A Part 107 drone license is required for drone pilots to legally use their drones for commercial uses, such as drone photography, mapping, or land surveys. Aside from the basic requirements – being at least 16 years of age and being physically and mentally sound – a drone pilot needs to take and pass the Part 107 knowledge test.
Much has already been written about how difficult the exam can be, and how preparing for the exam is a matter that needs to be taken seriously. In this article, we look at the best resources available for the budding commercial drone pilot to prepare for the knowledge test.
Free online training resources
Fortunately, several online training courses have become available since the inception of the Part 107 set of regulations. These online training courses can offer a combination of reading materials, instructional videos, knowledge checks, and sample questions. Only you can really tell which instructional medium will work for you. We have gathered below a list of the top online courses being offered for the Part 107 knowledge test. First, we look at the resources that are available for free.
1. FAA Online Course
The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) themselves have released a free online course that Part 107 applicants may take to prepare for the knowledge test. The catch is that the training course was designed for Part 61 pilot certificate holders who wish to apply for a remote pilot certificate, meaning it may be too technical for casual drone pilots.
The course consists of a combination of reading material and videos, and provides a good sampling of equivalent test questions. Finishing the course will take approximately 2 hours. Naturally, the biggest draw of this course is that it is free. If you can’t afford to spend any more than the $150 needed to take the knowledge test, then this course is a great option.
The FAA has also released an 87 page study guide for Part 107. This study guide is helpful, but it is pretty dense.
2. Commercial Drones FM
The podcast series of CommercialDrones.FM has a particular episode that discusses the free online training course offered by the FAA. The podcast format is quite limited, so the topics covered in this episode is by no means comprehensive. However, the podcast is available for free and is presented in a highly engaging manner. If you’re in the process of preparing for the knowledge test, then this podcast episode is a great listen while you’re in your morning commute.
3. Remote Pilot 101 webinar
This video tutorial by Jason Schappert is available for free on YouTube, and can also be a great supplement to your preparations. Aside from running through the common topics covered in the test, this video also identified the most commonly missed questions. This is a great, free resource which will give you an insight on the hardest parts you may encounter during the test and prepare accordingly.
Paid online Part 107 courses
The above resources can all be accessed for free, so you can consider any (or all) of them as good supplements the preparations you are making for the knowledge test. Of course, there are other training courses out there that will require a fee, but have more comprehensive content presented in a convenient and organized manner. We have compiled below some of the best paid resources for your Part 107 preparations.
1. Drone Pilot Ground School
The online course offered by Drone Pilot Ground School costs $299. Their material consists of video and text lectures, practice tests, and a sampling of real Part 107 test questions. Going over all this will take about 15 to 20 hours. This online course even comes with a flight proficiency training module. One of the best things about the course offered by Drone Pilot Ground School is that you have access to the course for life upon paying the fee. This comes into play when you have to re-take the knowledge test after the 2 years of validity of your drone license has expired.
2. Drone Launch Academy
The online training course of the Drone Launch Academy is available for $179, and consists mostly of video lectures that you can access on a desktop or on mobile. Included in the course is a lengthy and comprehensive study guide, along with more than 200 sample questions. This course prides itself in having instructors with flight, law, and meteorology background, ensuring that the course covers all relevant topics. Should you need to request clarification on certain topics, then you are sure to find the answer by consulting the resource people of this course. The course also provides lifetime access should you decide to take it.
The course offered by DARTDrones is a whole-day, in-person course and costs $670. Aside from the 8 hours on in-person learning, a 6-month access is also granted to an online Part 107 training course. The whole course includes practice tests, a 50-page study guide, a good sampling of test questions, and access to a licensed pilot should you have any questions. The classes are designed to be small so the instructor can pay better attention to each student. If you are the type who learns better in a classroom setting, then this is a more suitable training course for you.
4. UAV Ground School
The UAV Ground School training course was designed by Gold Seal, and has been recognized by the FAA as an approved training program. This online course costs $199, and consists of instructional videos, interactive segments, flash cards, quizzes, and sample tests using real FAA questions. Your progress is stored in the cloud so you can access the course from anywhere and from any computer. Going through the more than 30 modules, quizzes, and sample tests should take you between 15 to 25 hours to finish. Lifetime access to the course also comes with the initial fee.
5. GroundSchool Drone Pilot (UAS) Test Prep
This app developed by Dauntless Software is available from the Apple Store for $49.99. It provides several study modes including audio clips, flash cards, and sample questions that are very similar to those that can be found in the actual knowledge test. A noteworthy feature of this app is that the answers to the sample questions come with detailed explanations as to why the answer is correct, complete with diagrams and illustrations. The degree of interactivity and the relatively cheap price of this app makes it a really nice and practical choice.
Are paid training courses worth it?
The question of whether or not it’s worth it to pay for a Part 107 training course mostly has to do with the type of commercial application you want to go into. The paid training courses can be quite expensive. Naturally, you would want to earn back this amount (along with the cost of your drone and the test fee) once you start your drone business. It becomes a problem of economics.
So how much can you potentially earn with your drone business? That will depend on your skill and expertise, but a skilled drone photographer can earn at least $1000 for a single wedding or event coverage. This means that a single job will more than cover the expenses of your Part 107 training course. Being a certified commercial drone pilot who has undergone some form of formal training will also look really good on your portfolio, and should give you a leg up over the competition.
