The decision to become a commercial drone pilot will likely lead you into a rewarding and enjoyable profession. The freedom to become your own boss while flying drones for profit is a joy shared by many professionals in the UAV industry.
Once you have decided to become a commercial drone pilot, the next step is passing the FAA's Part 107 exam. The test covers aeronautical knowledge, which every commercial drone pilot needs to understand in order to ensure they can safely fly a drone. Although it is not a legal requirement for hobbyists (those flying drones just for fun) to take the exam, learning the material is beneficial to all UAV pilots.
There are many resources to help you prepare for the test. From reading the FAA's 87-page study guide on your own to taking in-person test preparation courses, some of which cost over five hundred dollars, there are multitude of test prep options for the commercial drone pilot hopeful.
The Part 107 Exam
Before we discuss the benefits of test preparation, let us review a little about the exam. Understanding the subject matter covered during the test will help you better appreciate the advantages to test preparation.
The Part 107 exam consists of 60 multiple-choice questions. Test takers have a total of 120 minutes to take the exam. A 70% or above score is passing, so you will need to answer at least 42 questions correctly.
The questions on the exam cover five categories of aeronautical knowledge. 15-25% are related to regulations, 15-25% cover airspace & requirements, 11-16% deal with an understanding of weather, 7-11% for loading & performance, and finally, 35-45% focus on operations.
Some of the more challenging questions on the exam cover a pilot's understanding of weather phenomenon, reading sectional charts, and understanding the information in a Meteorological Aerodrome Report (METAR).
Exams are taken at FAA-approved testing centers (about 700 in the United States) and will cost test takers one hundred and fifty dollars. You will know the results of your exam after you complete your test at the testing center.
Once a student passes the exam, the certification is good for two years. The recertification test is slightly different in that it covers a little less material and the test taker has 80 minutes to complete the exam.
Benefits of Test Prep
Like any exam, achieving a passing score on the Part 107 is dependent on how well you know the material. In general, those who understand the content better and study before the exam will get a higher score than those who do not.
While there is a small percent of Part 107 test-takers, who can pass without help (mostly manned aircraft pilots familiar with the material), most of us will benefit greatly from some assistance.
It is hard to imagine any certification exam that does not have test prep services associated with it. The industry exists because, quite frankly, test preparation works. There are many benefits to using test preparation services. Let us discuss a few that apply to the Part 107 exam.
Learning new material is easier when you have experts in the subject matter teaching you. When we learn something new for the first time, it can be confusing and overwhelming. Qualified instructors can present the material in an organized manner making it is easier to understand and memorize.
Test prep courses are almost always designed by experts in the field. These professionals have taken the exams and, in some cases, helped developed them. Having a qualified instructor, whether online and in person, will give the test taker even more confidence about their understanding of the material.
Students who participate in test preparation courses show lower levels of anxiety and higher confidence levels related to the material. Lower stress and higher confidence will translate into higher scores on average.
Many programs designed for test preparation discuss the structure of the test and time limits. Students are typically given advice on how long they should take for each question and when to skip a question taking them too long to answer. The result is better time management during the exam.
Finally, numerous test preparation services give students additional learning materials, such as flashcards, and teach helpful learning tools such as acronyms for ease of memorization. Reviewing the subject matter alone is not the most efficient way to learn for most of us. The content in additional resources has also been linked to improved test scores.
Test Prep Options
Many of the people looking to become commercial drone pilots will find the material in the exam to be entirely new information. Unless you are already a manned aircraft pilot, you will likely have never had a reason to learn the content. Keep in mind even manned aircraft pilots will need to do a little bit of studying as some questions relate specifically to drones such as weight limitations.
The FAA provides a study guide for the exam. This document covers 12 chapters of material. As you can imagine, with 87 pages of information and only 60 questions on the exam, a significant amount of the material in the study guide will not be on the test. So, while it is possible to learn the content from the study guide, most people will need some help on where to focus their efforts.
Test preparation comes in several forms but can be broken down into study materials, online test preparation, and in-person courses.
Study materials are available in many forms. A quick internet search will produce numerous books, flashcards, and cheat sheets to help you prepare for the exam. These resources are helpful but require the learner to understand the subject matter without any help.
Online test preparation services allow students to review videos and materials at their own pace before taking the exam. Most of these services are easy to sign up for and enable the student to begin the course work immediately. Some of the better services even offer lifetime access to the material covered in the course.
The in-person option can last several hours or a few days in a typical classroom setting with slide presentations or lectures. Occasionally, the course will allow for some flying time as well. This format is often by far the most expensive of the three options.
Why I Believe Online Test Prep is the Best
When I first became interested in becoming a commercial drone pilot several years ago, I knew next to nothing about the industry. Almost all the material covered in the Part 107 was utterly foreign to me.
I reviewed the FAA study guide but found the presentation of the information a bit dry. My biggest challenge with the study guide was the length. How could one decide what information spread across 87 pages would boil down to just 60 multiple choice questions?
After reviewing the FAA study guide, I decided to take an in-person test prep course. The course was a well put together with a lot of information crammed into one and a half days of lectures. I spent several hundred dollars on the course. While I learned the material, I did feel like I had significantly overpaid the test prep service.
In the years since passing the Part 107 exam, I have reviewed many online test preparation programs. It is my belief they are the best test preparation solution on the market. There are two primary reasons I believe this; the cost and the student's ability to move at their own pace.
Online test preparation services are the most cost-effective method. Several quality courses are offered at less than two hundred dollars. In-person classes, by comparison, will generally cover the same material at a much higher cost. Additionally, in-person classes require advanced scheduling and a time commitment of at least one day.
Everyone learns at different speeds. During an in-person test prep course, students must move at the speed of the class. There is not a lot of time to discuss a subject beyond the time allotted during the period of instruction. Online learning is different.
When using an online platform, students can move at their own pace. If a lesson is more complicated to master, the student can review it as often as they wish.
The best online test prep platforms will offer lifetime access to the material, flashcards and other supplemental materials, practice exams, and more. The absolute best programs have a 99% success rate for their students passing the exam and have helped thousands of students become commercial drone pilots. Keep in mind that you will need to recertify for the Part 107 every two years so having lifetime access to the course is a huge plus.
The Part 107 exam covers a lot of material that most people will have never seen before. Test preparation services are a great way for the average person to learn the material and pass the exam.
I believe online test preparation services, like that of Altitude University, are the best from a cost perspective and support the individual learning needs of each student. I highly recommend taking advantage of the self-paced learning model offered through online test preparation courses.
Meet The Author
David Daly is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and former United States Marine Corps officer. He is a consultant to the UAV industry and runs a commercial UAV company (Vigilante Drones) and a non-profit (Vigilante Cares) which uses drones to help military veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).