If you want to use a drone for business use of any kind, whether it’s for real estate photography, utility inspections, or even posting drone videos on YouTube, you need to have a Remote Pilot Certificate.
In the industry, it’s more commonly known as a Part 107 License.
I recently went through the process of becoming a licensed drone pilot, so I wanted to share my experience with getting a Part 107 License.
If you’re facing the task from the other side, rest assured, it’s not impossible. But don’t take things too easy, either. The test requires a lot of knowledge that takes intentional study. You won’t waltz in and pass the test without putting in some effort.
The route I chose to take to pass the knowledge test is, of course, not the only way. Many people have passed by following a variety of strategies.
Whatever way you choose, keep in mind that it’s worthwhile to learn from the successes and failures of others.
To take a course, or not to take a course?
The most obvious question prospective Part 107 pilots face is whether or not to invest some money in a prep course. There are a number of ways to look at this question.
If it’s a question of money, remember that you’re looking at becoming a Commercial Drone Pilot. This means that you plan to use your drone to earn money.
So the cost of a course can be considered a business expense that should offer a good ROI.
If it’s a question of time, perhaps you think that a course would take longer to get through than just studying up on your own with whatever resources you can find on YouTube.
While a good course may include as much as 20 hours of instructional time, it saves you the time spent searching out the information you need. It’s all laid out right there, step by step.
Also remember that time is money.
If you’re taking longer to learn the information you need, you’re using up time that could better be spent actually working on your flight skills, or out there drumming up business that will pay your bills once you’ve got the license in hand.
I took a course and very much enjoyed the experience. My husband kept laughing at my nerdy side coming out through the whole process.
But more than just geeking out with the fun of taking a course, I enjoyed the ease of learning with a guide, rather than the headaches and confusion of trying to figure out what to study on my own.
Which course to take?
The next obvious question, if I’ve convinced you that a training course is worth your time and money, is which course is the best.
Here’s the part where most people will probably be biased toward whichever course they took. We tend to have loyalties like that, barring some particularly bad experience.
So that said, there are numerous options of really good courses for preparing you for the Part 107 knowledge exam.
Some are better than others, but if they get the job done, well, it’s a success story.
So the best course for you may depend on your budget, learning style and previous background.
We have numerous articles here on Droneblog reviewing our top recommended Part 107 courses, and I definitely recommend you take a look at those courses.
But, since this is about my experience passing the knowledge exam and getting my remote pilot certificate, I get to talk about the course I took from Pilot Institute.
It was an excellent choice, and one I’d make again.
My experience with Pilot Institute
I have only good things to say about my study experience with Pilot Institute. And bottom line, after studying with the training course, I passed the exam easily, only missing 4 questions.
That’s the point of all this, right?
My study timeline was not aggressive at all, taking about two and a half months to get through all the teaching videos before feeling ready to book my exam.
And the video format worked well for that, although it would have worked just as well for someone trying to finish the course in much less time.
I believe there are about 15 hours of instructional videos, so that could easily be broken down into several hours per day for a week or two.
My initial impression as I started the course is that it is very professionally done. Greg Reverdiau, the instructor is a manned flight instructor with loads of experience in teaching.
Not only does he know his subject inside and out, but he also has a real knack for explaining complicated ideas in ways that are easy to understand, even for the uninitiated.
The course is well organized and laid out in a very easy to follow order.
I especially like that the topics are introduced in a well thought through manner, with a few of the “easier” topics at the beginning, to help ease you into it.
The videos are presented in short segments within each topic. This worked really well for me, since I don’t often have hours together to get through anything.
So it didn’t feel like I had to try to get through a large chunk of teaching. Instead, it felt like I could breeze through a whole bunch of shorter videos if I had the time, or just a few if I didn’t.
If you’re someone who’s in a hurry, I can also suggest that you may want to skip the chapter overview in each unit. It’s there as a preview of topics to be covered, but you won’t miss much in glossing over those.
I really was able to learn the material well, having the video lesson format. Some courses lean more heavily toward written/reading format, which may work well for certain learning styles.
But I liked the auditory learning aspect, in addition to the visual learning. Hearing the concepts explained really helped me to grasp the concepts, as well as to solidify them in my memory.
Greg also offered suggested reading from numerous technical handbooks to go along with many of the topics. To be perfectly honest, I read exactly none of those suggested readings.
When he gave the list of supplemental materials at the beginning of the course, I did go ahead and download most of them, but never once cracked them open after I got into the videos.
So I guess I’m not that much of a nerd after all. You could probably skip downloading them, unless you have plans to become a manned pilot.
Each unit, or chapter, had one or more practice quizzes as an aid to assess your learning and retention.
I found these very useful, and if I failed one of these, definitely knew I needed to go back and watch the videos in the section a few more times.
After completing all of the video instruction, you get at last to the practice exam.
This exam you can take as many times as you want, and it will offer a mix of the same or new questions each time. This is also a very helpful tool to assess your learning.
Each time I took the practice test (I took it three times, spread over two weeks), I wrote down the topic areas for the questions I had gotten wrong, and went back to watch those sections over again.
Another useful resource that was a great aid for review was the cheat sheet.
This document gave a summary of all the most essential information, and I used that for several hours of review after completing all the videos and taking the practice exam several times.
One tool that is available that I didn’t use is the flashcard app.
I think if I found I was having trouble with the practice tests, I may have dipped into that resource, but I did find that the concepts were sticking pretty well without it.
The knowledge exam testing experience
Once I had finished watching all of the instructional videos and had taken (and passed – with 80%) my first practice exam, I went ahead and booked my UAG: Unmanned Aircraft General – Small Exam for two weeks out.
I felt that this would give me adequate time to review the areas I was weak, and firm up on everything else before taking the test.
To schedule the exam, you have to go to the FAA IACRA page and create an account. You must have the FTN from this account before you will be able to select and schedule an exam.
Note: You won’t have an airman certificate number in the first section. You can skip to filling in the information below.
Once you’ve created your IACRA account, you can go here and login in to select your location and schedule your exam.
Be sure to choose Unmanned Aircraft General – Small for the test you want to take. It’s all the way at the bottom of the list of test options on the page.
The testing experience itself was fairly straightforward, but then I don’t suffer from test anxiety.
The staff were helpful and friendly, and got me in ahead of time, which was helpful because I had the husband and kids in tow, waiting for me to finish.
I brought along a Driver’s License, calculator and ruler, but I the last two items were also available to me at my testing location.
The test went along smoothly, with the only hiccup being that the mouse on my computer quick working halfway through the test. The proctor changed the mouse batteries, and I continued on my merry way.
While many of the questions were different, either in wording or precise content, than the practice questions on the Pilot Institute practice test, the knowledge was the same.
And I was tickled to notice a few questions (including chart images) were exactly the same as ones I had already seen.
But bottom line, I knew the information, and the knowledge I had gained through the course exactly lined up with what I needed to know to pass the test with flying colors.
And hubby and kids very impressed with my score. 🥳
What happens after the test?
Go out for lunch of course.
Or celebrate some other way. Then go home and log back in to IACRA to link your test with your application for a Remote Pilot Certificate.
The application should be approved within seven days, and you will have a temporary certificate available to you within the IACRA system.
Then within 30 days, you should get your permanent certificate in the mail.