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How to Become a Professional Drone Pilot

Male commercial drone pilot wearing a safety vest and hard hat operating a drone at a construction site.

This site was written to guide people who have no prior aviation experience through the process of earning an FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate with a Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rating.

The FAA Part 107 certificate is commonly known as a "commercial drone pilot license," and possessing that certificate mandatory for individuals who wish to become professional drone pilots (actually, to fly drones for any reason other than strictly recreational) in the United States.

I'm a semi-retired IT geek and Web developer with an aviation background dating back to 1976. I have a lot of experience with the FAA and aviation in general, which made it easier for me to earn my Part 107 certificate.

For people without aviation experience, however, the path to becoming a licensed drone pilot can be bewildering. Even hobbyist drone pilots who already know how to fly a drone often find the Part 107 certification process confusing.

This site exists to help guide new drone pilots and recreational drone pilots through the path to becoming professionals who can legally fly drones for money.

How to Earn a Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate

There are two paths to becoming certified as a Remote Pilot, which is the proper terminology for what most people call "getting a drone pilot's license."

Part 107 Certification Process for Current Part 61 Pilots

If you already possess a Part 61 pilot certificate (other than a Student Pilot certificate) and have completed a flight review within the past 24 months, then you can earn a Part 107 certificate by logging into your existing FAA Safety Team account and completing the FAA's online "Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems ALC-451" course.

You do not have to sit for the Part 107 knowledge test if you possess a Part 61 Pilot certificate as a Sport Pilot, Recreational Pilot, Private Pilot, Commercial Pilot, or Airline Transport Pilot and have completed a flight review in the past 24 calendar months. This is true regardless of your specific ratings (or privileges in the case of Sport Pilots).

Please note that a TRUST certificate for recreational drone pilots is not a Part 61 pilot certificate. If you have a TRUST card, you still have to go through the whole process described below to earn your Part 107 license.

Part 107 Certification Process for New Pilots or Part 61 Pilots Who are Not Current

If you are a newcomer to aviation, or if you possess a Part 61 pilot certificate but have not completed a flight review within the past two years, then the process of earning a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate is more involved. Part 61 pilots who are not current are treated as newcomers when seeking Part 107 certification and do have to sit for and pass the Part 107 knowledge test.

The basic steps for newcomers to aviation to earn a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate are:

Link to Pilot Institute Part 107 Commercial Drone Pilot course
  1. Be at least 16 years of age. You can take the Part 107 knowledge test at age 14, but you can't receive your certificate until you are 16.
  2. Create an FAA IACRA Account if you don't already have one. You can do that for free at the FAA's Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application page. If you already have an IACRA account because you possess any kind of FAA certificate, regardless of what kind of certificate it is, then use your existing IACRA account.
  3. Prepare for the FAA knowledge test. You can prepare in any way you choose; but if you're new to aviation, I suggest you consider enrolling in a Part 107 training course to improve your chances of passing the FAA knowledge test.
  4. Register and pay for the knowledge test. Note that there are no refunds if you fail, so make sure you're ready before scheduling the exam.
  5. Sit for and pass the knowledge test at an authorized testing center.
  6. Once you have passed the knowledge test and received your results, sign into your IACRA account again to apply for the certificate.

Once you apply for the certificate, the FAA will forward your application to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for a security risk assessment, commonly known as the "TSA background check". Assuming that TSA has no problem with your application, you will receive an email and a link to a downloadable, printable temporary certificate a week or so after submitting your application. Your permanent certificate will arrive in the mail some time later. That time can range from a few days to a few months.

That's the basic sequence you'll have to follow to become certificated. Here are the links for pages on this site that explain each step in more detail:

If you have any suggestions for additional pages, you can send me an email at my contact page.

I hope this site is useful to you and provides information and resources that simplify your path to becoming a professional drone pilot. If you have any comments or suggestions, or if you want to share your success story, please contact me using this contact form.

Revised March 3, 2023.

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