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New Remote Pilot Airman Certifcation

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 10:46

To operate legally, unmanned aerial system (UAS, aka drone) pilots who fly for the furtherance of a business (non-recreational), are required to have an FAA-issued airman certificate. On August 29, 2016, the FAA's new UAS regulations went into effect, superceding the Section 333 process implemented in 2014. Sierra Pro Aerial Imaging® commenced migration from our Section 333 exemption to compliance with the new Part 107 regulations. The new regulations introduced a new airman certifcate (pilot's license) called Remote Pilot with sUAS Rating. Our Chief UAS Pilot, John Monaco, studied for and took the FAA Unmanned Aircraft - General (UAG) exam on September 2 to attain the new pilot's license. It was not a piece of cake.

The exam tests applicants on: regulations, pilot certifcation requirements, waivers, airpspace classification and operational requirements, weather and effects on performance, aircraft loading, radio communication procedures, airport operations, emergency procedures, aeronautical decision making, physiology, and maintnenance & inspection procedures. The exam includes multple choice selections that can be misleading if one is not careful.  

The test is designed such that applicants need to know and understand the concepts and details. It is not designed to leverage pure rote memory. A number of test questions have the applicant interpret information from aeronautical charts like the example shown above. Interpreting coded aviation weather reports (METAR, TAF) can trip applicants up too, like: KOKC 051130Z 0512/0618 14008KT 5SM BR BKN030 TEMPO 0513/0516 1 1/2SM BR FM051600 18010KT P6SM SKC BECMG 0522/0524 20013G20KT 4SM SHRA OVC020 PROB40 0600/0606 2SM TSRA OVC008CB BECMG 0606/0608 21015KT P6SM SCT040=. 

The FAA estimates that an applicant will expend 20 hours of self-study in preparation for taking the exam. This seems about right. A robust set of materials are available at the FAA website. UAS consultants, advisors, and attorneys also provide study guides and tips. A number of online and in-person courses range in cost from $100 to $300+. Preliminary reports suggest that passing practice tests with a 95% to 100% score result in an FAA exam score in the 80s. The pass rate at the local testing center was on the order of 5 out of 10 applicants during the first week of testing. The administration fee for the exam is $150. Pilots need to take a recertification exam every 24 months. 

The casual real estate broker or photographer, worker at a small to medium size construction company, or a fly-for-fun drone hobbyist wanting to earn income legally who is interested in attaining a Remote Pilot airman certificate may want to give careful thought if learning the type of information illustrated here is worth their investment. 

For guidance and assistance in understanding the requirements for Part 107 compliance, email us at