The Basics to Starting Your Drone Business:

Earning a Remote Pilot Certificate

Navigating your way around the information provided by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the government organizations over all things that fly, can be a daunting task for two reasons; the shear volume of information and getting lost in the bureaucratic paper mill. If I were give you one suggestion it would be to stay away from "rabbit trails" and focus on the test. By rabbit trails I mean wasting time by studying the wrong things, for example, you start studying by looking up weather information and the next thing you know you are studying obscure hazardous material information that doesn't apply to Remote Pilot certification (the FAA uses the term certificate instead of license, most people say license in conversation, go figure). Stay focused, study for the test and you will be on your way to getting your drone into the air holding FAA approval for commercial flying, be it a small business, corporation or governmental organization (such as law enforcement).

Debunking the Myths

​I am regularly told in conversations by fellow drone pilots about how they "get around" the law (FAA regulations) and use their aircraft for commercial purposes. Some people simply just don't know they are doing something illegal, others brag that they have "hacked" the system using a work-around tactic. The problem is since the FAA is responsible for enforcement (a.k.a. Unmanned Aerial Systems, UAS) breaking a regulation can have serious consequences, fines, court, prison. Please don't "kill the messenger" as the saying goes, our motivation is to educate and empower drone pilots to do their flying safely and legally. We don't agree with everything the FAA does, but this is the world we live. The Remote Pilot Association is here to evoke positive change.

​We go into greater detail in the newly revised RPA Remote Pilot Prep Video Course and eBook about what is considered commercial drone flying. In a nutshell a commercial drone flight is one that is for direct or indirect compensation or the furtherance of business. For example, if a drone pilot takes pictures of real estate for a real estate agent to be used as a web ad, it is considered a commercial flight. Even if the drone pilot does this project for no money the ultimate use is for commercial purposes.

​Another example is a police department that purchases a drone to do surveillance. While this is not what most would consider a commercial flight (a.k.a. operation), the FAA has determined that governmental agencies also require Remote Pilot certification.

Let us move on to the requirements for taking the Remote Pilot test.

"FAA Eligability Requirements"

​.....a fancy way of saying the conditions that must be met in-order to be able to take the Remote Pilot test.

The eligibility requirements a person must meet that wants to take the Remote Pilot test, called a Knowledge Test, are as follows:

*Age:Be 14 years of age. However, a person must be 16 years old to fly commercially. How is this possible? When passed, the Knowledge Test has an expiration date, 2 years to be exact. So a person can take the Remote Pilot test on his/her 14th birthday and could submit a application, yes there is an application after taking the test, to receive the certificate. However, I wouldn't suggest taking the test on a persons 14th birthday, wait a few days, because if there are any problems there is a possibility of having to take the test over again.

*English language: English is the standard language across the globe for aviation. A person must be able to read, speak, and write the English language. There are accommodations made for persons with a medical reason, such as a hearing impairment.

*Identification: To take the test you must provide identification that the FAA considers appropriate, such as one with a photograph, signature, date of birth, address (a physical address, a PO Box will present problems). If you think there might be an issue in this areas go to the regulation 107.67.

Remember: You are considered an applicant even if you pass the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test (70% or better) because you still have to be "vetted" by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). More on this in a minute.

Where Can You Take the Remote Pilot Knowledge Test?

At an FAA authorized Testing Center, find one close to you at by following the link. The test cost approximately $175, so you want to pass on the first try or you will have to pay another $175 and will have to wait 14 days to take it again (a real bummer).

What Happens When You Have Passing Test Results in Hand?

Having the test results in hand doesn't qualify a person to, as the FAA says, "exercise the privileges" of the Remote Pilot certificate. Your test results and personal identification must be taken to an FAA Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), Designated (Remote) Pilot Examiner (DPE), or Airmen Certification Representative (ACR). Most of these individuals can be located at a flight school, which will most likely be associated with the testing facility or in close proximity. One of these representatives will assist you will filling out an online Remote Pilot application called the, Integrated Airman Certification and/or Rating Application (IACRA, pronounced I-Ack-Rah). Through the IACRA system you can receive a "temporary certificate" that will be replaced with a
permenent one within 120 days (make sure you keep track of this and that you are not flying without certification). There is a way to apply via a paper process but you probably don't want to go there due to the issues with proof of identification and delay in receiving a temporary certificate (if you want to find more information about the paper process consult the link at the end of this article).

What is On the Remote Pilot test?

The test consist of 60 questions from an FAA test bank of over 300 questions that are randomly selected (which means no two test will be alike, nice try). There are 5 major subject areas on the test with a percentage of each of items on the test. Here are the subject area and percentages:

*Regulations: 15 - 25%
*Airspace and Requirements: 8-15%
*Weather: 11 - 16%
*Loading and Performance: 7 - 11%
*Operations: 13-18%

We suggest the RPA Remote Pilot Prep Video Course or eBook  that includes 12 modules or chapters of content plus practice quizzes and tests.

You must make 70% or better on the test to pass. Want to see a few, 38 to be exact, of the sample test questions provided by the FAA?​ Click this link and use the promo code: rpfreesample
for the questions and answers. The FAA does not directly provide the answers so we research and provide the answers. This means you will get to see us in action, in a small way. 

​Questions? Contact TC Freeman, Chief Instructor, Remote Pilot Association.

*NOTE: Don't forget to Register your Drone with the FAA! Certification of a pilot is separate from the registration of the drone.

Disclaimer: FAA information changes rapidly, be sure you have the most current document by going to the FAA website,
Resource: http://www.Source:

starting a drone business, making money with your drone, remote pilot certificate
Remote Drone Pilot Certification Study Guide ebook