Here’s How to Make Money Flying Drones – FAA Part 107 Information and more
Up until August 2016, flying a drone commercially required special exemption called a Section 333 which was quite difficult to obtain. In most cases, a real pilots license was required, putting it beyond the reach of most would-be drone pilots. With the new FAA Part 107 Rule, a certificate allowing commercial use of a drone is now available to the general public. Whether you intend to take photos and videos of real estate or do tower/line or structure (roof, etc) drone inspection, you will need to get the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate. Hobby users (not doing actual work or taking money) need not be concerned with Part 107…all they need to do is to register their drones with the FAA (if over .55 lbs) at this link.
Your Drone (model) Registration is NOT the same as a Part 107 sUAS Pilot Certificate.
To obtain a certificate, you must be at least 16 years of age and read, write and understand English. A number of other restrictions apply such as daylight-only flying. You will have to learn about all of these restrictions and there WILL be a test! The test must be taken at an FAA approved testing center (just like real pilots do!) and will cost $150. If you fail the test, you will need to pay another $150 to take it again.
Let’s start at the beginning. Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s unlikely anyone new to flying (drones or otherwise) can Go for the Gold (take the test) without numerous hours of Education and Experience beforehand.
The new FAA Part 107 which allows us (drone pilots) to take a test and obtain a certificate which allows for commercial UAS (Unmanned Aerial Systems, Drones) piloting.
However, the journey, as with other specialties, is about Education and Experience. You have to start at the beginning.
Here is a 3 step program.
1. Learn the very basics of hobby drones and quadcopters/multirotors. This includes definitions as well as the ability to fly simple (toy/hobby) machines. There are some free eBooks we have written at this link.
(skip this step if you are already an experience hobby drone pilot!).
2. Once you know the basics – which would mean a lot of reading and perhaps 20+ hours of flight time, you could explore courses which teach you the subjects needed to pass the FAA Test. One example (a course I am taking now) is Drone Pilot Ground School – but there are others. It will cost you $150 to take the FAA test (if you fail you’ll have to pay again!) – plus whatever you spend for your courses…and, of course your drones!
3. Once you pass the test you are qualified to use your Drone for profit – whether it’s Real Estate Photography or Construction Inspection.
How Hard is the Test?
Not easy. For those unfamiliar with flight, weather, measurement (latitude, longitude, etc.) and memorizing regulations it will at first seem a daunting task. There is a LOT of material in the program and much of it will seem like it is written in a foreign language. As an example, see the images and text below. You will be required to know that that all means – and much more!
Most Pilots Pass the Test!
I scored an 87% (70% is passing) on my FIRST practice test and 90% on my second. I expect to score higher once I take the other four included with the Drone Pilot Ground School Course of Study. I registered to take the FAA test and will do so sometime over the Christmas Holiday period (2017).
Although the material may be difficult, there are many study guides and courses to help you with your education. Also, it is somewhat of an “open book” test as many of the diagrams and legends required to pass are given to you (a booklet) when you sit down to take the test. (Here is a PDF of the Airman’s Guide which many of the test questions are based upon).
Even so, you have to have a clue as to what this stuff is all about!
Here’s some good news! The test is multiple choice and consists of 60 multiple choice (usually 3 possible answers) questions. That means it’s likely you will get 1/3 of them right even if you didn’t study at all. A passing grade is 7o – meaning you can get 17 of the questions wrong and still pass.
DIY or School/Course?
It is certainly possible to study for the test without paying a dim e for more structured instruction. The FAA provides a study guide at this link and numerous web site also have materials on the test.
However, those who are more serious about passing the test as soon as possible will probably want to sign up for a structured course. Given the $150 testing fee – which you lose if you fail the test – the idea of spending a couple hundred dollars for a certain bet (99%) of passing the first time seems a wise investment.
Here are some of the subjects which the FAA test will quiz you on:
Drugs, Alcohol and Fatigue
ADM- Aeronautical Decision Making
Map Reading – understanding the NAS (National Airspace).
FAA sUAS Regulations – such as the guidelines listing below
sUAS Maintenance and Loading
To Qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate, consider the following guidelines:
Must be registered with the FAA (same as hobby drones must be – link here)
Aircraft markings are required
The sUAS must weigh less than 55 lbs (otherwise a waiver is required)
Operator must be at least 16 years of age
Operator must be able to read, write and understand English
Operator must be physically and mentally fit to operate the drone safely
Operator must obtain a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate with sUAS rating
Operator must pass an aeronautical knowledge test in an FAA-authorised test center
Visual line-of-sight (VLOS) operation only: the sUAS must remain within VLOS of the operator or visual observer
A person may not act as the operator or observer for more than one unmanned aircraft at a time (i.e. no multiple drone operation)
Daylight-only operations (between official sunrise and sunset, local time).
Must yield right-of-way to other aircraft, whether manned or unmanned
sUAS must not be operated over anyone not directly involved in their operation
Operations from a ground vehicle or watercraft are allowed over sparsely populated areas, but no operations from a flying aircraft are allowed
Max. airspeed: 100 mph (87 knots)
Max. altitude above ground level: 400 ft (or 400 feet above a building or tower you may be inspecting)
Min. weather visibility: 3 statute miles
No operations in Class A airspace (18,000 ft & above)
Operations in Class G airspace are allowed without ATC permission (airspaces explained)
Operations in Class B, C, D and E airspace allowed with required ATC (tower) permission.
No careless or reckless operations
Drone Pilot Ground School (UAV Coach) – Complete Course with lectures and other materials.
Part 107 Study and Cram Guide (free) – for those who feel comfortable with this material and want to try DIY.
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Camera Drone – Autel will reimburse you $150 for your test if you purchase their drone.