If you have plans of using your drone to generate some extra cash or to start a full-fledged business, then you have probably heard of the Part 107 regulations. Released on June 2016, the Part 107 regulations of the FAA set regulations and standards for commercial drone flight. One of the main features of Part 107 is the requirement for commercial drone pilots to secure a remote pilot certificate, or drone license, before they can use their drones for commercial purposes.

One of the steps in getting a drone license is taking and passing 60 question Part 107 knowledge test. This may be the most difficult step of the process, as you will need some level of aeronautical knowledge and proficiency on weather reports, radio communication, and drone performance. The list of topics you need to study may seem overwhelming, so we prepared an organized list of topics broken down into sub-topics.

Setting your priorities

The 60 multiple-choice questions in the Part 107 knowledge test is roughly divided into topics as illustrated below:

TopicPercentage of Items on Test
Aircraft operations35 – 45%
Regulations15 – 25%
Airspace and Requirements15 – 25%
Weather11 – 16%
Loading and Performance7 – 11%

You can use the breakdown of topics to budget your study time while you are preparing for the test. For instance, you can dedicate roughly half of the time on the topic of aircraft operations. This is, of course, just a guide that you can use if you have limited time. For best results, you should dedicate significant study time to all the prescribed topics.

What exactly are the items you need to study for each topic? We break down each of the topics into the essential subtopics that you will need to study so you can have a good chance of passing the knowledge test.

1. Aircraft operations

  1. You will need to be very familiar and comfortable with reading maps and charts. Learn to locate features on a map given the directional bearing (e.g. 47º25’N – 99º54’W) from a reference point.
  2. Be familiar with common map elements such as the Prime Meridian, longitude, and latitude.
  3. Some familiarity with common map and chart symbols (such as those for airports and man-made obstacles) will be advantageous. You will be provided a copy of the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement Book during the test where you can find a list of these symbols, but you can save some time from looking it up with a little prior knowledge.
  4. Learn standard “radio language” for radio communications. The phonetic alphabet is a good place to start.
  5. Learn about emergency procedures, and when to report an accident to the FAA.

2. Regulations

  1. Learn the basic FAA regulations concerning unmanned aerial systems.
  2. These regulations may include process standards such as when you will need to register your drone, how long the validity of the drone license is, and how to apply for a waiver.
  3. You need to be very familiar with limitations on drone operations, such as the maximum altitude and maximum groundspeed that you can fly your drone. Operation standards, such as having to establish line-of-vision contact, are also equally important.

3. Airspace and requirements

  1. Learn the airspace types (controlled, uncontrolled, special use, and others).
  2. Learn the sub-types, such as Class B, C, D, and E controlled airspace. Remember how these airspace types are defined and assigned.
  3. Remember which airspace types will require an air traffic control (ATC) authorization before drone flight will be allowed.
  4. Learn the different types of special use airspace, such as restricted areas and warning areas. Make sure that you can identify these special use areas on a map with their standard notation (e.g. R-####, W-####).

4. Weather

  1. Pay special attention to reading METAR weather reports. There are several parts to a METAR weather report, and being able to discern all the information in a single report can take some practice.
  2. Be familiar with the abbreviations within the METAR reports and what they correspond to (e.g. DZ = Drizzle, PL = Ice pellets, SA = Sand, etc.).
  3. Similar in format the METAR weather reports are the TAF weather forecasts. These two reports look very similar and use the same set of definitions.

5. Loading and Performance

  1. Learn how drone performance is affected by different weather conditions such as temperature, pressure, and humidity. It is easier to develop an understanding of the concepts that govern how a drone performs under different conditions rather than commit these relationships to memory.
  2. Learn how physiological factors can affect the performance of a drone pilot. These conditions can be a result of external agents such as alcohol or drugs, or related to the underlying physical conditions of the pilot, such as stress and hyperventilation.
  3. Learn about hazardous pilot attitudes, how they affect the performance of a drone pilot, and how they can be avoided.
  4. Learn how to conduct a pre-flight checklist, both for the pilot and the drone.
  5. Learn the basics of drone loading, and how certain flight maneuvers increase the effective load on a drone. Relating to this, you may need to perform a few calculations on how a load is increased when turning on a banked angle. Bringing a calculator on the test may come in handy if you encounter these types of questions.

Beyond the list

The list we came up with above is by no means sufficiently comprehensive to guarantee passing the knowledge test. You will still need to dedicate significant study time to each sub-topic we identified. Our free Part 107 study guide is a good place to start.

We highly recommend developing a deep understanding of the concepts and topics we have listed above. Beyond helping you pass the knowledge test, the knowledge that you will gain will help you be a better drone pilot. After all, there is a good reason that the FAA requires a high level of knowledge for commercial drone pilots. Best of luck and we hope your test goes well.