When Does Your Part 107 License Expire?
For most drone pilots, the Part 107 license is one of their most coveted pieces of paper. The license grants the holder the legal privilege to earn money or aid a business using drone flight. If you hold this license, you also get to join a highly specialized industry that is only on the verge of breaking out.
Holding a Part 107 license does have its responsibilities, as well. This includes the need to renew the license periodically. When exactly does your Part 107 license expire and how can you check for this info? What should you do before the validity of your license expires?
Does the license actually expire?
Any person who has received a certification from the FAA probably already knows this, but an FAA certification doesn’t actually have an expiration date. If you’re holding your Part 107 remote pilot certificate right now, then you can check to see that there’s no expiration date written anywhere on it. Yes, the Part 107 drone license is a life-long certification unless it is revoked by the FAA.
However, your privileges to commercially operate are only valid within 24 months after taking the Part 107 knowledge test. To retain your privileges beyond this prescribed period, you will have to take and pass a recurrent knowledge test.
To be more precise, the Part 107 privileges expire at the end of the month two years after you have taken the knowledge test. In most cases, this means that your privileges remain valid for a few extra days beyond the 24-month period.
How to check for the validity of your Part 107 license
If you’re interested in the status of the validity of your license, the bad news is that there’s no single source that will say that it’s already expired. Even if you logged in into your IACRA account, there would be no indication of when you should take the recurrent knowledge test.
What you can use as a reference instead is the date of issuance indicated in your drone license. This should reflect, more or less, the date when you took the Part 107 knowledge test. The license is valid at the end of the month two years after this date of issuance.
For instance, a drone pilot who passed the Part 107 knowledge test on October 10, 2018 has until October 31, 2020 to continue practicing their licensed drone pilot privileges.
The lack of any way to check the current status of a Part 107 certification is problematic not just for commercial drone pilots, but also for potential clients. Although the FAA does maintain a publicly accessible database of all certified airmen, the database makes no indication of the status of the validity of the certifications.
What to do before your license expires
To be able to continue operating your drone commercially, it is recommended to take the recurrent knowledge test before your current drone license expires. There’s no rule on how soon you should take the recurrent test, but the renewed privileges will only be granted for a two-year period following the date when you took the test.
The good news is that signing up and taking the recurrent knowledge test is practically the same experience as when you first applied for Part 107 certification. Just get in touch with a testing center near you, pay the testing fee, and select an appointment schedule. The recurrent knowledge test is a slightly shorter version of the original certification test so you should have no problems passing it with a little preparation. You will need a score of at least 70% to pass.
What happens if the validity period lapses?
It’s not uncommon for drone pilots to have the validity of their certifications lapse, especially if they don’t fly commercially all that often. Should this be the case, here are the steps to take:
Stop flying your drone commercially
The first thing to do when you find out that your license has lapsed is to stop doing commercial operations immediately. The FAA currently provides no grace period on the validity of the Part 107 drone license. Once the date has passed, that’s it – you no longer have the privilege.
Ignoring this rule means that you can get fined or penalized by the FAA. In extreme cases, the FAA even has the right to permanently revoke your drone license.
Take the recurrent knowledge test
Fortunately, there’s really no penalty when it comes to taking the recurrent knowledge test, even if you let your license expire. As long as you have received the certification in the past, you will only need to take the recurrent knowledge test to renew your privileges. Don’t believe anyone who tries to tell you otherwise.
Will you be given a new license upon renewal?
As mentioned, your Part 107 drone license does not actually expire. Thus, no new license will be given after you have passed the recurrent knowledge test. You will also not need to update or check anything in the IACRA – it hardly gets updated, anyway.
Instead, you will be provided with a document that summarizes your test report and states the new expiration date for the currency of your certification. This is the only proof you need that you are current. Make sure to keep this document with you when you fly commercially, as well as your original remote pilot certificate.
Just like any certification granted by the FAA, the Part 107 remote pilot certificate or drone license has life-long validity. However, it is still the responsibility of the commercial drone pilot to keep current by taking the recurrent knowledge test after the prescribed period.
The recurrent knowledge test is a good mechanism for the FAA to update or refresh the knowledge base for licensed drone pilots. After all, the drone industry is still rapidly changing and evolving. If you’re a drone pilot who practices commercial operations regularly, then it would be a good idea to plan way ahead of time when and how you can keep your drone license current.