Logan Campbell - Logan@Aerotas.com
With today's release of their new drone rules, the FAA has now opened up commercial drone operations to anyone, not just people with a 333 exemption. However, in order to operate legally, you need to pass an aeronautical knowledge test with the FAA. I took and passed the test today, and am happy to report back on what we learned as we integrate them into our training materials. The test requires knowledge in a lot of traditional aviation terminology, so it does require studying. There is also a lot of information that most drone pilots will never need to otherwise know. However, the test is entirely doable and will definitely help enable thousands of new, legal, drone pilots in the next few months.
What the new commercial drone test involves
The test involves 60 multiple choice questions, covers 12 topics laid out by the part 107 law, and requires a score of 70% to pass. It covers everything from knowledge of the new laws, to the physics of weather, to the physiological effects of stress on a pilot’s performance. However, a majority of the test is focused on understanding the existing airspace, along with being able to read traditional aviation charts. There is a two-hour time limit, but this should be more than enough for most people. The exam itself is offered by PSI, and scheduling one is as easy as calling them and paying the somewhat high $150 fee.
To pass the FAA drone test, know what to study
The biggest takeaway from the exam is that it is very detailed. It requires being able to read the finest details of aeronautical charts. Thankfully, this means the test is more about knowing how to read charts, rather than just requiring rote memorization. Some topics, such as reading aviation forecasts, do require some memorization. Ultimately, this is not an exam that you can pass by relying only on good judgment; it requires knowing the right specific topics to study.
On the whole, we congratulate the FAA on Part 107 and this test. However, there is a great deal of information that is on the test that very few small UAV pilots will ever need to know. For example, the process by which thunderstorms form and dissipate, while very important for manned aircraft, is of little use for a 3-pound drone flying for 20 minutes within line of sight. This is but one example of the dozens of topics that are irrelevant for organizations flying drones for surveying or mapping purposes. Hopefully, this is a signal that the small UAV pilot license may someday allow you to fly higher and further than before.
A step in the right direction
Overall, this test is just another step in the right direction by the FAA, helping to create a safe, responsible, and business-friendly airspace for everyone. While this test is feasible for anyone to pass, doing so will require studying, even topics that aren’t relevant to small UAV pilots. If you are interested in learning more, or want to get pilots in your business certified to fly drones, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.