The personal drone industry has seen an incredible influx of interest over the last decade.
Thousands of new drones make their maiden flights each day, and the number of active pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is increasing at a drastic rate.
While this is all good news for drone manufacturers, drone retailers, children (and adults) who have an interest in mechanics and/or aviation, and industries that can use drones to their financial and tactical advantage, the prevalence of drones darting through the sky (often in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas that are understandably sensitive to such devices) does raise a few important questions.
In this article, we’ll discuss the issue of needing a drone license for piloting a drone.
There is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this query, as regulations and requirements differ depending on the location in which the drone is being flown, and the purpose of the flight.
In the following paragraphs we’ll discuss drone pilot licensing requirements for flying a drone recreationally as well as commercially, and we’ll also delve into the topic of obtaining a remote pilot’s license (should the need arise).
Flying a Drone Recreationally
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided clear guidelines regarding pilot drone license requirements for flying drones recreationally. If you fly your drone indoors, you don’t need a remote pilot’s license and you may not even need to register your drone with the FAA.
If you fly your drone outdoors for recreational purposes then you will need to register the device if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds. At this point you have two options for flying your drone recreationally. According to the FAA, you do NOT need to obtain a remote pilot license under the following conditions:
- You are flying the drone purely as a hobby and for solely recreational reasons.
- You follow the guidelines set forth by your local community.
- You keep your drone within a visual line-of-sight.
- Yield to any and all manned aircraft.
- Remain at least five miles away from airports and air traffic control towers.
- Your drone must not weigh more than 55 pounds.
You can also fly your drone for recreational purposes if you or someone monitoring you has a valid remote pilot license. The restrictions for such recreational flights are as follows, according to the FAA website:
- You must register your aircraft as a non-model, unmanned aerial vehicle.
- You must adhere to the FAA’s Small UAS Rule, Part 107.
- It is an absolute requirement that if you operate your drone under this second set of rules that either you or someone supervising you has a valid remote pilot’s license.
Long story short, if you plan to fly your drone in a field, park, or other area where there manned aircraft aren’t constantly passing through and there is no immediate threat to power lines or people then you do not need a remote pilot’s license, although you will likely need to register your drone and ensure that you are only using the device as a hobby.
Drone License for Flying a Drone Commercially
As with most things in the United States and many other countries, flying a drone as a way to make money means you have to cut your way through a lot of red tape that wouldn’t otherwise exist if you were doing the exact same activity simply for fun.
First, you must register your commercial drone and obtain an airworthiness certificate for the drone. This is mainly required for insurance purposes. You must also follow all federal, state and local laws regarding UAV operation, including details such as:
- Recording capabilities
- Distance from schools, banks, federal buildings, etc.
- Obtaining a remote pilot certificate
In order to operate a drone for any business purposes (to make money) in the United States you will need a license.
This is called a Remote Pilot Certificate.
The Prep Course by Drone Launch Academy is comprehensive and fairly priced.
They’re so confidentthey’ll give your money back as well as the $150 test fee if you should fail.
If you or your drone are coming from another country then you must apply for a waiver exemption to conduct your drone in a commercial manner.
The FAA does not recognize international drone pilot certificates and you could easily find yourself and your company in hot water by ignoring this law.
Commercial drone operation is becoming a big business in the United States, which means regulators are tightening up when it comes to making sure drone operators are adhering to all applicable laws and standards.
Commercial drones are often used by construction companies, media companies, government surveyors and professional video makers, and whether you are the proprietor of such a company or using a contractor who operates a drone it is in your best interests to make sure all of the FAA’s guidelines and rules are being followed – no exceptions.
Drone License for Flying a Drone in Special Circumstances
There are many special circumstances in which some drone pilots may be eligible to receive a special exemption for flying a drone in an area or at a time when it would otherwise be prohibited. Due to the need for brevity we won’t discuss each specific circumstance in this article. However, if you believe you may qualify for an exemption then you should visit www.FAA.gov and do some research on a “Section 333 Exemption” to determine if you can legally operate a drone under this clause.
How to Obtain a Remote Pilot’s License
If you need a remote pilot license now, or if you think you might need one in the future, the good news is that the process is relatively affordable and hassle-free.
