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How to Prepare For and Pass the FAA Part 107 Test

Pile of books supermiposed on an FAA sectional chart that drone pilots need to understand to pass their FAA Part 107 licensing tests.

Questions about the best ways to study for the FAA Part 107 Knowledge Test come up very frequently on Reddit's r/drones and r/Part107 subreddits, as well as other online forums for aspiring commercial drone pilots. There's a good reason for that.

In the United States, people who fly drones for non-recreational purposes (which by definition includes making money flying a drone, whether directly or indirectly) are required to pass an Aeronautical Knowledge Test and obtain a Remote Pilot certificate with a Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems rating from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Commercial drone pilots often refer to holding a Remote Pilot certificate as being "Part 107 certified" or "having my Part 107." The "107" refers to the part of the Federal Aviation Regulations, 14 CFR Part 107, that regulates Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) and their operation.

A Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate with an sUAS rating allows the holder to legally fly drones with takeoff weights up to (but not including) 55 pounds, for any lawful purpose, including commercially. That's why it's often referred to as a "Commercial Drone Pilot License." The law, however, requires that you possess a Remote Pilot certificate if you fly drones for any reason other than the sheer joy of flying a drone, even if no money changes hands.

How Hard is the Part 107 Knowledge Test?

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A drone weighing just under 55 pounds has the potential to cause a lot of damage to other aircraft and to people on the ground, and the difficulty of Part 107 test reflects that.

In fact, the sections of the test dealing with airspace, charts, weather, and weather services are very similar to the corresponding sections of the tests that manned aircraft pilots have to pass. You can take a look at these Part 107 sample exam questions to get an idea of what kind of questions will be asked. (The actual FAA exam has 60 questions.)

Unless you have a prior aviation background, you probably will fail the Remote Pilot test if you don't study for it. Not only that, but your testing fee will not be refunded. You'll have to wait at least 14 days and then pay the testing fee (currently $175.00) all over again.

If you've successfully completed a Part 107 training course from a school with a "will-pass" guarantee, such as Pilot Institute's Part 107 Made Easy course, then you can apply through the school (not the FAA nor the testing center) for reimbursement of the testing fee; but you'll still have to wait 14 days to retake the test. So whether you take a course or use self-study, make sure that you're ready before registering for the exam.

The Hardest Parts of the Remote Pilot Test

The Part 107 Aeronautical Knowledge test isn't easy. It's actually very similar to the tests that sport pilots, recreational pilots, and private pilots have to take. Take a look at the FAA's Part 107 knowledge requirements to get an idea of what you'll be expected to know when you take the test.

Long story short, for someone who isn't adequately prepared, everything about the Part 107 test will be hard. The parts of the test that usually trip up people new to aviation, however, are the parts dealing with:

Collectively, those topics constitute the bulk of the test. You really need to understand them if you want to pass.

On the other hand, if you do understand airspace, charts, weather, and weather services, then all those questions are basically freebies because you literally will have the answers right in front of you. The answer to any chart question is right there on the chart, the answer to any METAR question question is right there in the METAR, and so forth. If you're well-prepared in those areas, it will be very difficult to fail the test.

Here are some additional tips based on feedback from people who recently took the test.

Be Prepared for the Fixed-Wing Questions

At the time of this revision, a Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate includes privileges to fly fixed-wing (airplane-style) sUAS, as well as quads and other copter-type drones. Accordingly, there will be several questions about fixed-wing aircraft characteristics and operation on the exam. These questions may be based on any of the following topics, all of which are covered in the Airplane Flying Handbook:

Understanding Runway Numbering

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Some of the questions on the Part 107 test may make reference to runway numbers. Several test-takers have been tripped up by these question, so let's look at how runway numbering works. It's really very simple.

Airplanes typically take off and land facing into the wind; so at most airports, the same runways may be used in either direction depending on which way the wind is blowing. The runway will therefore have two numbers depending on the direction in which it's being used at the moment.

The runway number is the runway's magnetic compass bearing, with the last digit dropped, and rounded off to the nearest degree. For example, a runway running directly east and west will be runway 9 (90 degrees) when airplanes are taking off and landing facing east, and runway 27 (270 degrees) when airplanes are taking off and landing facing west.

Read any question mentioning a runway carefully to make sure you're basing your answer on the correct orientation. Questions on the test referencing runway numbers usually have to do with airport traffic patterns, the location of something like a tower or other obstruction, or wind-related weather questions.

Zulu Time and Aviation

Because air traffic crosses time zones, most aviation-related notices use Zulu time rather than local time. Drone pilots therefore need to understand Zulu time in order to properly interpret weather reports and other time-dependent aviation notices.

Zulu time is another name for Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It's the time at the zero meridian of longitude, which passes through Greenwich, England. It does not observe daylight savings time (that is, it doesn't change with the seasons).

