aerospace Industries Association, and Nez Perce Tribe argued that the FAA should not require a training course. Aviation Management suggested that the FAA make informational and training materials available online and also create online training programs, but should not require training courses. National Roofing Contractors Association, NRECA, and Team Rubicon suggested allowing industries to have tailored certification processes or training specific to their needs, or to allow agencies and organizations to conduct tailored in-house training.
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.
h. Pilots with Military Experience
The NPRM proposed allowing pilots with military experience operating unmanned aircraft to take the recurrent knowledge test in lieu of the initial knowledge test in order to be eligible for an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating. For the reasons discussed below, this rule will require pilots with military experience operating unmanned aircraft to comply with the initial and recurrent knowledge testing requirements discussed in the previous sections.
NBAA, Small UAV Coalition and Texas A&M University agreed with the proposed rule requiring only a recurrent knowledge test in lieu of the initial knowledge test to qualify for a UAS operator airman certificate. Prioria said that military UAS operators and OEM-certified UAS operators should be grandfathered in without the need to take an initial knowledge test because their prior operational experience should suffice. In addition, Aviation Model Code of Conduct Initiative, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Small UAV Coalition, and others supported accepting existing pilot credentials, especially military pilot credentials, in lieu of requiring those pilots to take an initial knowledge test or obtain a separate small UAS certificate. ArgenTech Solutions suggested that FAA should put a time limit on when military experience is acceptable for taking the recurrent knowledge test. In contrast, ALPA and others suggested that an initial knowledge test, rather than just a recurrent test, is appropriate for applicants with military experience flying UAS. ALPA noted that such pilots do not necessarily have experience operating in the NAS, and therefore cannot be assumed to be familiar with all the subject areas included in the initial test. ALPA also pointed to the wide variety of UAS used in the military and suggested that a given pilot’s experience may not necessarily be relevant to the operation of a small UAS in the NAS. ALPA also stated that the FAA should review a military pilot’s specific training, skills, and experience before determining what “supplemental training, knowledge testing, or skills demonstration” might be needed.
Similarly, one commenter asserted that experience operating military UAS is not relevant to the operation of a civil small UAS, and that therefore those with military experience should be subject to the same testing requirements as other applicants. Another individual echoed ALPA’s concern that military operations are conducted almost exclusively in military airspace, not in the NAS. One commenter, while supporting an initial-test exemption for applicants with military experience, added that former military UAS pilots do not necessarily understand civil operations in the NAS.
Planehook Aviation, NOAA, DOD, and an individual commenter said that the prior military experience provision proposed in § 107.75 should apply to both military and nonmilitary COA UAS operators. One commenter provided supporting reasoning stating that “[t]here are several non-military Federal agencies that have well established sUAS programs and, as is the case with NASA, they have decades of experience with sUAS and operating sUAS in the NAS.” NOAA argued that there are no practical differences between NOAA pilots and military pilots because they are both trained in the same facilities. DOD raised a similar argument, asking that the rule recognize DOD civilian and contractor personnel that have a level of training equivalent to military personnel. One individual suggested that the FAA allow civilian operators with a minimum of 1,000 logged hours as operators of UAS for government and military agencies to qualify for taking the recurrent knowledge test instead of the initial test.
The FAA agrees with commenters who expressed concern about applicants obtaining a remote pilot certificate to operate civil small UAS without passing an initial knowledge test. The levels of training and certification for unmanned aircraft differ greatly between branches of the armed services, and therefore there is no consistent training the FAA can use as a comparison to its requirements in order to credit military UAS pilots. Further, many of the required knowledge areas for the part 107 initial knowledge test, such as airspace classification, airport operations, and radio communications, are not consistently covered in training across all branches of the U.S. military. Accordingly, at this time, this rule will not allow military UAS pilots to bypass the initial aeronautical knowledge test. This applies to NOAA UAS pilots as well, because, as NOAA pointed out, they are trained in the same military facilities.
The FAA notes, however, that in some cases, government and military UAS pilots are trained as pilots of manned aircraft, in which case they may qualify for a part 61 pilot certificate through military competency. Specifically, manned-aircraft military pilots are frequently able to qualify for a part 61 pilot certificate under § 61.73 without taking a practical test by providing specific documentation and passing a military competency knowledge test. Provided those pilots obtain a part 61 pilot certificate and meet the flight review and online training course requirements discussed in the next section, they may qualify for a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating without having to take any UAS knowledge test.
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 reviews 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 with a 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.
j. Areas of Knowledge on the Aeronautical Knowledge Tests and Training Courses for Part
61 Pilot Certificate Holders The NPRM proposed that the initial aeronautical knowledge test would test the following areas of knowledge: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3) official sources of weather and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance; (4) small UAS loading and performance; (5) emergency procedures; (6) crew resource management; (7) radio communication procedures; (8) determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft; (9) physiological effects of drugs and alcohol; (10) aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and (11) airport operations. The NPRM also proposed the following areas of knowledge for the recurrent knowledge test: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) airspace classification and operating requirements, obstacle clearance requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation; (3) official sources of weather; (4) emergency procedures; (5) crew resource management; (6) aeronautical decision-making and judgment; and (7) airport operations.
For the reasons discussed below, this rule will remove obstacle clearance requirements and add maintenance and inspection procedures as areas of knowledge that will be tested on both the initial and recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. Further, aviation weather sources will be removed from the recurrent aeronautical knowledge tests. Except for these changes, this rule will finalize all other areas of knowledge as proposed in the NPRM.
With regard to the initial and recurrent training courses for part 61 pilot certificate holders, those courses will only cover UAS-specific areas of knowledge that are not included in the training and testing required for a part 61 pilot certificate. Thus, the initial training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) small UAS loading and performance; (3) emergency procedures; (4) crew resource management; (5) determining the performance of the small unmanned aircraft; and (6) maintenance and inspection procedures. The recurrent training course will cover: (1) regulations applicable to small UAS operations; (2) emergency procedures; (3) crew resource management; and (4) maintenance and inspection procedures.
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