As many of you know, the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS’s) or “drones” in the U.S. has skyrocketed(pun intended) in the past few years. The technology is so attainable now that you can buy a low-level quadcopter for about $50 at a toy store (which is crazy). The industry grew so fast that the Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) didn’t have time to put together solid rules and guidelines for remote pilots, and what regulations there were left many grey areas, especially when it came to flying for commercial purposes. This all changed at the end of last month.
As of August 29, 2016 anyone flying a UAS for commercial purposes is required to take the Airman Knowledge Test. The test contains 60 multiple choice questions that will test your knowledge of the new UAS Rule 107. Upon passing this test you may apply for a Remote Pilot Certificate with the FAA. Hobbyists and recreational users do not need to take the test. They do, however, need to register their drone online through the FAA website.
For those looking to take their UAG and fly commercially, you’ll want to hit the books. This isn’t like studying for your learner’s permit at the DMV. You will need to understand some concepts that you don’t encounter often as a land-dweller. For instance you’ll need to understand how to read an aviation chart. You’ll need to know what class airspace you’re in and what that requires you to do before you fly. Do you know how load, weather and air density affect your aircraft? You better!
To prepare for the test you’ll want to look over a few things very closely. Firstly, the FAA provides a study guide, which you should basically look at as just that; “A Guide”. It essentially points you toward important general concepts, expecting you to take the lead on UNDERSTANDING them. It does NOT have an answer key. The FAA’s website contains the guide, as well as UAS Rule 107 itself, and other sources of aeronautical knowledge.
Even if you can answer every question on the guide it does not guarantee a passing grade. Let your curiosity push you further in your readings of the material and try to come away with a bigger understanding. As far as study aids go, aviator and educator Sarah Nilsson, JD, PhD, MAS did all of us a huge favor on this second link. She pretty much takes the FAA study guide’s questions and nests them within the relevant articles and materials. This will save you a lot of time and make your study flow nice and linear. She even adds some extra videos and study aids from other sources across the internet, so let’s all thank Sarah for taking the time to help us pass this test.
Oh, and by the way, I passed the test, in case I hadn’t mentioned that.