From setting an appointment to receiving your temporary license, you can expect to spend between 21 to 33 days on the Part 107 certification process. A significant portion of this period will be spent on preparing for the Part 107 knowledge test. The FAA estimates 20 hours of studying. Using well-prepared and streamlined study materials can be a massive help if you want the process to be done quicker.
Since 2016, the FAA has required all drone pilots who wish to operate drones for commercial reasons to secure a Part 107 remote pilot certificate or “drone license.” If this is something you wish to earn, how much time should you set aside?
This information can help you plan and prepare if you’re starting a career as a commercial drone pilot. Let’s break down the process step by step so that you will know what you’re getting into.
Setting an appointment
The first step of the process is to get an FAA Tracking Number (if you don’t have one yet) through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) website. This will serve as your identification number in the FAA system and will be permanently associated with you throughout your career in aviation.
You will then set a time and date when you will be taking the Part 107 knowledge test. This is done through the PSI website. As long as you have the FTN, comply with all requirements, and pay the testing fee, you should not have any problems with this step. The fact that PSI has more than 700 testing centers nationwide also means that there is likely one near you.
The whole appointment process can be done online and only takes a few minutes. Technically, you can set an appointment and take your test the next day. However, you need to set aside the time to prepare for the knowledge test unless you’re already an experienced aviation professional.
Studying for the knowledge test
The Part 107 knowledge test covers a broad spectrum of aviation-related topics that you likely are not familiar with unless you already have a career in aviation. With recent Part 107 changes, the knowledge test has even been revised to include topics on night operations.
This only underlines the importance of setting aside ample time to prepare for the Part 107 knowledge test. Take note that the $175 testing fee is non-refundable. If you fail, then you would have to spend the same amount to take the test again.
The FAA recommends dedicating at least two weeks to study for the knowledge test. This is a reasonable length of time that has worked well for many people who have taken the test and passed.
Aside from your commitment, two crucial elements to getting prepared on time are a study plan and high-quality study materials. This Part 107 14-Day Challenge outlines a day-to-day plan that will have you ready for the test in just two weeks.
All the study materials needed for the challenge can be downloaded for free. All it takes to succeed with the plan is that you set aside 60 to 75 minutes per day to watch the videos and read the study materials on the daily topics. On the 14th day, you can test your newly discovered knowledge with a practice exam.
We find that the best learning method is to use just one set of study materials, provided that it was prepared by experts in the field. The 14-day challenge gives you a set of references that you can store on any device and access at your leisure.
Take note that this is a challenge, not a shortcut. You can achieve the required level of proficiency to pass the Part 107 knowledge test within 14 days, but only if you are truly committed to the process.
Taking the test
On the day of your test appointment, just show up in the designated testing center along with the basic requirements. The knowledge test consists of 60 multiple choice items that are randomly picked from a large pool of questions. You will be given 2 hours to finish the test.
Waiting for the results
According to the FAA, the prescribed waiting time for the results of the knowledge test to be released is within 48 to 72 hours. However, there have been a few cases where the test results were already available by the 24-hour mark.
In any case, the test results will be uploaded to the FAA website. The corresponding Airman Knowledge Testing Report (AKTR) should indicate your FAA Tracking Number and remark if you passed or failed.
Filing an application for the certificate
With the AKTR in hand, you can now proceed to file an application for a Part 107 remote pilot certificate through the IACRA website. This is a straightforward process that only requires that you provide some personal information, as well as a mailing address to receive the license card.
Going through a TSA background check
The last major hurdle before you can be granted a drone license is a background check that will be done by the TSA. How long this takes has varied widely based on the experience of several drone pilots. For some people, the background check only took two days. For others, the waiting time was closer to two weeks. This likely depends on how much backlog the FAA and the TSA have on pending airman applications.
There is no rigid set of standards that have been released as the basis of whether a drone pilot will fail the TSA background check. The TSA only states that the same standards used for airmen will also apply to Part 107 drone pilots.
We can assume that certain criminal offenses, such as treason or espionage, can be enough grounds for an application to be rejected. A person that is wanted or under indictment may also be disqualified from applying for a remote pilot certificate until such indictment or warrant is dismissed.
Waiting for the permanent license
Once you have cleared the TSA background check, you will be granted a temporary Part 107 license. The digital copy of this license will be sent by email. Just print a copy of this temporary license and bring it with you whenever you conduct commercial drone operations.
The temporary certificate is valid for 120 days. Within this period, you should receive the permanent license card by mail. It typically does not take more than a month.
If you play your cards and are extremely lucky, you can set an appointment to take the Part 107 knowledge test today and receive a temporary certificate in less than 25 days. Compared to four or five years ago, the entire process of getting a drone license has become significantly more efficient.
A huge part of this process is preparing for the knowledge test. There are lots of ways to study for the test, but we find that it is most efficient to stick to a single set of study materials. We recommend checking out our 14-Day Challenge to prepare for the Part 107 certification – it’s lean, comprehensive, and can be done using free resources.