In this guide, we’ll explain how to get your drone license in the United States. Completing the FAA’s drone certification process brings you into an exciting (and lucrative) industry and can help to kick off your career as a professional drone operator. You’ll need an FAA-issued Part 107 Certificate to start piloting commercial drone flights for work or business. So that’s what we’ll talk about on this page.
Make note that each country regulates its airspace differently, we’ll just be focusing on requirements for drone pilots in the U.S.
Let’s get to it!
→ When Should You Get a Drone License: Recreational vs. Commercial Use
→ Recreational/Hobbyist Rules — Flying For Fun
→ Part 107 — For Commercial Use
→ Part 61 Certificate — The Exception to the Rule
→ How to Get an FAA Drone License
→ How Much Does it Cost to Get an FAA Drone License?
→ How Long Does it Take to Get an FAA Drone License?
→ What do People Use Their Drone License For?
→ How Much Money Can I Make With an FAA Drone License?
→ You’re Ready to Get Your Part 107 Drone License
Even with these clearly defined use cases, there is still often confusion about when you need to get a drone license. It is important to note that commercial operators can still fly for recreation, but recreational pilots may not conduct commercial drone flights.
If you are operating as a recreational operator, then the regulations that apply to your operation fall under the FAA’s model aircraft rules, which can be found below.
To view all of the recreational drone regulations, check out this page on the FAA website.
If you are operating as a commercial operator, then the regulations that apply to your operation fall under the FAA’s Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule, which can be found below.
*Excluding the weight requirement and the requirement to fly in Class G airspace, the above restrictions can be waived if you submit and receive a Part 107 waiver from the FAA.
The Class G airspace requirement can also be bypassed if you apply for and receive approval for special airspace authorization from the FAA. Check out our LAANC authorization guide to better understand how that authorization process works.
If you are already a licensed manned aircraft pilot, then you don’t need to go through a training course or take the Part 107 exam.
Manned aircraft pilots need to complete a (free) online training course called “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website. More information on that process and steps over here.
After you successfully complete that course, you then complete FAA Form 8710-13 (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application for a remote pilot certificate), validate your applicant identity, and make an in-person appointment with your local FSDO, an FAA-designated pilot examiner (DPE), an airman certification representative (ACR), or an FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) to sign your form.
Now, let’s get back to why you’re here.
To get a commercial drone license from the FAA, you’ll need to follow these steps:
Once you have your drone license, you’ll also be required to:
The Part 107 exam must be taken in-person at an FAA-authorized testing center. The testing fee is a flat $175, paid directly to the testing center where you schedule your test.
The initial start-up costs for a commercial drone pilot are quite low. In addition to the exam cost, your drone must be registered which costs $5 for three years. Registration is a mandatory requirement for commercial drone operators. Visit the FAADroneZone website and select “Fly sUAS under Part 107” to create an account and register your drone.
If you are planning to start a business, here are some other costs you should plan for.
Luckily for drone pilots, the process for becoming certified is not as time-consuming and rigorous as becoming a manned aircraft pilot. The first thing you’ll want to consider is how long you’ll spend preparing for and studying for the Aeronautical Knowledge Test.
When it comes to Part 107 test prep, you have a lot of options. There are $5 apps you can buy that run through practice questions, $20 workbooks you can buy on Amazon, and online courses like Drone Pilot Ground School.
The FAA also has a free study guide on its website, and there are some good YouTube videos out there that people cobble together to pass the exam as well.
We recommend Drone Pilot Ground School, yes we’re biased because we built it, but we’re really proud of the training content and wholeheartedly believe we offer the best training product (and company support) of anyone else in the drone industry.
Our students report spending 15-20 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.
Once you’ve passed 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. The temporary Remote Pilot Certificate will allow the certificate holder to exercise all the privileges of the certificate.
Still unsure of which direction to take?
Check out some reviews from the 40,000+ students who’ve gone through our online course.
The course includes 70 lessons that cover a wide variety of topics, including:
A drone is a powerful and practical tool for many industries. Real estate is the most immediately recognizable avenue for a licensed drone pilot; there is a constant need for video and still aerial images of real estate property. However, drones are being used in a growing number of industries around the world.
Here are just a few of them:
Interested in more examples of industries in which you can find work as a drone pilot? We highlight over ten industries where drone adoption is growing in our Drone Jobs Guide.
The drone industry is still relatively young, which can make it challenging to accurately calculate industry-wide salaries.
However, we wrote on this subject at length in our drone pilot salary article but will recap the highlights here. Full-time, salaried positions are at a real premium. Salaries vary greatly depending on the work and employer, ranging from $33K – $79K a year.
Another way to make money with a drone is to pursue freelance and client-based work through drone pilot directories like Droners.io or Dronebase. For residential real estate work, you can typically anticipate $200 – $300 per project. However, this can vary as well depending on how you chose to price your drone services.
If you plan to launch your own business implementing your drone skills, such as an inspection or aerial services business, profits will be based on the costs of running your business and the type of services you offer.
If you have made it this far, you are likely very serious about becoming a Part 107 Remote Pilot! So, what are the next steps?
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 regurgitate the information 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 the Drone Pilot Ground School course curriculum, or send any questions regarding Part 107 certification our way by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.