FAA remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating

Earlier this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration published new unmanned aerial systems (UAS) rules under CFR Part 107. In short, the rules outlined operating rules for small UAS, which included the creation of a new remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. Starting Aug. 29, 2016, this new rating will be required for a pilot to fly a small UAS or drone for commercial purposes in the United States.

Commercial drone flying in the U.S.
Pilots flying drones for commercial purposes in the U.S. will soon need to hold a remote pilot certificate with small UAS rating. Aeryon Photo
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Once in possession of the new remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, a pilot will be allowed to operate a registered small UAS under 55 pounds for commercial purposes in Class G airspace, within visual line-of-sight, during the day, and below 400 feet above ground level. UAS are required to yield to manned aircraft at all times.

The new rules also specifically forbid UAS pilots from flying above 100 miles per hour, over people, in restricted areas, or from a moving vehicle.

Receiving the Certificate

Since the announcement of the new certificate and rating, the FAA and testing centers have been flooded with inquiries, highlighting significant interest.

“The phones have been ringing off the hook since the new rules came out, and we booked 45 test reservations in the first two days after the FAA announced the August 29 date,” said Claudia Herrera, FAA test center supervisor and proctor at Group 3 Aviation in Van Nuys, California. “The rating is required the day testing begins, so people are setting their test reservations early.”

According to the FAA’s Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Airman Certification Standards, pilots must have knowledge of several key areas to be a UAS pilot. These areas include regulations, airspace classification and operating requirements, weather, loading and performance, and operations.

In Part 107, the FAA outlines two ways pilots can demonstrate their knowledge to receive their certificate. Current FAA Part 61 pilots can take the FAA’s online training option and submit proof with their applications. New pilots, however, are required to take the FAA knowledge test for the rating.

Current Pilots

Current Part 61 pilots (those having had a flight review in the past 24 months) interested in the rating can complete the FAA’s online training course, “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems ALC-451.” This course is already available on the FAA FAASTeam website. The training is required every two years to remain a current UAS pilot.

Upon completion of the training, pilots complete FAA Form 8710-13 (available through the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application System (IACRA) starting August 29) and bring it, with proof of the training and government issued photo identification, to a FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), airman certification representative (ACR), designated pilot examiner (DPE) or FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) for identity confirmation and signature.

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Those electing to work with the FSDO, ACR or DPE will leave with a temporary Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. Those working with a CFI will be sent the certificate once the FSDO has signed it off and sent it to the FAA pilot registry office.

New Pilots

People without a Part 61 certificate are required to pass an FAA knowledge test every two years with a 70 percent passing grade. The FAA knowledge test will be available through FAA-authorized computer testing centers across the nation on August 29, and many sites are already taking reservations.

Once passing the test, applicants log onto the FAA’s IACRA website, create an account then follow the instructions to apply for the rating. It’s important to note the FAA’s computer system will not have access to test scores until 48 hours after the test has been taken, so it’s recommended that applicants log in two days after taking the test to complete the process.

Information and Test Preparation

The FAA has stated on its website that no ground school is required to take the knowledge test and no past training or courses taken will count toward the certificate.

However, the FAA does encourage self-training, online training or taking a course to become familiar with the regulations in preparation for the test.

The FAA has posted information on the steps to take toward the rating, test preparation materials, sample test questions and frequently asked questions on its UAS website.

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