There are a couple of requirements for being able to get a commercial drone pilot license.
1. You have to be at least 16 years of age.
2. You have to be able to pass the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
3. 48 hours after passing the test you may apply online with FAA for your Drone Pilot License (called Remote Pilot Certificate)
4. The Transportation Security Administration will run a background check on you that you have to pass. This is done automatically when you apply for the Remote Pilot Certificate.
It is very much worthwhile to look into paid courses for the FAA part 107 Aeronautical test. There are lots of small steps you have to go through to get your certificate, and taking a course will guide you through everything you need to know and do. It is a huge time saver.
It will also be cheaper in the long run to follow a comprehensive paid course than to take the test several times and failing. Plus you may lose money from not being able to fly.
Our favorite option is the Drone Launch Academy. It is a great course and if you fail the test you will get your money back along with the$150 test fee! Check out some samples of the course at their site.
Drone Pilot Ground School is also a great option, and they will both refund the money you paid for the course and give you your $150 test fee back if you don’t make the test on the first try. You also get lifetime access to all the content, which is useful since you need to do an update test after 24 months.
It has a higher price point, but they have trained over 18 000 students, and also have bonus lessons in topics like airspace research, flight operations management, drone insurance, getting a night-time operations waiver, pricing and packaging, and real estate marketing.
You can use the code DRONEGURU50, to get $50 off the course!
According to the FAA’s website relevant study materials are available online by going to:
The team at DroneGuru also put together a FAA Part 107 Study Guide to help you get prepared for the test.
The aforementioned links will provide you with a lot of the information you need to become qualified as a drone pilot, and you can even review sample test questions via these links.
Keep in mind that for some reason the FAA online course was created with the assumption that you already have a Part 61 pilot certificate, so you will need more info than that to be able to prepare for the test.
To take the test you’ll need to find an accredited knowledge testing center in your area. Visit https://faa.psiexams.com/faa/login or call (800) 947-4228 or (800) 211-2754 to find a knowledge testing center nearby. The cost of the test is approximately $150 and you’ll need to bring a valid form of U.S. government identification (state I.D., driver’s license, military identification card, residency card, passport, etc.) that show your photo, date of birth, current physical address, and signature.
If you fail the test, you can try again in 14 days. If you pass, however, then you’ll need to complete the FAA Airman Certificate and the Rating Application.
Applications are usually validated within 10 days, at which point you can print out your temporary remote pilot license. This temporary drone license is valid for up to 120 days, by which point the FAA will have mailed you your permanent Remote Pilot Certificate.
Obligations After You Get Your Drone License
There are some things you are required to do after you got your Remote Drone Pilot Certification.
Every other year you need to pass an aeronautical knowledge test to make sure that your knowledge is up to date. You can read more about this on FAA’s site here.
If you have an accident that causes injury or more than $500 worth of damage, this must be reported to the FAA. You must make this report within 10 days.
Keep your documentation available on request to the FAA, this goes for your drone as well. They may want to inspect it.
Always do a preflight inspection to make sure that you can fly safe.
Also remember to check out this very thorough article by Sydney on how to get a commercial drone license. A comprehensive step-by-step guide with up to date information.
- Recent Posts
Stewart Lawson was born and raised in South Carolina, and attended the College of Charleston. A drone enthusiast that has written thousands of articles, blogs, news updates, press releases, tutorials and special reports for dozens of clients. Stewart currently resides in Puerto Rico.
