Part 107 regulations were released by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) on June 2016, which introduced restrictions and standards for commercial drone flight. One of the more important features of Part 107 is the requirement for commercial drone pilots to get a remote pilot certificate, or drone license, before they can legally use their drones for profit or business.

The process of getting a drone license is not really complicated, but it may take some time to complete. From setting an appointment to take the knowledge test, making time to study, taking the test, waiting for the results, and waiting for the delivery of the license, the individual steps can add up to some significant amount of time. If you’re wondering just how much, then we are here to break down the whole process for you.

1. Setting an appointment for the knowledge test

You can set an appointment for the Part 107 knowledge test in any one of the almost 700 testing centers in the USA. Due to the number of FAA-approved testing centers available, the centers practically have no backlog and are likely to be able to accommodate you instantly. This step can be done by phone or e-mail, and should not take any longer than a day.

2. Studying for the test

Easily the step in the process that demands the most effort, studying for the Part 107 knowledge test should take between 15 to 20 hours scattered across several days. We recommend taking the time to really prepare for the test, as the $150 testing fee is non-refundable should you fail. Study hours spread out over at least a week should yield the best results, but your measures may vary.

The test covers a wide range of topics in aeronautics, radio communications, map and chart reading, weather, and drone performance. Our free Part 107 study guide and list of Part 107 test topics may be good places to start.

3. Taking the test

On the day of your test, you only need to show up at the testing center you chose with all the basic requirements, and take the test within the allotted 2 hours.

4. Waiting for the results

Whether you pass or fail the Part 107 knowledge test, the results will be uploaded on the FAA website within 48 to 72 hours. If you are unfortunate enough to fail the test, you will have to wait 14 calendar days before you can take the test again. You will also have to pay the $150 testing fee again.

5. Applying for the license

If you passed the test, you can proceed directly to your application for the Remote Pilot Certificate. This can be done through the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) system. This is a quick step that should not take any longer than a few hours.

6. TSA background check

Upon receiving your remote pilot certificate application, the TSA will conduct a routine background check on you. How the TSA conducts the background check and their criteria is generally not disclosed to the public.

How long you will have to wait for the TSA to complete your background check will likely depend on the backlog of the TSA for pending requests. Some drone pilots claim to have had their completed in less than 2 weeks, while some had to wait for more than a month. An assumption of 2 to 4 weeks appears to be the most reasonable.

7. Waiting for the remote pilot certificate

When the TSA has completed their background check, you should receive a temporary certificate by email. This temporary certificate is valid for 120 days while your permanent certificate is on its way by regular mail. Accounts from pilots who have received their permanent certificates indicate that it takes at least a month or two.

How long does the whole process take?

Setting an appointment for the knowledge test1 day
Studying for the test1 to 2 weeks
Taking the test1 day
Waiting for the results2 to 3 days
Applying for the license1 day
TSA background check2 to 4 weeks
Waiting for the permanent certificate1 to 2 months

Summing up all the steps of getting a remote pilot certificate, it will take at least 26 days and up to 48 days to receive your temporary certificate after you have filed an appointment for the Part 107 knowledge test. This is assuming you pass the knowledge test on your first try. Waiting for the permanent certificate will take at least an additional month.

If you are planning to start up your drone business, then you need to take into account the time it takes to secure a drone license in your business plans. You will probably also need to consider the costs of getting a drone license.