In our opinion, taking a paid online course is worth it if you are truly serious about starting a drone business. Drone services are still a niche industry today, so service fees are still high. The best business strategy would probably be to start a drone business now and cultivate a nice, large portfolio before the market starts to get saturated.
It’s important to remember that the fee to take the Part 107 test is $150. If you fail the test because you weren’t able to study enough on your own, then a course will pay for itself. The test is quite difficult, so having a great study resource will likely save you from having to take it twice.
Books and e-books
Aside from online and in-person training courses, books and other study materials are also available to help you prepare for your Part 107 knowledge test. Although not as engaging or interactive, these books are much more affordable and may suffice for the more self-paced learner.
1. FAA Official Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
The official handbook released by the FAA contains information that may not be drone specific, but is also nice to know for potential commercial drone pilots. This book focuses more on aeronautical knowledge such as aircraft structure, flight aerodynamics, and flight controls and instruments. The book can be purchased at a really low price, or can be downloaded for free from the FAA website.
2. Remote Drone Pilot Certification Study Guide
The study guide prepared by TC Freeman has 12 chapters and over 300 questions, and is written in a fun and engaging language. Buying this book also provides 1 year of membership to RemotePilotAssociation.com which has a private group discussion, blog, and videos.
3. UAS Remote Pilot Study Prep
This book is part of the well-known and reliable ASA Test Prep Series, and provide comprehensive coverage on relevant topics such as weather effects on flight performance, FAA regulations, and airspace classifications. Buying the book also allows you to access up to 5 online practice tests at the ASA website.
4. Remote Pilot Test Prep 2018
One of the newer books in the bunch, this book is a more recent release of the ASA Test Prep Series. The study guide in this newer version has become improved with better organization and coverage, making studying easier and more effective. Organization of chapters and subject matters was designed specifically for better understanding and recall. As with the earlier version, buying this book allows you to take up to 5 online practice tests at the ASA website.
5. Professional Drone Pilot’s Handbook & FAA Remote Pilot Test Guide
This book is one of the most comprehensive texts available on general drone flight. Written by experience pilots, flight instructors, and college professors, this book continues to be used as the textbook for all certified ground school courses of the Association of Professional Drone Pilots.
6. Drone Test Part 107: A Study Guide and Practice Test for Acing the FAA Exam
This book has comprehensive study guide that covers all the practical knowledge you will need to pass the Part 107 knowledge test. With over 200 sample questions that are guaranteed to be similar to the ones the FAA gives, this book will definitely help you be much better prepared for the actual test.
Strategies for preparing for the test
Below are some recommendations for studying for the Part 107 test:
1. Commit to a dedicated study schedule
Most courses can be finished in 15 to 20 hours, so maybe you need to dedicate 2 to 3 hours per day for a whole week. If you are too busy on week days, then perhaps you can spend a whole weekend studying. More important than the time you spent on studying is your commitment and level of focus on preparing for the test. Keep in mind that the number of hours you spend studying will not be relevant if you do not focus and allow yourself to learn free from any distraction.
2. Study right before the exam
We recommend setting your test appointment such that you will have a week of two prior to the test to study or take a training course. A lot of the knowledge you will learn while studying for the Part 107 test aren’t exactly practical or for everyday use, so you will tend to forget about them over time. Make sure that you consider this in your plan, and don’t prepare for the test too early.
3. Take as many sample tests as possible
Once you have finished a training course or study material, we suggest taking as many sample tests as you can get your hands on. This is a very effective method for you to build confidence in your newfound proficiency, as well as for you to identify deficient areas. Knowing what you need to further study on ensures that you cover all the knowledge bases before you take the actual Part 107 test.
4. Know what materials will be provided to you during the test
Some materials, such as the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement Book, will be provided to you during the test. This book contains a lot of useful information which you need not memorize. This book also has references to standard symbols and figures, and you will save time during the test if you can make yourself familiar with these symbols over the course of your preparation.
5. Study on the weather
The FAA estimates that about 11 to 13 percent of the knowledge test will be about weather. Accounts from those who have taken the test have somewhat agreed to this, and have reported several questions regarding drone flight in different weather conditions. Be sure to read up on the topic of weather while you are studying.
6. Ask for advice from licensed drone pilots
We have a growing and ever-helpful community of drone hobbyists, some of whom have already earned their remote pilot certificate. Experience is very often the best teacher, and asking for their insights can help you in a way that no training course can. Anything from time management, things to bring, topics to focus on – these are all valuable information and your fellow drone enthusiasts will be happy to help.
Only you can really determine how you can best prepare for the Part 107 knowledge test. It will all depend on how much you are willing to spend, how much time you have to study, and what study method works best for you. Just be sure to cover all the essential topics and take all the sample tests that you can.
The knowledge test is the biggest hurdle on the way towards earning a remote pilot certificate, and it was implemented by the FAA for a good reason. As drone pilots (professional or otherwise), we must all be responsible for our safety, the safety of other people, and the safety of property. We should all aspire to be better drone pilots both in skill and knowledge.