Recreational and Commercial Drone Operation (FAA Part 107)
If you’ve recently purchased your first drone or Small Unmanned Aerial System (sUAS) or received one as a gift in the USA, this article is for you. This guide will break down the differences between recreational and commercial operations for new drone pilots and what steps you need to take to become a certified pilot.
What are the FAA Drone Regulations?
- Recreational: This means you’re flying a drone that weighs less than 55 pounds for ‘recreation (for enjoyment) or educational and research purposes’.
- Commercial: Flying drones for any other purpose, including working for a non-profit (regardless of compensation) means you need to operate under the FAA Part 107 rules, regardless of the weight of your drone.
However, this is a simplified version of the rules as anyone working in any form of Government agency (Federal, State, Tribal, and Territorial law), law enforcement, or a public safety entity must fly under the FAA Part 107 rules unless they are flying for official work which means they need to Operate as a Public Aircraft Operation (PAO) with a Certificate of Authorization (COA). To put it simply, if you are police officers who want to fly drones for recreation, you need to comply with the FAA Part 107 rules – even if your drone weighs less than 55 pounds.
Overall, it can be a good idea to obtain the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate (also informally known as a “commercial drone license”) to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. The certificate also allows you to fly your drone over people or commercially.
What do I Need to Fly Recreationally?
One of the first things we’d recommend is to use the FAA’s Drone User Identification Tool to determine if your drone operations fit under the ‘recreational use’ category. The basic rules for recreational drone pilots include:
- Fly only for recreational purposes (personal enjoyment).
- Follow the safety guidelines of an FAA-recognized Community-Based Organization (CBO).
- Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST): You need to pass the TRUST at one of the Trust Test Administrators. Here is the list.
- Carry proof of passing your test when you fly.
- Have a current FAA registration, mark your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you when flying.
Note: Beginning September 16, 2023, if your drone requires an FAA registration number it will be also required to broadcast Remote ID information.
- Fly at or below FAA-authorized altitudes in controlled airspace and fly at or below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace.
- Keep your drone within the visual line of sight or use a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
- Do not operate your drone in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.
It’s pretty simple, read and follow the rules, passes the TRUST exam, and register your drone.
What do FAA Part 107 Regulations Require?
Most drone flights in the US fall under part 107 rules. To fly under these regulations, you need the Remote Pilot Certificate. This certificate will give you the most flexibility and allow you to fly for money as well as allow you to fly in. In order to obtain part 107 certification, you’ll need to learn the regulations, pass the part 107 exam at an FAA testing center, and then register your drone. A detailed breakdown of how to obtain an FAA tracking number to take the exam can be found here.
To be eligible to get your Remote Pilot Certificate, you must be:
- At least 16 years old
- Able to read, write, speak, and understand English
- Be in a physical and mental condition to safely fly a UAS.
How do I get the Part 107 Drone Pilot Certificate?
It can be a good idea to enroll in a ground school to gain in-depth knowledge of all the areas the remote pilot test covers including Applicable FAA Regulations for sUAS, The National Airspace System (NAS), sUAS Airframes and Systems, and more. Coastal Drone makes the entire process easy for you.
All you have to do is:
- Take our course and follow the FAA test prep guide.
- Study up for the exam.
- Study up for the exam.