5 Easy Steps to become an FAA Certified Drone Pilot

There’s no doubt about it, flying a drone is awesome! The feeling of controlling a machine that allows you to see things from a vantage point never seen before is unmatched. Recreationally it is fun to do with family and friends, but from a business standpoint you can bring value to your clients or your business by bringing unique content to the table. 

It’s not as simple as going to the nearest mall, purchasing a drone, then flying it around a downtown area. There are rules and regulations with severe consequences if you don’t abide. In this article you’ll learn 5 easy steps to become certified, if you even need an FAA certification. 

At Corkboard Concepts we use drones all of the time to capture great photography and videography for clients. Our clients love when we can get shots of their facilities from vantage points that have not yet been seen of their business. 

Step 1: Do I need an FAA certification? 

To start, you will need to assess what the purpose of your drone flying will be. Will you be flying for business or income purposes, or will you be doing this as a recreational hobby? If you are thinking about flying a drone for the purpose of business or income, the answer is yes. To protect yourself, it is mandated that you obtain an FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). 

If you fall under this category of flying a drone for business, income, or commercial purposes the rest of the steps will be to understand how to complete this process. 

At Corkboard Concepts we’re FAA certified because we do this commercially. We’ve helped car dealerships, trucking companies, landscapers, pet care facilitates, and much more. Having a drone pilot in-house has enhanced our relationship with our clients.

Step 2: Where do I start for my FAA certification?

Now that you’ve decided that you are going to fly a drone for business, income, or commercial purposes you’re wondering to yourself, “Where do I begin?” For starters, get excited. This is a skill that you will keep (hopefully) for the rest of your life. At completion you will understand the basics of aviation, recognize weather patterns, and confidently fly an unmanned aircraft. 

Before you dive into the process of getting your certification, here are the FAA Requirements to get certified by the FAA:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a drone
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam

Now that you meet all of the requirements, a great place to start is researching the type of drone that is best suited for what you will be doing. Read articles, research consumer data, and find what will best fit the needs of whatever you’re tasking yourself with. 

DJI is the “top dog” in the commercial drone industry. They have different varieties of models for different purposes. Their quality is great and their drones are relatively affordable. A great place to research would be their website www.dji.com. Here you’ll find specs, pricing, and other information on their different drones. Of course you don’t have to purchase a DJI. What is important when searching drones is quality. 

Step 3: Do I have to take a test to become an FAA certified drone pilot?

The answer is yes, you will have to study and pass a test to become an FAA certified drone pilot. Don’t look at this as a daunting task. Look at this as an opportunity to better yourself, and have a deeper understanding of the science behind what it takes to safely fly drones.

There are many ways to prepare for the test. There is a great book titled “Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge” that has great information and is recommended by the FAA to study. The book is massive and can be a bit intimidating, but it is very well detailed. You can find the book on Amazon for about $20.00.

There are also training sites like www.RemotePilot101.com that can walk you through the important parts of what the test will look like. Pairing this with textbook studying will help give different perspectives on the concepts you will be learning. 

Please understand that this isn’t just a weekend commitment to passing the FAA knowledge test. This is going to be months of dedicated hard work. There are complex ideas you will need to fully understand to pass the test and become a certified FAA drone pilot. 

If you don’t think you can commit the time to preparing for this test it may be a better option to look at 3rd party companies, like Corkboard Concepts, that can provide a pilot for your job. 

Step 4: Where do I take the FAA certified drone pilot test?

You will have to Obtain an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) profile prior to registering for a knowledge test. You can do this at the following website:

Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application

You will have to schedule your test at the nearest testing center to you. The following is the website to see which testing centers administer the test. You will also be able to schedule the test through this website as well.

PSI Exams FAA Knowledge Testing Centers

Once you schedule your test, all you have to do is continue studying and go pass it! You’ve prepared well up until this point, now just relax and utilize what you’ve learned to become one step closer to becoming an FAA certified Drone Pilot. 

Step 5: What do I do after I complete the FAA certified drone pilot test?

Once you have passed the knowledge exam, there will be some forms you have to complete and submit. You can find those steps on the FAA Website

It will be important to always follow all of the extensive guidelines you’ve learned. Once you are FAA certified there will be a level of responsibility you didn’t have prior to obtaining your certification. If these rules are broken, there can be serious consequences. 

You’ll want to register your drone. Once registered you should also purchase insurance to protect yourself for the worst case scenario. A great drone insurance source is an app called “Verifly.” This allows you to purchase drone insurance by the hour. Usually the price is between $10-$50 per hour depending on how much coverage you are looking for and if you are flying indoors or outdoors. You will be covered a minimum of $1,000,000. 

Your certification doesn’t last forever. You will have to take a recurrent test every 2 years to keep a valid certification. This means you aren’t going to be able to cram your study in the week before. You will want to have a deep understanding of what it means to be an FAA certified drone pilot. 

Get Out & Fly 

It is not an easy process to become an FAA certified drone pilot. Many businesses looking for drone work seek out companies such as Corkboard Concepts to do that drone work for them. If you do have the time, it is worth it. It is a skill you’ll have forever. My advice, get your hands on a drone and see how it feels. My guess is you will love it! 

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About Author

Zack

Mr. Meuschke started his career in digital advertising and has not looked back. Directly out of college he started with a print publication working on their digital team. After a few years moved to the world of video at Comcast Spotlight working on how consumers are transitioning from traditional TV viewership to streaming TV on multiple devices and how that impacted advertising. Finally starting Corkboard Concepts where we focus on data-driven marketing campaigns. He uses his experience to integrate digital marketing into the diverse advertising strategies we build for our clients.