In this article, we’ll outline what it takes to get an FAA drone license to fly your drone for non-recreational use here in the United States.
If you’re interested in flying a drone in another country, please understand that each country regulates its airspace differently. Here is a directory of drone laws, organized by country (and also by U.S. state).
If you’re looking for help preparing for the FAA’s Part 107 test, check out our curriculum and self-paced course. We’ve trained over 30,000 drone pilots, and over 99% of our students pass the test on the first try.
When Should I Get a Drone License? Commercial Drone vs. Recreational Drone Use
- You need a drone license when you use your drone for non-recreational purposes, i.e. commercial use.
- You do not need a drone license when you fly your drone strictly for fun as a hobby, i.e. recreational use.
Click here to learn more about the different rules for commercial vs. recreational use of drones in the United States.
How to Get an FAA Drone License, Step-by-Step
To get a commercial drone license from the FAA, you will need to follow these steps:
- Be at least 16 years old and be able to read/speak English.
- Pass a 60-question multiple-choice Aeronautical Knowledge Test. You can register to take the test at any of the 800+ FAA drone testing centers. It takes our students about 10-20 hours of studying (typically 1-3 weeks) to get ready for the exam.
- After passing the test, you’ll go back home and apply online for your Remote Pilot Certificate. A temporary one will be issued within a week or two, and you’ll receive your Remote Pilot Certificate card in the mail about 6-8 weeks later.
Once you have your drone license, you’ll also be required to:
- Maintain drone registration every 36 months and keep the registration card with you when flying.
- Keep your license up-to-date by passing a recurrent Aeronautical Knowledge Test every 24 months.
- Make available to the FAA, upon request, your sUAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records.
- Report any accidents to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage over $500.
- Before all flights, conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure your small UAS is safe for operation.
Frequently Asked Questions about the FAA’s Drone License
How Much Does it Cost to Get an FAA Drone License?
The testing fee is a flat $160, paid directly to the testing center where you schedule your test. If the testing center is owned by PSI, then the exam fee is $96. Once you pass the test, there is no additional fee to get your actual certificate.
What Are the Fees for Commercial Drone Operation?
The costs to operate a commercial drone pilot are fairly minimal. There is a $5 registration fee for your drone. Registration is a mandatory requirement for all Part 107 drone operators and any recreational pilot flying a drone that weighs more than 0.55 lbs (250g).
What Costs Are Involved in Starting A Drone Business?
You may need to establish a limited liability company (LLC), which can cost $150-$200. Plus, you’ll want to get liability insurance for your flights. Here’s a drone insurance guide — the most popular way to get liability insurance in the U.S. is through companies that offer it in small, predetermined periods of time such as SkyWatch.AI.
How Long Should I Study for the Drone License Test?
Our students at Drone Pilot Ground School report spending 10-20 hours studying for the test. You’re not required to complete a preparatory study course, but the over 99% pass rate of our students definitely speaks volumes to the value of putting in some study hours before you officially test.
You can also use the FAA’s free online study materials to prepare for the test. This is an ideal option for those looking to save money or for those with an aviation background. However, for non-aviators, the FAA’s resources may take longer to process. The FAA’s materials are dense, jargon-filled, and difficult to read.
If you’re looking for an intuitive breakdown of what will be on the test and support from a real instructor, Drone Pilot Ground School may be a better choice. We offer 1:1 student support to actively coach you through the obstacles you will invariably run into.
How Long Do I Have To Wait To Get My Drone License?
Once you’ve taken the Aeronautical Knowledge Test, the FAA anticipates that it will take six to eight weeks to issue a permanent remote pilot certificate via snail mail. To speed things up, a temporary remote pilot certificate is issued in about 10 business days, which will allow the certificate holder to exercise all the privileges of the certificate.
What Are Examples of Jobs That Require a Drone License?
A drone is a powerful and practical tool for many industries. We highlight over ten industries where drone adoption is growing in our Drone Jobs Guide. Here are a few industries that rely on drones:
- Real Estate: there is a constant need for video and still aerial images of real estate property.
- Insurance: drones can take sweeping panoramic images for large scale damage and disaster incidents, then hover very close to a particular item, like a roof, and inspect it from mere inches away.
- Energy: drones are used to inspect wind turbines, solar panels, steam exhaust chimneys, and even the inside of giant boilers.
How Much Money Can I Make With an FAA Drone License?
We wrote on this subject at length in our drone pilot salary article but will recap the highlights here:
- Full-time, salaried positions range from $33K – $79K a year.
- Freelance and client-based work can be found through drone pilot directories.
- For residential real estate work, many drone pilots make at least $200 – $300 per project. Of course, this can vary depending on how you choose to price your drone services.
- Drones are used in so many industries with varying degrees of client outputs needed. What you can expect to make depends on whether or not you’re taking basic photos, helping to analyze more complex aerial data sets, doing technical inspection work with a thermal camera, able to work on a film set, etc.
Do I Need a Commercial Drone License?
You do not need a license if you plan on meeting all of the recreational guidelines below:
- You must fly for hobby or recreation ONLY (no side jobs or in-kind work allowed).
- You must register your UAV with the FAA on the FAADroneZone website.
- You must fly within visual line-of-sight.
- You must follow community-based safety guidelines and fly within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization (CBO) like the AMA.
- You must fly a drone under 55 lbs. unless certified by a community-based organization.
- You must never fly near other aircraft.
- You must fly in Class G airspace. If you need to fly in Class B, C, D or E controlled airspace, you need to apply for airspace authorization. Check out our LAANC authorization guide to better understand how that authorization process works.
- You must never fly near emergency response efforts.
To view all of the recreational drone regulations, check out this page on the FAA website.
Am I Ready to Get My Part 107 Drone License?
Congrats! Now that you’ve read through this article, you have all the information you need to pursue a Part 107 remote pilot certificate for a commercial drone license. You can study independently with no penalty, but for an aviation novice, we suggest opting for a training curriculum and support network so you can understand the information rather than merely regurgitating it at testing time. The responsibility of a certified drone pilot goes beyond passing the test. Truly understanding the information will enable you to operate safely, legally, and proficiently.
Take a look at our course curriculum, or send any questions regarding the Part 107 certification process our way by emailing email@example.com or calling us at (888) 626-1490.