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The difference between Zulu time and local time is called the offset and is the number of hours difference between UTC and local time, preceded by a plus or minus sign. It will always be a minus sign in the United States because we're west of Greenwich, England; so our local time will always be behind UTC.

For example, I'm revising this page at 7:55 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) in New York, which is 11:55 a.m. Zulu time. The offset is therefore UTC-4 hours. If it were standard time in New York (EST), then it would only be 6:55 a.m. here; so the offset would be UTC-5 hours because UTC doesn't observe daylight savings time.

METAR and TAF reports always use Zulu time. NOTAMs and TFRs, on the other hand, may use Zulu time, local time, both, or occasionally neither, depending on their scope and duration. It's therefore important to read test questions referencing time carefully, and to apply a time offset if conversion from Zulu to local time (or vice-versa) is needed.

Other Tips

How and Why to Pass the Part 107 Test on Your First Try

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People who have been in aviation for a while are often surprised to learn that the FAA doesn't care how you prepare for your Remote Pilot Aeronautical Knowledge test. There are no specific training requirements. How you prepare is completely up to you.

Most other FAA pilot knowledge tests require, at a minimum, an instructor sign-off before a person can register to take the exam; but that is not the case for Part 107.

The catch is that as of the date of this revision (July 5, 2023), the testing fee for the FAA Part 107 knowledge test is USD $175.00 — and there are no refunds if you fail. You'll also have to wait 14 days to re-take the exam.

Long story short: Although you are free to prepare in any way you like, it will cost you $175.00 and another two weeks of waiting if you fail. So whatever test-prep method you choose, you'll want to be really sure that you're ready to pass before you register for the exam.

Test Prep Method 1: Take a Formal Training Course

If you have no prior aviation experience at all, then in my opinion the best way to study for and pass the FAA Part 107 test on the first try is to take an online training course. Students who prepare using formal training courses from good schools have pass percentages in the high 90's on the FAA test.

My personal recommendation is that you consider the Pilot Institute Part 107 Made Easy course. Here's why:

I had an aviation background dating back to 1976, but I took this course anyway. I'm glad I did.

Test Prep Method 2: Guided Self-Study

If you can't afford a formal training course, you can save money by preparing for the Part 107 test using Part 107 training materials from Amazon or other vendors. This may be a good option if you already have some aviation experience, but it was in the past and you're rusty.

If you have a Kindle or other digital reading device, you can save even more money by purchasing the training materials in digital form. This is especially true if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership. Paper books are expensive, and aviation-related books tend to be revised very frequently.

The one exception I suggest to using digital training materials is that I recommend that you buy a paper copy of the FAA test supplement. The testing centers use paper test supplements for the actual test, so I think it's a good idea for you to use one for practice. You want to simulate the actual exam experience as closely as possible.

The test supplement is available for free by download from the FAA, however; so downloading and printing it is another option. (The paper and ink might cost you more than just buying it in printed form, however.)

There also are YouTube channels that provide some free instruction that you can use to supplement your book learning. They can be especially helpful for learning about airspace, which is hard to learn without a three-dimensional view. Just try to find channels whose owners are up-to-date (check the dates on the videos) and who know what they're talking about.

Test Prep Method 3: Prepare Using Free FAA Downloads

You actually can prepare for your Part 107 Remote Pilot test for free without taking a course or paying for any training materials. All the books and study materials you'll need to pass the exam can be downloaded for free. Here's why.

The U.S. Federal Government, including the FAA, is prohibited by law from copyrighting anything it produces. That's a good thing, but it gets ever better because the the FAA has a long history of writing truly excellent books about all things aviation-related.

What that means for you is that you legally can download, for free, everything you need to know to study for and pass your Remote Pilot Knowledge Test. Unfortunately, it also means that some of the materials are out of date. The official FAA Remote Pilot study guide, for example, was last revised in 2016. You may want to buy something more recent like George Gish's Part 107 Study Guide that covers topics like Remote ID, night flying, and flying over people that have changed since the FAA study guide was last updated.

If you want to try preparing for your test without spending even a dollar, however, then I suggest you start with the following materials.

I suggest that you buy a paper copy of the Knowledge Test Supplement because you'll be using a paper copy when you take the actual test.

If you decide to prepare for your Part 107 test completely on your own, then I suggest that you start with the Remote Pilot - Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide. It contains links and references to information in the rest of the manuals that you'll need to know.

I must warn you that although it has the advantage of being free, independent self-study is also the most difficult way to prepare yourself for the Part 107 test. Unless you have some prior aviation experience, you're likely to become confused at some point along the line. I suggest that you take a course instead. But I wanted to provide information about all the available options.

Finally, let me remind you one more time that there are no refunds if you fail. Whatever method you choose, please be sure that you're ready before you register to take the exam.

You can read what recent test-takers have to say about the exam on my Part 107 Test-Day Tips page.

Revised July 5, 2023.

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