I’ve gotten a few questions like this on the333.org forum and by email, so it seems to be a good topic for the blog.
First, your Section 333 Exemption Grant has no bearing on the PIC certification.
They are two distinct and separate things. The FAA certifies pilots and operators. Jet Blue, United, Fed-Ex are operators. The person in the left-front seat with the aircraft controls in front are pilots. (This is why I and others commented on the Part 107 NPRM that calling the person flying a drone an “operator” was not an appropriate term).
The Section 333 Grant Letter is similar to a 14 CFR Part 121 Air Carrier Certification in that it defines the terms and conditions that the operator must follow. Including the requirement that the person operating the controls of the UAS must hold an FAA-issued airman’s certificate, such as a private, sports pilot, commercial or ATP. There are many Section 333 Grant Letter holders who do not have the requisite pilot certificate, but they employ people who do. And those pilots are bound to the terms and conditions of the operator’s Section 333 Grant Letter conditions.
Now, to the question of do I need to take the Part 107 airman’s written exam.
You fall into one of two boxes here.
- You have a current Part 61 Airman’s Certificate OR
- You do not have a Part 61 Airman’s Certificate.
I have a Part 61 Airman’s Certificate
You do have to take an exam. But not the same exam as the new pilot without a Part 61 airman’s certificate.
Today, you can go to the FAA Becoming a Pilot website and scroll down to the section titled: “Existing Pilots – What to Expect”.
Step 1 may be completed now. Complete the online training course “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” available on the FAA FAASTeam website. From this link select the Part 107 sUAS Training Course.
You will need to Login to Your FAASafety.gov Account, or create an account if you’re an old fart like me who earned my pilot certificates before the FAA had computers.
After you log on you may take the written exam. Again and again until you score 100%. Save the certificate of completion – you will need it later.
Everything else happens on or after August 19. In the meanwhile, you should create an account on the FAA IACRA website. About a week before August 29, try to start an application for a “Remote Pilot” certification. (The category isn’t available today). You will enter your 20-digit Part 107 Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (ALC-451) certificate number.
To obtain your certificate on August 29, you can try to contact your FSDO (good luck with that) to schedule an appointment for the remaining steps. Otherwise, find an FAA-Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), or an Airman Certification Representative (ACR). Most flight schools have an ACR on staff.
You will have to pay the DPE or ACR to verify your ID since they are not FAA employees, but they have the authority to immediately issue a temporary Part 107 remote pilot certificate.
If you don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks, you can, instead, take your application and test results to a CFI and pay the CFI to verify your ID. However, the CFI doesn’t have the authority to issue a temporary certificate.
But none of them, not the FSDO, DPE, ACR or CFI can take your application before august 29.
If your BFR is not current you will have to either get a BFR logged before you submit the application with the FSDO, DPE, ACR or CFI, or you can take the Part 107 written exam as if you were a new pilot.
I do not have a Part 61 Airman’s Certificate
The new pilot has to take the 60-question in-person written exam. Based on the Part 61 exam and the sample Part 107 exam questions I’ve seen, the FAA is serious about the level of aeronautical knowledge the sUAS pilot must know. If you prepare for the Sports Pilot written exam, you will be more than ready for the Part 107 sUAS exam. You can download the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement (PDF) FAA-CT-8080-2G here.
The knowledge test areas include:
- Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
- Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
- Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
- Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
- Emergency procedures
- Crew resource management
- Radio communication procedures
- Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
- Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
- Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
- Airport operations
- Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
You can’t do anything else before August 29, but study the AKTS and take the Part 61 exam for practice now. The online training course and exam for “Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451” is available on the FAA FAASTeam website. From this link select the Part 107 sUAS Training Course.
Shortly before August 29 you should be able to schedule to take the exam at any of approximately 500 FAA-designated testing centers. Often the testing center is co-located with a flight school, and many of them have an Airman Certification Representative (ACR) or Certified Flight Instruction (CFI) on staff. Ask when you make your reservation for the exam because you will need to find one of them for the next step. the CFI or ACR can identify you to the FAA’s satisfaction and process your application. The Testing Center cannot. Of course, your testing center proctor is likely to be a CFI or ACR. You should also create an account on the FAA IACRA website. About a week before August 29, try to start an application for a “Remote Pilot” certification. (The category isn’t available today).
You will pay a fee to the Testing Center, estimated at $150, and another fee to the CFI or ACR (the price is negotiable, but expect $50 to $100) to process the application since they are not FAA employees.
When the FAA receives your application, your ID is sent to the TSA to make sure you aren’t a terrorist. Once past that obstacle, the FAA estimates this will take two weeks, the FAA will put your temporary certificate on your IACRA account. They may send you an email that you have been approved, but I would recommend you check your IACRA account daily. At the same time the FAA will mail you your permanent certificate.