If you look and listen hard enough, you’ll most likely see or hear a drone. The drone market is expected to grow by up to five times over the next 6 or 7 years.
This means drones will be an even more common sight, as more and more people purchase and use them.
Numbers speak for themselves, and currently, there are plenty of individuals jumping into the hobby and picking up DJI’s latest offering, the Air 3.
As such, many with the new drone might be asking:
Can I fly a DJI Air 3 without a license?
- If you are in the United States and flying a DJI Air 3 recreationally, you will need a TRUST certificate to fly an Air 3.
- Likewise, if you are in the United States and are planning to make money from your Air 3 flying commercially, you will need a commercial drone license or Part 107 Certificate.
This beginner-friendly guide will take you through everything you need to know about the certifications required to fly the DJI Air 3.
About the Air 3
The Air 3 is the 4th iteration of the Mavic Air line, preceded by the original Mavic Air, Mavic Air 2, and DJI Air 2S.
The Air 3 is the first in the Air family to utilize dual cameras, similar to the setup of the Mavic 3. These two cameras take photos and videos at 24mm and 70mm equivalents (wide and tele).
The tele lens (70mm) takes the exact same resolution images and photos as the main 24mm camera.
Both dual back-lit, stacked 1/1.3″ cameras take up to 48MP photos and 4k 100fps videos. Couple this with the 10-bit D-Log M and HLG color profiles and you have a system that produces phenomenal content.
New to the Air 3 is omnidirectional obstacle sensing, giving 360 degrees of protection.
While we never encourage relying 100% on any drone autonomous features, if planning on using advanced follow-me modes like Active Track, the Air 3 does a great job keeping the subject in frame, simultaneously avoiding obstructions.
An additional feature of the Air 3 that is appreciated by new and seasoned drone pilots alike is the increased flight times.
The Air 3 has an advertised maximum flight time of 46 minutes, this being 15 minutes more than the previous Air 2S.
While experiences may vary, the Air 3 indeed stays in the air for a long time.
Improved on the Air 3 is the image transmission system. Using OcuSync 4, the Air 3 has flight distances of up to 12.4 miles (20km), all of which are now streamed at 1080p 60fps.
OcuSync 4 allows for a much stronger signal, one that keeps the Air 3 and the DJI RC2 or RC-N2 connected more reliably in interference-laden areas.
Prior to June 2021, in the United States, if planning on flying recreationally there was not much needed to do so. You’d register your drone (if it weighed more than 250g), pick a location, and fly until the batteries were drained. That’s it.
Things changed back in June 2021.
The FAA (Federal Aviation Authority) mandated that if a drone is to be flown on a recreational level (registered or not), the person flying the drone would have to take and pass a knowledge exam labeled TRUST.
The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) was initiated and implemented by the FAA, with the help of various drone companies, and covers FAA regulations for recreational drone flyers and general drone safety, at no cost to drone owners.
Not having to pay for the TRUST exam is welcomed, as many feel the FAA has a cash-grab mentality when it comes to UAS/Drone-related testing and licensing.
What is nice about the TRUST exam (in addition to it being free) is that it is also a general drone course which covers such things as:
- Knowing where you can fly your drone
- Understanding drone safety guidelines
- Basic airspace knowledge and FAA restrictions
- Abiding by FAA regulations
Thankfully the TRUST exam is online (you do not have to go to a testing facility to take it) and after passing it you can immediately print out your TRUST certificate.
If you want to fly a drone recreationally in the United States, regardless of how old you are or your drone’s weight, you are required to pass the online TRUST exam and carry the TRUST certificate on your person.
If you are visiting the United States and plan on flying your drone, you will need to have passed the TRUST exam and carry the TRUST certificate.
Because it is online, you can take and pass the exam and print the certificate prior to traveling.
What if you are a Part 107 certified drone operator, and flying recreationally, is there a need to have a TRUST certificate?
No. Being a Part 107 commercial pilot in itself validates your knowledge of UAS safety and FAA regulations.
