This is a little different from my standard content on this blog, but I need to share it. I fly drones for fun, and I’ve become mildly obsessed with them.
I recently passed my certification for the 14 CFR Part 107 license. I have received a TON of questions about it. Since it’s still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d lay down how I studied for the test and what you can do to get this license.
Why Get a Part 107 License?
I get asked this a lot. Why get a commercial license to fly a toy helicopter? No, I’m not changing careers, but it opens many doors. The rules in the United States are pretty simple:
Without a Part 107 license, you can only operate your drone for recreational purposes.
There’s tons of discussion online as to what this means. But simply put, you can’t make money or benefit from your footage or pictures in any way.
- You can’t sell those cool pictures or videos
- You can’t film your friend’s wedding for them or inspect their roof
- You can’t build sweet videos for clout on Instagram
I want to help my Fire Department with “eyes in the air” during wildland fires and help our local search and rescue teams. I can’t do either without a Part 107, so I got one. I may also sell footage/services to fund more toys.
Note: you should also consider a 107 just for the safety principles you learn. You don’t want to be a jerk drone operator who injures or endangers somebody.
In this article I’ll share my approach and what worked for me. I’ll break it down into:
- Initial Study
- Knowing What the Test Covers
- Taking Some Courses
- Practice, Practice, Practice!!
- Schedule your test
Let’s jump in.
To start, you need these two books at a minimum.
This book outlines what you need to know for the test. It’s not the only guide you need; it gives you some structure of what you need to know. There’s tons of great information in a small book. I spent a lot of time with it.
Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement for Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, Remote Pilot, and Private Pilot: FAA-CT-8080-2H
This testing supplement comes with charts, graphs, and maps. This is the same book used in the test, so get to know it well. The practice tests also use the figures in this book.
What I did:
I purchased both of these books, and the supplement didn’t make much sense until I started digging into practice exams. Then its usage became clear. I read through the FAA-G-2082-22 a couple of times.
Knowing What the Test Covers
The study guide above helps a lot. Here are the main topic areas of the test:
- Applicable Regulations
- Airspace Classification, Operating Requirements, and Flight Restrictions
- Aviation Weather Sources
- Effects of Weather on Small Unmanned Aircraft Performance
- Small Unmanned Aircraft Loading
- Emergency Procedures
- Crew Resource Management
- Radio Communication Procedures
- Determining the Performance of Small Unmanned Aircraft
- Physiological Factors (Including Drugs and Alchohol) Affecting Pilot Performance
- Aeronautical Decision-Making and Judgment
- Airport Operations
- Maintenance and Preflight Inspection Procedures
I took this list from the Remote Pilot Study Guide, available for free from the FAA. This represents the topic coverage I saw on the test as well.
Here is an approximate breakdown of the questions on the test:
- Regulations 15-25%
- Airspace 15-25%
- Weather 11-16%
- Loading & Performance 7-11%
- Operations 35-45%
What I did:
I did a lot of Googling/YouTubing for different topics within these groups. There are a lot of resources out there, and I tried to divide my study time equally between each topic. Then once I reached the end, I started over at the beginning.
Taking Some Courses
So, I studied the above for a few weeks and decided to jump into some courses. I like to spread my learning into several categories:
- Digital Reading (Kindle, web browser)
- Paper book reading
- Videos / Courses
- Bugging friends who know stuff
I have found the different learning methods sink in much better this way. So I used two courses:
This is a great course that covers the test concepts very well. There were a few things on the test I don’t remember seeing in this course, such as runway markings and the like, but it has excellent coverage.
I discovered this one and could not finish it before taking my test. However, this one is very in-depth and covers more details. This course covers more aviation-related material.
If reading is not for you, I suggest either of these courses.
Practice, Practice, Practice!!
It’s crucial that you practice as much as you can.
This app is Available for IOS or Android. 4.99. Well worth it. It covers the topic areas quite well.
Free set of questions with explanation. Rupprecht Law P.A. is a firm that provides drone law and drone attorney assistance. They provide a ton of free information that can be useful to you. They should be your first call if you ever need a drone attorney.
This is a free test with test explanations. King Schools also provides a 107 course. I haven’t taken it, but it looks pretty thorough.
Note that these practice questions are NOT the same on the FAA test. Memorizing the questions/answers will not help you. Many of them are worded differently and ask for different things. However, this practice will force you to learn what you need.
What I did:
I practiced like mad the last few days before my test. I worked at it until I got 95% on the practice tests.
Also, I sat at a desk with my paperback testing supplement and a Kindle to simulate the actual testing environment. They give you the same book (FAA-CT-8080-2H), pen, paper, and calculator in the test center. The test is on a PC. I felt better prepared by studying in a similar environment.
Schedule Your Test
To motivate myself to study, I scheduled my test two weeks out and got to work. I suggest the same. Scheduling is easy. Here are the steps.
- Create a free account with IACRA and get your FTN Number.
- Create a free account with PSI with your FTN Number.
- Schedule your test with PSI. (Unmanned Aircraft General – Small) This is an in-person test at an approved testing center. The cost is $175.
- Take and pass your test.
- After passing, start a new application with IACRA. You cannot start the application until you pass the test.
- After a TSA background check, you will receive your temporary certificate.
- Your card will arrive later (the current backlog is about six weeks)
Summary - What I Learned
The Part 107 test was more difficult than I expected. It requires studying, some memorization, and being able to read a sectional map. There’s a lot of safety information involved that’s super useful as well. Overall I think 20-30 hours of studying is needed. I had zero background in aviation when I started, so your results may vary.
I have seen people talk online about “walking in and taking it” and even statements like “It’s just like the DMV, walk in, pay, get your license”. They’re wrong. The only person who can “walk in and pass the test” without studying is someone who is already a pilot, and if that’s the case, they have a different process anyway.
Don’t listen to these blowhards who are playing down this test. You need to prepare for it. It’s tough but absolutely achievable with a small amount of study and practice. You can do it.
If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me. Also, I’ve learned a ton about drones lately and will share some awesome tips and tricks. If you would like to see more of that content here, let me know as well.