Why not simply “Remote Pilot Certificate” and what is a “rating”?
Let’s look at certificates and ratings in the manned aircraft world. The FAA certificates everything. Pilots, airplanes, crew, repair facilities, fuel truck operators – if it touches flight, it is certified. But since we’re discussing certificates, let’s look at the airman’s certificate. Here’s mine (it’s an old one – I’ve moved since then):
Note first, the word “license” does not exist on the certificate, though everyone would call this a pilot’s license. The FAA doesn’t issue licenses. (Well, the FAA does license one aeronautical activity, but I’ll save that for a trivia question in the future). On the front is my identifying information and my certification category as a commercial pilot. On the back are my category and ratings: Single Engine Land and Instrument Airplane.
Other possible ratings I may add include “multiengine”, “seaplane” or an aircraft type-rating. What’s a “Type Rating”? The FAA requires model-specific training for any aircraft with a takeoff weight over 12,500 pounds or when an aircraft is so unique or challenging to fly that a model-specific training is required. Each different model of aircraft has a separate type rating that much be achieved before the pilot can fly that aircraft.
Trivia: The most FAA aircraft pilot type ratings awarded to an individual is 102 and was achieved by Robert Blaine Briggs from Miami, Florida.
Robert spent 32 years flying with the Flying Tiger Line (which merged into Federal Express in 1989) between 1978 and 2010. He is now retired from the airline, but is still active in aviation. In 2016 he received his two most recent type ratings, allowing him to fly a Sikorsky SK-92 and a Boeing 777.
So, what is the FAA up to with the “Small UAS Rating”?
I think that in another year or so we will see another NPRM to add to Part 107 rules for UAS weighing 55 pounds or heavier. Possibly model-specific type ratings as well. For now Lockheed will just have to use Part 61 certified pilots with Grant of Exemption letters and COA’s to fly their civilian version of the Predator aircraft.
When I get my Part 107 remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, it will be a separate certificate. I don’t know why the FAA couldn’t have just added “Remote Pilot” as a category and “Small UAS” on the ratings on my existing certificate. (Pilots like to brag about their list of ratings).
Any questions? I like questions.