If you are planning on flying on a recreational level, simply have your Part 107 certificate on you in case approached by the secular authorities (i.e. police).
As mentioned, the TRUST exam is easily accessible online and very simple to pass.
According to the FAA website:
“You cannot fail the test. If you answer a question incorrectly you will be provided with information on why the answer you chose was incorrect and will be prompted to try again.”
Thankfully for hobbyists, the TRUST exam is not overly complicated. The information reviewed will help any new recreational pilot get an understanding of drone basic knowledge.
The Air 3 is considered an advanced drone by DJI and has many, if not most of the tools needed for commercial work.
If using the Air 3 for the furtherance of business/commercial work in the United States, drone operators must fly their drones under the FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107).
Part 107 Certification
To acquire a remote pilot certification in the United States (commonly referred to as a drone license), you must pass the FAA’s Part 107 test, otherwise known as the aeronautical knowledge exam: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG)”.
Per the FAA, as a drone pilot, a Part 107 certificate “demonstrates that you understand the regulations, operating requirements, and procedures for safely flying drones”.
While there are those who watch YouTube videos on Part 107 information and then go and take the test and pass, there are many more who find success in studying for the Part 107 exam as if it were a college course.
To aid in studying for the exam, there are quite a few highly-rated courses we recommend to assist in passing the Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG) exam and acquiring the Part 107 certificate.
To become a drone pilot you must:
- Be at least 16 years old
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English
- Be in good physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
- Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG)”
After-test Requirements for Remote Pilot Certificate:
- The Part 107 Certificate must be easily accessible by the remote pilot during all UAS operations
- Certificate holders must complete a recurrent online training every 24 calendar months to maintain aeronautical knowledge recency
Does the Air 3 need to be registered?
Yes. According to the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority/United States), all drones over 250g in the United States must be registered.
This is to ensure drone operators are flying their drones safely and responsibly while being accountable for these flights.
As the Air 3 is not a Mini drone, weighing under 250g, it must be registered to use either recreationally, commercially, or both recreationally and commercially.
If planning to use your Air 3 for commercial purposes, it needs to be registered under Part 107 rules. If you only plan to use the Air 3 recreationally, then you can do so as a Recreational/Hobbyist User.
Can you fly the Air 3 over people?
Because the Air 3 is not considered a Category 1 drone, meaning it is not under 250g with no exposed rotating parts, it should not be flown over people.
There are exceptions to this, such as applying for waivers for category 2-4 drones.
Additionally, if you are filming and there are individuals who are part of the production of the video (visual observers, etc.), these can be flown over briefly, as well as individuals under reasonable cover.
Likewise, in some States and Cities (like here in Orlando), you are not allowed to fly within a certain amount of feet of crowds that exceed a particular size.
This is regardless of the category of the drone or what safety features it is equipped with.
Can you fly the Air 3 over people’s homes / private property?
Many have the misconception that when they own property or a home, they own everything above said property or home. That is not the case.
Per the FAA, people do not own the air over their homes or properties, other than what can be used for reasonable expansion or building vertically, within their zoning.
Regardless if people feel they own the air above their property or not, there is an expectation of privacy when owning a home or land, and the FAA agrees with this.
Because of this, in the United States, some states allow drone flights over people’s homes and properties, whereas this is prohibited in other States and Cities.
In States where flying over homes and property is permissible, this can only be done if not hovering or taking photos and videos, or hovering while taking photos or videos, simultaneously.
If flying over a home is allowed in your state, it is advised to do so quickly if you intend to fly to another location within the same area.
Can you fly the Air 3 in controlled airspace?
Yes. Coming directly from the FAA “For flights near airports in controlled airspace, drone operators must receive an airspace authorization prior to operation…”
Whether Part 107/Commercial or just simply flying recreationally as a hobbyist, you can fly in controlled airspace with your Air 3.
To fly legally in controlled airspace, using your smartphone or home computer, you will need to request LAANC authorization.
After this has been granted automatically through the service, the request auto-approval will be sent to you either via text or email, and then you can fly within the height restrictions of that authorized area’s height grid.