Many dream of flying a drone over a Hawaiian island such as Kaiaka Bay Beach, Waimea Waterfall, Hanauma Bay, Sweetheart Rock, Nakalele Blowhole, or Po’olenalena Beach.
You must have a verified FAA license before realizing that dream. In order to fly a drone in connection with any business purposes, you must have a drone license.
How do you earn your commercial drone certificate?
Here’s how to get a drone license in Hawaii:
- Meet the FAA requirements
- Obtain an FAA Tracking Number
- Find your closest FAA Knowledge Testing Center to register
- Study for the Part 107 test
- Take the exam and pass
- Send in signed FAA Form 8710-13
- Receive your license and fly
It’s a rather straightforward process once you go through it once, but beginners can struggle.
This guide is beginner-friendly, providing links and explaining the process of obtaining your drone license, so don’t miss it.
Here’s how to obtain a drone license in Hawaii
All drone licenses are not the same. For example, a recreational license only permits you to fly your drone for fun. You’re also limited in what you can do with this certificate.
Conversely, a commercial license allows you to use your drone for profit. You must still follow FAA rules when flying in Hawaii or elsewhere in the United States, but your certificate also grants you more freedom.
Many drone pilots go for the commercial license. You must want that too since you’re here, so how do you go about getting it? Let’s get underway.
Meet the FAA requirements
The FAA welcomes aspiring drone pilots to take the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam (also known as the Part 107 exam), its aeronautical knowledge test you must pass to receive your commercial license.
However, you must first meet some of the FAA’s criteria.
Are you at least 16? That’s the first requirement. Are you mentally sound? How about physically?
After passing those criteria, there’s one more question. How well do you understand English? The FAA requires registrants to understand, write, read, and speak the language to take the commercial drone exam.
Obtain an FAA Tracking Number
Can you take the Part 107 exam because you meet the above requirements? Okay, great. The next part of the process is receiving an FAA Tracking Number or FTN.
The FAA issues all new pilots an FTN. You’ll carry yours with you throughout your aeronautics career. It’s used to verify your identity when registering for the Part 107 exam.
So how do you get an FTN? You must sign up for an account on an FAA portal called the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application or IACRA for short.
Bookmark the IACRA website, as you’ll use it a lot in the weeks and months to come. Besides this being the site where you’ll receive your FTN, IACRA also posts your test results, and you’ll need the site to apply for your commercial license after passing the Part 107 exam.
It’s very simple to make an account on IACRA, and it’s free. The first page of registration can be a bit disorienting since it’s full of checkmarks, but the only role you have to worry about is applicant.
You can check other roles if they’re relevant to you, but don’t sweat it if they aren’t.
Likewise, you can skip the section on the second page where you’re asked to fill in your certificate information. You don’t have a commercial certificate yet, so you can’t do this. However, you can always add the information later to make your IACRA profile complete.
Continue following the registration steps, creating a secure and unique login and password (don’t copy/paste from other sites for security reasons).
When you click that shiny “register” button, you will receive a confirmation message from IACRA.
You’ll also get your FTN. You can access the FTN in the IACRA email and your account anytime by logging in.
Find your closest FAA Knowledge Testing Center to register for the exam
Now that you have an FTN, you can move on to the next step of the process, setting up a date and time to take the Part 107 exam.
This in-person test requires you to take it at an FAA Knowledge Testing Center, an approved building that administers the exam. You can find them all over Hawaii.
Begin your search by visiting the PSI website. PSI is a testing platform that partners with the FAA.
Select the Find a Test Center menu, then search by postal code and county. Don’t forget to choose the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) test for the exam type.
You found a Knowledge Testing Center, but you haven’t registered there yet. You must create a PSI account to do that. Go back to the homepage and click the white button marked “Create an Account.”
PSI will ask you to input your full name and FTN to verify your identity. After you get past that step, you can create an account. PSI will send you a confirmation email.
Once you receive that, log into PSI and set up a time and date to take the Part 107 exam.
Study for the Part 107 test
Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to study before you take the test, considering each paid attempt costs over $150. Yes, you read that right. It’s not a cheap exam to take.
Fortunately, there are many Part 107 online test prep courses that can help you understand rules inside and out.
These courses break down the complexity of FAA drone rules and guidelines into bite-sized chunks and easily digestible videos.
You can learn the material at a pace that feels right for you, take practice exams featuring real FAA test questions, and build up your confidence ahead of the exam.
Generous money-back guarantees will refund you the full course cost if you fail. You might even receive money toward a retake exam.
Do yourself a favor and take one of these courses a few weeks before your Part 107 exam. You’ll feel adequately prepared to rock the test and reduce your need for retakes.
Take the exam and pass
Test day has arrived already. Hopefully, you got a good night’s sleep the night before, although I know that can be easier said than done.
Here are a few more test prep tips. Know your route before you go and leave with plenty of time to spare. Try to eat something nutritious but not heavy. Avoid caffeine and sugar so you don’t crash during the test.
The Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam is a 60-question test. All questions are presented in multiple-choice format, and you can select from three answers per question. However, one is usually correct.
You will have two and a half hours to take the exam. You must bring a government-issued photo ID, like a driver’s license to verify your identity.
The FAA Knowledge Testing Center will provide a dry-erase marker, blank paper, a transparent sheet, a pencil, and the knowledge test supplement book.
You will not get an electronic calculator, E6B flight computer, plotter, or protractor, but can use them if you bring them.
However, you cannot use a smartphone calculator or any device that can do calculations but has other functions.
You must score at least 70 percent to pass the Part 107 exam.
Don’t get disheartened if you don’t pass the first time. You must wait two weeks, but then you can take the FAA drone test again. However, you must pay for each attempt.
Send in your signed FAA Form 8710-13
As mentioned, IACRA will post the results of your test in your profile. However, this can take up to three weeks.
Congratulations on passing the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam. It was no easy feat, but you did it.
Now you need to go back to IACRA to complete FAA Form 8710-13. This form is a request for a commercial drone license or Remote Pilot Certificate.
Select Start New Application. Choose “pilot” for Application Type and Certifications, then navigate to Other Path Information, then Start Application. You’ll receive prompts, including one to input your Knowledge Test Exam ID, a 17-digit identifier.
Finally, add your electronic signature, and IACRA will send the form to the FAA. Your information also goes to the TSA for a security background check.
Receive your license and fly
IACRA will email you a printable Remote Pilot Certificate after you pass the background check. You can download this and print it using any standard office printer.
However, this is only a temporary license. Your permanent commercial pilot’s license will arrive in the mail several weeks after the FAA processes your request.
Use the printed license until the permanent one arrives, then switch to that.
I have my drone license in Hawaii – Now what?
Holding a commercial drone license puts you one step closer to flying a UAV in Hawaii, but you still have to take care of a few things first.
The FAA requires pilots to register all commercial drones regardless of weight. It’s only $5, and you won’t have to register your drone again for three years.
I also recommend brushing up on Hawaii’s drone laws before launching your first commercial flight. SB 661 is the only state law and requires pilots to adhere to federal laws instituted by the FAA.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources and Division of State Parks locally bans pilots from operating in state parks.
The time will inevitably come when you have to deal with the expiry of your Remote Pilot Certificate. The FAA doesn’t want your commercial license to last forever, as then you have less impetus to stay current on its drone laws.
That’s why your license expires approximately two years after you receive it. So how do you recertify?
Commercial drone license renewal is easier, faster, and more convenient than ever.
Rather than shell out again for the Part 107 exam like you used to, you can take a free FAA exam at home, banging it out in a couple of hours.