Latest posts by Stewart Lawson (see all)
- Do I Need a Drone License to Fly a Drone? [Read Before You Fly] - July 1, 2017
- Best Fishing Drones – A Beginners Guide to Drone Fishing - June 3, 2017
- Important Drone Restrictions [Avoid Getting in Trouble] - May 22, 2017
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Will the FAA know if I fly my drone? ›
Remote ID helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly.Can I fly a DJI mini without a license? ›
The Autel Nano and DJI Mini series have a 249g takeoff weight, so they're exempted. You'll still need to obey the rules of the air, and you'll still need a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certification(Opens in a new window) to fly a lightweight drone for commercial purposes.What do you need to pass the FAA drone test? ›
You want to study as many questions as possible because you will have 120 minutes to complete the test. The minimum passing score is 70% which is a maximum of 18 questions wrong or a minimum of 42 questions right.Do I need a FAA license to fly a DJI drone? ›
The Federal Aviation Administration now requires every small UAS operator to register before flight. The DJI Mavic Pro Drone unmanned aircraft system (UAS), is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard, controlled from an operator on the ground, and is required to be registered with the FAA.Will a drone fly without being registered? ›
All drones must be registered, except those that weigh 0.55 pounds or less (less than 250 grams) and are flown exclusively under the Exception for Recreational Flyers. Drones registered under part 107 may be flown for recreational purposes as well as under part 107.How high can you fly a drone without FAA approval? ›
In general, you can only fly your drone in uncontrolled airspace below 400 feet above the ground ( AGL ). Commercial drone operators are required to get permission from the FAA before flying in controlled airspace.What drones do not require a license? ›
All drones that weigh more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) must be registered with the FAA before they are flown. Drones that weigh less than this can be flown without registration, but you must follow the other rules and regulations set forth by the FAA.What is the best drone without FAA registration? ›
DJI Mini 2 SE
It sports a stabilized 2.7K video camera that also snaps 12MP photos, as well as includes GPS and Find My Drone functions. Its 249g takeoff weight means you can fly it without dealing with FAA registration—you just need to pass an online knowledge test.
Both the Mini 2 and its predecessor, the Mavic Mini, can hover precisely indoors and outdoors thanks to a downward vision sensor and GPS functionality.How many people fail the drone test? ›
The FAA Part 107 test has a fairly high pass rate – 92% per the most recent statistics in 2018. Most pilots who do fail only do so by a few questions.
How hard is the drone certification test? ›
The drone license test is a bit harder than the driver's test. Everyone drives a car. But the Part 107 certification process isn't overwhelming by any means. Even people who haven't picked up a book in years can easily pass.How much is the FAA drone test? ›
There is a $175 testing fee for the FAA drone license exam, which can be paid directly to the testing center where you schedule your exam. Individuals are also required to register their drones, which cost five dollars for three years.Can I fly a DJI Mavic 3 without a license? ›
However, one important question that many potential buyers have is whether a license is required to operate the DJI Mavic 3. According to DJI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the answer is yes.How high can I legally fly my DJI mini 2? ›
The DJI Mini 2's Maximum Service Ceiling Above Sea Level is at 4000 m. Just a friendly reminder to always please check local rules and regulations before use, as they may change over time.Is it worth getting a drone license? ›
Having a license allows you to legally profit from flying a drone. If you're considering getting a drone license just as a backup plan, or to get a few of those perks of being a drone pilot, like being able to apply for waivers to fly in restricted airspaces, it may end up being a waste of time and money.What are the new drone rules for 2023? ›
Starting September 16, 2023, all drone pilots in the U.S. will be required to operate their drone in accordance with the Remote ID rule. If you are required to register your drone, then this rule applies to you. This includes drone pilots who fly for fun or for business or for public safety.What are the new drone laws for 2023? ›
All drone operators required to register their UAS must operate their aircraft in accordance with the final rule on remote ID beginning September 16, 2023, which gives drone owners sufficient time to upgrade their aircraft.What happens if I fly my drone over 400 feet? ›
When you fly a drone above 400 feet, you risk a dangerous in-flight collision that can damage equipment and lead to unwanted consequences. Most near-miss events between aircraft occur above 400 feet. You may risk losing your drone at great heights.Can a drone fly at 40000 feet? ›
In general, military drones fly at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet, although some drones may have lower ceiling limits.Can I fly my drone around my neighborhood? ›
The FAA requires that all drones must operate within line-of-sight, which means that the pilot must be able to see the aircraft at all times. A drone can be flown anywhere where it is safe to do so, including residential neighborhoods.
