FAA Drone Pilot CertificateSnapshot: drone certification and licensing in USA

July 13, 2021by helo-10
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Certification and licensing

Basic requirements and procedures

What certificates or licences are required to operate drones and what procedures apply?

Operations of a Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) that exceed the allowable conditions for their class of operations require a waiver, airspace authorisation or Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) approval. In addition, airworthiness certification or type certification of UAS are required for certain operations.

For operations involving transportation of property for compensation or hire that exceed the operational limitations in Part 107 (eg, beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS)), a UAS operator will need to apply for an air carrier certificate under 14 C.F.R. Part 135. If interstate air transportation is involved, the operator will also need to obtain Department of Transportation (DOT) economic authority by registering as an Air Taxi providing on-demand air service under 14 C.F.R. Part 298. These authorities are available only to US citizens.

A Pilot in Command (PIC) conducting civil operations under 14 C.F.R. Part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certificate with a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) rating. To qualify for certification, the applicant must:

  • be at least 16 years of age;
  • be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language;
  • be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with the safe operation of a UAS;
  • pass an initial aeronautical knowledge written exam; and
  • pass Transportation Security Administration background security screening.

 

Operators already holding a 14 C.F.R. Part 61 airmen certificate (ie, a pilot’s licence for manned operations) who have completed a flight review within the past 24 months are not required to take the written aeronautical knowledge test. Instead, they may complete an online course on the safe operation of UAS. To maintain the validity of the remote pilot certificate, the holder must pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge written test every 24 months.

Recreational operators are not required to obtain a remote pilot certificate, but will be required in the future to pass an online Basic Aeronautical Training and Test (BATT) module and then carry proof of test passage. This BATT module, which FAA is currently developing in conjunction with industry stakeholders, will provide basic aeronautical education to all recreational UAS operators. FAA will provide future guidance and notice when the training and test module becomes available and the date by which completion will be required.

Public UAS pilots operating sUAS under Part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certification, in the same manner as any other Part 107 sUAS operator. Alternatively, a public agency may choose to request a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to become a public aircraft operator, which allows the public agency to self-certify UAS pilots and aircraft for flights to perform governmental functions.

Educational operations of sUAS under Part 107 must also obtain a remote pilot certification. However, as FAA provides future guidance relating to the educational and research uses of UAS by institutions of higher education that are considered recreational in nature, this requirement may change specifically as it relates to these uses.

Taxes and fees

Are certification and licensing procedures subject to any taxes or fees?

The following are some of the fees that may apply:

  • registration of UAS with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) – 14 C.F.R. Part 107 civil operations: $5 per UAS (renewal required every three years);
  • registration of UAS with FAA – recreational operations: $5 per operator (renewal required every three years);
  • remote pilot certification aeronautical knowledge test – $160 (recurrent test required every two years);
  • DOT Air Taxi Registration – $8; and
  • DOT Part 375 Foreign Civil Aircraft Permit – $25.

 

No taxes specific to UAS certification and licensing apply.

Eligibility

Who may apply for certifications and licences? Do any restrictions apply?

Both US and non-US citizens may obtain a remote pilot certificate allowing them to act as PIC of an sUAS operating under 14 C.F.R. Part 107. However, non-US citizens must obtain permission from DOT under 14 C.F.R. Part 375 before operating an sUAS under Part 107.

Only US citizens may apply for an air carrier certificate under 14 C.F.R. Part 135, for operations that will exceed the limitations contained in Part 107 (eg, operating larger UAS or beyond visual line of sight delivery operations). Likewise, only US citizens, may register with DOT as an Air Taxi providing on-demand interstate air transportation under 14 C.F.R. Part 298.

 

Remote pilot licences

Must remote pilots obtain any certifications or licences to operate drones? If so, do the relevant procedures differ based on the type of drone or operation?

A PIC conducting civil operations under 14 C.F.R. Part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating. To qualify for certification, the applicant must:

  • be at least 16 years of age;
  • be able to read, speak, write and understand the English language;
  • be in a physical and mental condition that would not interfere with the safe operation of a UAS;
  • pass an initial aeronautical knowledge written exam; and
  • pass Transportation Security Administration background security screening.

 

Operators already holding a 14 C.F.R. Part 61 airmen certificate (ie, a pilot’s licence for manned operations) who have completed a flight review within the past 24 months are not required to take the written aeronautical knowledge test. Instead, they may complete an online course on the safe operation of UAS. To maintain the validity of the remote pilot certificate, the holder must pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge written test every 24 months.

Recreational operators are not required to obtain a remote pilot certificate, but will be required in the future to pass an online Basic Aeronautical Training and Test (BATT) module and then carry proof of test passage. This BATT module, which FAA is currently developing in conjunction with industry stakeholders, will provide basic aeronautical education to all recreational UAS operators. FAA will provide future guidance and notice when the training and test module becomes available and the date by which completion will be required.

Public UAS pilots operating sUAS under Part 107 must obtain a remote pilot certification, in the same manner as any other Part 107 sUAS operator. Alternatively, a public agency may choose to request a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA to become a public aircraft operator, which allows the public agency to self-certify UAS pilots and aircraft for flights to perform governmental functions.

Educational operations of sUAS under Part 107 must also obtain a remote pilot certification. However, as FAA provides future guidance relating to the educational and research uses of UAS by institutions of higher education that are considered recreational in nature, this requirement may change specifically as it relates to these uses.

Foreign operators

Are foreign operators authorised to fly drones in your jurisdiction? If so, what requirements and restrictions apply?

Yes, under certain conditions.

For recreational operations, a foreign operator must register his or her UAS. FAA will treat the registration as a recognition of ownership rather than a certificate of US aircraft registration.

For civil operations under 14 C.F.R. Part 107, the FAA does not currently recognize foreign remote pilot certificates, or their equivalents. Non-US citizens must obtain an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with an sUAS rating in order to fly the sUAS as the PIC. Alternatively, a non-US citizen can fly the sUAS under the direct supervision of a certificated US remote pilot, who acts as the remote PIC, provided the remote PIC has the ability to immediately take direct control of the UAS. A non-US citizen can also allow a remote pilot holding an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate to fly the sUAS for them.

For air carrier operations, an operator must obtain economic authority from DOT to operate a foreign civil aircraft in the NAS. This can be done in accordance with 14 C.F.R. Part 375, or the blanket permit issued by DOT for specialty air services under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (formerly NAFTA).

Certificate of airworthiness

Is a certificate of airworthiness required to operate drones? If so, what procedures apply?

UAS used in recreational operations, public operations, and for operations conducted under Part 107 (including any waivers granted by FAA) or a section 44807 exemption are exempt from FAA’s aircraft airworthiness certification requirements.

Each UAS intended for advanced operations beyond the limitations of these authorities must generally have an airworthiness certificate to operate in the NAS. Such airworthiness certificate may be issued for the individual UAS based on the approved type certificate for that model UAS (generally ‘special class aircraft’ under 14 C.F.R. section 21.17(b). Alternatively the FAA may issue a Special Airworthiness Certificate in the experimental category (14 C.F.R. section 21.191) for the purposes of research and development, demonstrating regulatory compliance, crew training, exhibition, and market survey.

During development, the FAA may also issue a special flight permit for the purpose of production flight testing new aircraft (14 C.F.R. section 21.197).

Law stated date

Correct on

Give the date on which the information above is accurate.

21 August 2020.



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