Part 107 is a certification that you can get to operate a drone for commercial purposes. This allows you to sell photographs that you take, film weddings, and much more.

The first national regulations concerning the use of Small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) were released by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on June 21, 2016. This set of regulations, fondly called “Part 107”, is explained in a 624-page publication. The rules under Part 107 mainly apply to the commercial use of drones, although a few restrictions apply to drone use of any kind.

Fortunately, you won’t need to read all 624 pages of these new FAA regulations. In this article, we have summarized the most relevant highlights of Part 107.

What are the operational limitations under Part 107?

  • The unmanned aircraft (or drone) must weigh less than 55 pounds
  • Unmanned aircraft weighing between 0.55 and 55 pounds must be registered with the FAA.
  • The unmanned aircraft must remain within the line of sight of the remote pilot at all times. Should this not be possible (such as when the pilot is using FPV goggles), then there must be a second observer to establish the line of sight. This line of sight needs to be established without any vision-enhancing device other than corrective lenses. Neither the pilot nor a secondary observer can be responsible for more than one aircraft at a time.
  • Unmanned aircraft may not fly over people who are not directly participating in the operation, under a covered structure, or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
  • Flight is allowed only during daylight. Flight during twilight (30 minutes before sunrise or 30 minutes after sunset) is allowed only with appropriate anti-collision lighting.
  • The unmanned aircraft may only have a maximum groundspeed of 100 mph.
  • The unmanned aircraft may fly at a maximum altitude of only 400 feet above ground. Flight over 400 feet is allowed as long as the aircraft remains within 400 feet of a structure (where there is no air traffic).
  • Only operations in Class G airspace is allowed without permission from air traffic control (ATC). ATC permission is required to operate an unmanned aircraft in Class B, C, D, and E airspace.
  • No aircraft operation is allowed from a moving aircraft or vehicle. In the case of a moving vehicle, an aircraft can be operated over a sparsely populated area.
  • A person is not allowed to operate an unmanned aircraft if he/she has existing physical or mental conditions that will hamper the ability to pilot the aircraft.

Do I need to get a drone license? How do I get one?

A drone license, sometimes called a remote pilot certificate, is needed for remote pilots who will use their drones for commercial purposes. Commercial operations can be done by a pilot without a drone license, but the pilot has to under the direct supervision of a person who holds a license.

Getting a drone license is a simple process, but it may take a considerable amount of effort. You will need to pass a knowledge test that can be administered in any one of almost 700 testing centers in the United States. To be able to take the test, you must be at least 16 years of age, have a government-issued ID, and be able to speak, read, write, and understand English. Taking the test costs $150.

Passing the test is not as easy as it sounds, but you may take an online training course provided by FAA. Your remote pilot certificate will be awarded to you upon passing the knowledge test, and after successful completion of a security vetting conducted by the TSA. Take note that the license is valid only for 2 years, after which you will have to retake the knowledge test to renew your license.

Being a licensed drone pilot does come with a few responsibilities. You are expected to ensure that your drone can operate safely by conducting a pre-flight inspection of using specific aircraft and control stations checks. The FAA also requires you to report within 10 days any accidents that lead to personal injury or to property damage amounting to at least $500. Should the FAA request that you submit your drone for inspection, or any other associated documents, you are required to comply.

Taking the knowledge test may be waived if you currently hold a Part 61 pilot certificate. However, you must have completed a flight review in the last 24 months, and must a take a short UAS online training course developed by FAA.

Are there exceptions to Part 107?

Unmanned aircraft may operate outside the boundaries of Part 107 given very special circumstances. These operations may include non-daylight operations, operations from a moving vehicle, operations near aircraft or airports, operations of multiple aircrafts, and operating over non-participating people. The FAA may grant waivers for such activities by applying a risk-based and metered approach. However, no details regarding this process have been revealed yet.

Does Part 107 allow drones to carry payloads?

Yes, drones are allowed to carry property with a few limitations.

  • The payload must be securely attached to the aircraft, and must not adversely affect the aircraft’s flight ability and controllability.
  • The aircraft must not be carrying any hazardous substances.
  • The weight of the aircraft, along with its payload and any other attachments, must not exceed the 55 pound limit.
  • The aircraft must still remain within line of sight of the pilot, and cannot be operated from a moving vehicle or aircraft.
  • Part 107 also stipulates that the flight can only take place within the bounds of a State.

Do I need to follow any other rules aside from Part 107?

FAA acknowledges that small areas and communities may implement more locally appropriate rules regarding drone flight. Part 107 recognizes the authority of local state and municipality governments to regulate drone flight to address their own security and privacy concerns, and compels drone pilots to follow these local rules.

Part 107 provides a measure of safety by implementing regulations and requirements for drone flight. The requirement of a drone license for commercial operations also ensures that commercial drone pilots are well-versed in relevant topics such as air control and drone operations. These rules actually are not very restrictive. If you are a new drone pilot, it would be a very good idea to be familiar with these rules first before doing your very first flight.