What is the largest drone you can buy without a license? ›
According to the FAA Small Drone Rule Part 107, for drones weighing more than 250 grams, you need a license or permit, even if your drone is just for fun.How much does a drone cost? ›
The average price of a drone can range from $50 to $10,000. Beginner toy drones range from $30 to $90, while entry-level camera drones range from $299 to $499. Mid-level consumer drones are expected to range between $600 and $1,000. High-end professional drones are priced at $3,000 and above.Does Mavic Air 2 require a drone license? ›
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires every DJI Mavic Air operator to register before flying. Aircraft weighing over . 55 lbs (250 grams or just over 2 sticks of butter) must have a compliant label for identification and carry a Certificate of Registration.How do I get FAA authorization for drones? ›
- Register your drone.
- Take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST).
- Apply on the date you wish to fly (requests may be submitted up to 90 days in advance of your planned flight).
- Select the exact time, altitude and location where you wish to fly.
TRUST provides education and testing on important safety and regulatory information. If you fly your drone recreationally under the Exception for Recreational Flyers, you must pass the test before you fly.What are 3 limitations for flying a drone under a FAA 107 license without an additional waiver? ›
Over 100 miles per hour groundspeed. Over 400 feet above ground level ( AGL ) With less than 3 statute miles of visibility. Within 500 feet vertically or 2000 feet horizontally from clouds.Can drones fly without GPS? ›
Most modern drones rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS) to navigate and hover in place. While GPS drones are safe, accurate, and reliable, they do not perform well for indoor drone applications. As drone adoption grows for professional uses, the demand for drones that can fly without GPS will continue to grow.Can I take my DJI drone through airport security? ›
Drones are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline prior to traveling for their policy. Drones containing lithium batteries, fuel cells, and components of certain parachute systems may be prohibited in baggage. For more information, see the FAA regulations.What is the speed limit for US drones? ›
The maximum speed is 100 mph (87 knots). You can't fly a small UAS over anyone who is not directly participating in the operation, not under a covered structure, or not inside a covered stationary vehicle.Can pilots detect drones? ›
RF drone detection uses radio frequency (RF) sensors that passively listen and monitor 70 MHz to 6 GHz frequencies for transmissions of the communication link between the drone and the pilot(receiver) to determine the location of the drone and in some cases, the pilot's location.
Is drone pilot school hard? ›
It is not hard to become a drone pilot.
This includes the two to three weeks that most people spend studying for the exam, taking and passing the exam, and completing the application to receive your license. Passing the FAA (Part 107) exams is not difficult as long as you have studied and are adequately prepared.
The FAA recommends dedicating at least two weeks to study for the knowledge test.How long does the drone exam take? ›
What's on the FAA drone certification test? The FAA test has 60-multiple choice questions. You have 2 hours to take the test, and you must get a 70% or higher to pass.How long does FAA drone certification take? ›
It typically takes 6-10 weeks from the date the temporary certificate was issued to process the permanent certificate. If it has been more than eight (8) weeks since you received your temporary certificate, contact the Airmen Certification Branch for assistance.How much does drone pilot school cost? ›
The cost to attend Drone Pilot Ground School ranges from $150 to $400 depending on the qualification, with a median cost of $299.How do I study for the FAA knowledge test? ›
We recommend taking practice tests repeatedly. If you can take three practice tests consecutively and score over 85%, you're probably ready. To help you find these practice tests we've compiled a list of resources that you can utilize. You can also check out our article on study tips for the FAA written test.Is it worth getting a Part 107 license? ›
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has the authority to issue you a fine if you are flying under Part 107 rules without being licensed. Although enforcement actions from the FAA are rare, having a Part 107 could be important from a legal and liability perspective if anything goes wrong during a flight.Does the FAA know when I fly my drone? ›
Remote ID helps the FAA, law enforcement, and other federal agencies find the control station when a drone appears to be flying in an unsafe manner or where it is not allowed to fly.Do you need permission to fly DJI mini? ›
DJI Mavic Mini Drone Registration
The DJI Mavic Mini Drone unmanned aircraft system (UAS), is an aircraft without a human pilot onboard, controlled from an operator on the ground, and is required to be registered with the FAA.
All drones must be registered, except those that weigh 0.55 pounds or less (less than 250 grams) and are flown exclusively under the Exception for Recreational Flyers.
