This is the first in a series of articles on Part 107 and complying with FAA regulations. Subscribe to our blog and stay tuned next week for “Tips from a 107 Certificate Holder, Part 2”!
Part 107 was a huge leap forward for the drone industry, with the FAA peeling back many prohibitive restrictions and replacing them with common-sense rules and a Remote Pilot Airman Knowledge Test, or the Part 107 test. The Part 107 test is the last thing stopping many from getting your drone business off the ground (pun intended).
However, with the test being relatively new, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of study information out there, and test taking can be stressful. It can be even worse if you’re unprepared. Thankfully, we picked the brains of two guys who just passed the test. Brent Miller, one of our Embedded Firmware Engineers at Skycatch, and Gil Aguilar, a Certified Flight Instructor. This week, Brent will be giving his take on the test and what you can do to prepare from his perspective.
Brent, congratulations on passing the 107 test! To get started, what do you do at Skycatch?
My job is to test and improve our flight control software. I work on improving stability in flight, extending battery life, and adding new features like terrain following. Ultimately, it’s about engineering our drone so it collects the sharpest, most accurate data as fast as possible.
Why did you take the test?
The biggest reason why I wanted to take the Part 107 exam is that I wanted to actually be able to fly the drone that I work on everyday as the FAA considers the development and testing of UAVs to be commercial flight. I get to test a lot of stuff out here in our flight room, but when it came to actual, real-world testing I had to hand the controls over to one of our test pilots and get feedback from them.
Do you have any manned aircraft or model aircraft experience?
I have a little bit of experience with manned aircraft as I started working towards my pilot's license a bunch of years back, but had to give it up as it was too expensive for me at the time. As far as drones go I’ve built up a couple before I came to Skycatch, but I wouldn’t say I have a whole lot of experience with model aircraft.
When and where did you take the Part 107 exam?
I registered for the test September 6th, and was able to take it on the 10th. I took the test at a place called Squadron 2. It’s this little flight school down in San Jose, CA on the Reid-Hillview airfield.
What was the test like? How many questions? Was it multiple choice, short answer, etc?
The actual testing process was pretty straight forward. I showed up at the flight school, showed the guy my ID, and he had me fill out a bunch of paperwork. Then they took me back to a testing room and explained how the computerized testing system worked. You have 60 questions, all multiple choice, with three options per question. I was given two hours to complete the exam but found that I needed only about an hour, including the time to go back and review my responses. After you’re all done, you’ll get your score right away and they’ll let you know which questions you missed, but won’t tell you the correct answer.
How hard did the questions seem to you?
I was actually kind of surprised by the difficulty of some of the questions. I went into the test thinking that the questions would be similar to the review questions they ask you on the FAA Safety course, but the majority of them were a bit more involved than that. The types of questions you’ll see on the FAA sample test are closer to what you’ll see on the actual exam.
There were also a few of questions that I don’t remember seeing in any of my study materials, like the kind of questions you’d only know the answer to if you read the actual text of the 14 CFR part 107 verbatim, but fortunately there were only a couple of these.
What did you use to prepare for the test -- both online/offline sources?
There were two primary sources that I used to study for the exam.
- The “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS)” course on faasafety.gov
- “Remote Pilot – Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Study Guide” put out by the FAA.
I found both of them to be great resources but neither one by itself would have given me all the information I needed to pass the exam.
There is a course on faasafety.gov but it is targeted more towards pilots who already have their manned aircraft license so it skips over a lot of the airspace and weather material and focuses more on the rules and regulations of flying under Part 107. As I don’t already have a pilot license, I found it didn’t cover enough material for me.
On the other hand, the FAA study guide goes into a lot more about what you’ll need to know about airspace, weather, risk management, and decision making. It’s perfect for other newcomers, like me.
In addition to those two sources I also picked up a sectional chart online from Sporty’s Pilot Shop and spent some time looking over that, making sure I knew what all the symbols were and that I felt comfortable identifying the different kinds of airspace.
How much prior knowledge did you have about the regulations? How much time did you need to spend studying?
I did have a little bit of knowledge from back when I was studying for my private pilot’s license, but that was pretty rusty. I would say that I spent 20 hours going through the study materials and testing myself, and passed on my first try. You can pass the test with a score of 70%, but you want to try harder than that. I tried to take it as seriously as a manned pilot would - I want to fly as knowledgeably and safely as possible, so I spent extra time on the test to make sure I understood the regulations in detail.
Where can you sign up/register for the tests?
What excites you the most about passing your Part 107 test?
For me, I’m just excited about getting to fly and test our drone myself! I’m really more excited for pilots out there getting into the drone data business. I’m glad that I could help shed some light on the process and hopefully help pilots get licensed. More legal pilots out there is great for Skycatch, but it’s even better for the industry as a whole. Licensed pilots are going to be the ones that kick the drone data industry into high gear. So get out there, get your license, and start flying!
Brent is one of several part 107 certificate holders at Skycatch. Got any questions about the test? Throw your questions in the comments section, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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