How to Apply for Your FAA Part 107 Drone Pilot License
If you want to fly drones commercially, for compensation, or "in furtherance of a business," and you've prepared for the FAA Part 107 Remote Pilot test and are ready to pass it, then it's time to get your Remote Pilot certificate.
The process of actually applying for a drone pilot license is somewhat counterintuitive and confusing to new applicants, so I thought I'd try to explain the process step by step to make it a little bit easier to understand.
Firstly, understand that the FAA's definition of "compensation" is very broad. If you are paid, compensated, or rewarded in any way, then you need to get your Part 107 license. This includes things like bartering, posting videos on a monetized YouTube channel or a monetized personal site, or even getting pre-release samples of new drones to test fly.
The other important thing that you need to understand is that simply passing your Part 107 knowledge test doesn't automatically make you a drone pilot. In fact, you won't even be able to register for the test until you have an account with the FAA.
Once you do pass the test, you still won't be certificated. You'll have to log in to your FAA account to apply for the pilot certificate. Just having the test results in hand does not make you a licensed Remote Pilot. You have to actually go through the application process to get a drone pilot license. It's not automatic upon passing the test.
Let me explain the procedure step by step.
Step 1: Create an IACRA Account
You will need to open an IACRA account with the FAA before you register for the examination.
IACRA is an abbreviation for the FAA's "Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application" system. This is the system that anyone seeking or holding an airman certificate of any kind uses to apply for that certificate, as well as keep their contact information up-to-date.
Unless you already hold other FAA certificates and already have an IACRA account (in which case you should use the one you already have), your first step toward applying for a pilot certificate will be to create an account on IACRA. You will use that account for the rest of your aviation career to do things like apply for new certificates or change your address or phone number.
Unlike most things in aviation, there is no cost to create an IACRA account nor to apply for your certificate. You'll have to pay the testing center when you take your Part 107 test, but you don't have to pay the FAA anything. Simply go to https://iacra.faa.gov and click the "Register" link, truthfully answer all the questions, and submit the application. Once you've done this, congratulations! You're on your way to getting your Part 107 license.
Step 2: Locate and Write Down Your FTN Number
Once your application is approved and your account created, log in and make a note of your FTN number. That stands for "FAA Tracking Number," and it will remain the same for as long as you're in aviation. You will need that number to register for the Part 107 test, as well as to apply for any FAA certificates you may seek in the future.
Your FTN number will not be the same as your Remote Pilot certificate number. Every certificate you ever earn from the FAA will have a different number. But your FTN number will always stay the same no matter how many FAA licenses you get.
Step 3: Register for the Examination
Once you've prepared for the Part 107 examination, whether by taking a Part 107 training course or by using self-study materials, it's time to register for the test. Note that although you only have to be 14 years old to take the test, you can't receive your Remote Pilot certificate until you're 16.
Except in very unusual situations, you will take your FAA Knowledge Test at a testing center operated by a private company. At the time of this writing, the company the FAA uses is PSI Testing Services. You will need to register for an account with PSI, and then register to take the UAG: Unmanned Aircraft General - Small test.
If the form asks what your authorization to take the test is, the answer is "none." Most FAA tests have a training requirement to be able to sit for the test, but the Remote Pilot test does not. I still recommend that you take Part 107 training if you have no previous aviation experience, but you're not legally required to do so. If anyone tells you otherwise, they're either lying or misinformed.
Finally, schedule a date for the test and pay the fee.
You should be absolutely sure you're going to pass the test before you register. There are no refunds if you fail, and you'll have to wait 14 days and pay the testing fee again to retake it if you fail.
Step 4: Take the Test
You will have to provide valid ID to take the test. Most people use a driver's license, learner's permit, or state non-driver ID card. Other acceptable documents include a passport, Resident Alien ID card ("Green Card"), or an Armed Forces ID Card.
Note that your identification document(s) must bear your photo, date of birth, signature, and physical residential address. If you have no one document that has all that information, you can use multiple documents; and if you are a minor, you can use your parents' identity documents to verify your address. You can read more about acceptable ways to verify your identity and residence to the testing center and the FAA here.
The test will be administered using a computer and a paper test supplement that the proctor will hand you. I suggest you buy the test supplement in paper form before you take the test so you'll know where to quickly find the information when you take the exam. But you don't need to bring it with you for the test (and in fact won't be allowed to). Here are some other test-day tips.
What to Bring With You When You Take the FAA Test
The only thing that you must bring with you to take the Part 107 test is your identity document(s). It will also be helpful to bring a printed receipt from PSI showing your appointment time and place, especially if you'll be using a busy testing center.
Other things that you're allowed to bring with you include:
- A simple magnifying glass without a light, or a page magnifier without a light. This is very important. The print and the charts in the testing supplement are very small.
- A small straight-edge ruler. This can be helpful when locating latitude and longitude on the charts.
- A basic, non-scientific electronic calculator without any advanced functions. You can also use an aviation flight computer if you already have one. You really shouldn't need either, though. If you need to do math, there's a calculator built into the testing computer interface.
Things that you are not allowed to bring with you include:
- Any electronic devices other than a simple calculator or flight calculator.
- Phones and tablets are specifically forbidden.
- Notes, training materials, or papers of any kind.
You'll receive your test results from the test proctor within minutes after submitting the completed exam, along with a printed test report. It may take several hours (or occasionally several days) before the FAA's database is updated with your results, however.
If you fail the test, you will have to wait at least 14 days and pay the testing fee again to retake it. I suggest you spend that time taking a Part 107 training course if, sadly, you fail the test the first time around.
Step 5: Apply for Your FAA Part 107 Certificate
Once you've passed the test, you'll need to log in to your IACRA account and apply for the certificate. The FAA has incredibly detailed instructions about how to do that here. The basic procedure, however, is:
- Click "Start New Application" if you didn't begin the application when you opened your IACRA account.
- Select "Pilot" from the drop-down list.
- Click on "Remote Pilot."
- Make sure that all the information that is pre-filled is correct, and answer any additional questions.
- For "Basis of Issuance," enter your identity document information and the Test ID Number on the printout you received from the testing center.
- Answer the rest of the questions, and digitally sign and submit the application.
Once you submit your application, the TSA will do a background check to determine whether you're on any terror watch lists or have any disqualifying criminal convictions. You can get a list of the disqualifying offenses here. This stage of the process typically takes a few days to complete.
If you already possess a pilot or other FAA airman certificate, then this stage is basically a rubber stamp because you've already been screened by TSA.
Within a few days to about a week after TSA gives you the green light, you should receive an email from FAA informing you that your temporary certificate is ready to print. The temporary certificate is valid for 120 days. You can download it as a PDF, print it on paper, sign it, and use it until your permanent certificate card arrives in the mail.
When Does My Drone Pilot License Expire?
Like FAA pilot certificates in general, your Part 107 Remote Pilot certificate will have no expiration date. You cannot exercise the privileges, however, unless you either passed the knowledge test or completed recurrent training within the past 24 calendar months. At the time of this writing, you can take the recurrent training online here.