Can the DJI Mini 2 fly over 400 feet? ›
Recreational drone pilots are not allowed to fly 400 feet over a structure. Nor does the FAA offer a waiver process for hobbyists to fly above 400 feet AGL or higher than what the grid numbers allow for in controlled airspace.How high can a DJI 2s fly? ›
Download DJI Assistant 2 (Consumer Drones Series) at http://www.dji.com/air-2s/downloads. * For increased safety, flight is restricted to a height of 98.4 ft (30 m) and range of 164 ft (50 m) when not connected or logged into the app during flight.How do I get permission to fly DJI? ›
Use either the phone number or credit card number associated with your DJI account to verify your identity (if you use your phone number you'll have to enter an authentication number received via text, so make sure to have your phone nearby). Click “Confirm” to unlock the Self Unlock zone where you want to fly.Can you use a drone you found? ›
If you find a lost drone, make every effort to return the drone to its owner. Check if it has an FAA number that you can use to trace its owner. If the drone is still powered up, use the drone camera to communicate with the owner. Some drones also have QR codes that can help guide you to the owner.How do I become a DJI drone tester? ›
- You can provide a creative, professional, and unique review of the product.
- You receive over 100 clicks in total for your promotional links (links from DJI Affiliate Program).
- You love gadgets and have experience creating content.
Yes, radar can detect all types of drones regardless of whether it uses RF communication, GPS preprogramming or Wifi/Cellular communication. The only limit to radar detection is the size of the drone.Can you be tracked flying a drone? ›
Some types of drone tracking technology include Remote ID and thermal imaging. Radar detection, acoustic detection and radio frequency detection can also be used to track drones.Can a drone be traced back to you? ›
Drones operating on RF communication can be tracked using RF sensors, while others that are GPS Pre-Programmed to a way point can be tracked using Radar detection. Visual detection technology like Pan, Tilt and Zoom (PTZ) Cameras can be used to get visuals on the detected drone, and confirm a drone threat.Does TSA allow drones? ›
Drones are allowed through the checkpoint. Please check with your airline prior to traveling for their policy. Drones containing lithium batteries, fuel cells, and components of certain parachute systems may be prohibited in baggage.What if my drone does not have Remote ID? ›
Using a Remote ID Broadcast Module: if your drone does not have internal Remote ID, a piece of hardware called a broadcast module can be affixed to the aircraft. Since they're not integrated with the drone, you are limited to line-of-sight flying.
What's the highest a drone can fly? ›
The highest a drone has ever flown is 70,748 feetabove ground level (21,562 meters) by the Zephyr, a solar-powered fixed wing developed by Airbus Defense and Space.What is the 500ft rule in aviation? ›
Except with the written permission of the CAA, an aircraft shall not be flown closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle or structure.What is the FAA speed limit below 10000 feet? ›
§ 91.117 Aircraft speed.
(a) Unless otherwise authorized by the Administrator, no person may operate an aircraft below 10,000 feet MSL at an indicated airspeed of more than 250 knots (288 m.p.h.).
A high-end consumer drone can have a range of roughly 2.5 to 4.5 miles (4 to 8 kilometers), whereas a toy drone may only have a range of 20 to 100 yards. A common range for mid-level consumer drones is between 400 meters to three kilometers, or 0.25 to 1.5 miles.Is it illegal to fly drones around someone's house? ›
Criminal Trespassing on Private Property
Or if you're a real estate agent using a drone to take aerial shots of a property, you could also be subject to trespassing laws if your drone flies near or over adjoining property. Several states have enacted laws specifically addressing trespass by drone use.
While drone pilots are supposed to stay in direct line of sight of their drones, modern camera drones make it possible to pilot without direct visual contact.What to do if a drone is watching you? ›
If you witness a drone not following FAA rules, you may reach out to your local FAA flight standards district office. The FAA's investigators may be able to investigate your report and follow up with the drone operator.Do drone cameras follow you? ›
What is a follow me drone? Quite simply, a follow me drone is one that follows you or a subject of your choosing autonomously. Not only does this make for a much easier piloting, photographing and videoing experience, but it also makes for more natural shots – especially if you want or need to be in them.How do you stop police drones from spying on you? ›
Lasers: The digital cameras you find on drones use light sensors to take in visual information. It's possible to blind these sensors by exposing them to too much light—such as a laser pointer—disabling the drone's camera and preventing it from watching and recording you.