Two years ago, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enacted into law the Part 107 regulations regarding Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). These rules affect all kinds of drones, including our beloved quadcopters. On top of rules regarding the operational limits of drones, these new regulations also required commercial drone pilots to secure a remote pilot certificate before they can legally use their drones to earn money. The biggest hurdle in getting this remote pilot certificate, or drone license, is passing the Part 107 knowledge test. What does it take to pass this test? Read on and find out!

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What’s in the test?

The Part 107 knowledge test is a 60-item multiple choice test. It covers a wide range of topics, the most important of which are listed below:

  • Drone operational limits
  • Airspace classification
  • Reading aeronautical charts
  • Weather and its effects on drone performance
  • Drone loading
  • Radio communication standards
  • Physiological parameters affecting drone pilot performance

This list is by no means comprehensive, and only serves to exhibit how diverse the expansive the selection of topics is. The test has been designed such that no two applicants are likely to have the same set of questions: the questions that any applicant receives are randomly picked from a larger pool of all possible questions. This prevents applicants from helping each other and compels applicants to study up on all the possible topics.

What happens on the day of the knowledge test?

After having signed up for the knowledge test and paying the testing fee, all you need to do is show up on the testing date you agreed on. Remember the things that you need to bring and are allowed to bring: you are required to bring a photo ID to present to the proctor, and you have the option to bring a calculator and a magnifying glass.

Also take note that you are not allowed to bring your phone when you take the test. Plan ahead, and maybe leave your phone in the car before entering the testing center.

The proctor will provide you a pencil and scratch paper to do long-hand calculations. You will also be given the Airman Knowledge Testing Supplement Book, which you will use as reference for high resolution charts and maps, as well as the associated map symbols and legend.

The execution of the test is pretty standard in any testing center, so your experience should be the same no matter where you take the test. You will be directed to a work station in a testing room which is constantly monitored by cameras while you take the test. Any act of cheating can render you unable to apply for the Part 107 drone license at any point in the future, so don’t try anything funny while taking the test.

You are given 2 hours to complete the test. Most people who have taken and passed the knowledge test finished it in an hour or less, but don’t let this fact pressure you. You are allowed to take your time, review your answers, and make well-thought answers. There is very little time pressure, so you really don’t need to rush.

What does it take to pass the knowledge test?

To pass the test, you need to answer 70% of the questions correctly. This translate to 42 out of the 60 questions.

What happens if I fail?

Don’t fret too much if you fail. The FAA allows people who failed the knowledge test to retake after 14 calendar days. In some respects, the FAA will help you pass the test on your retake by providing a knowledge test report which shows the subject areas you need to improve on.

Unfortunately, the $150 testing fee is non-refundable in case of a failing grade. Retaking the knowledge test will set you back another $150. Think of it as an incentive not to fail again!

In case you were wondering: the FAA has not set a limit on the number of times that a single person can retake the knowledge test. However, cases of people failing more than once are probably not very common. Getting inducted into this small group of individuals is not something you would like to aspire for.

Any tips on how to pass?

The best and most obvious tip to pass the Part 107 knowledge test is to prepare for it. As you can glean from the list of topics that the test covers, not all of it is practical knowledge. You will likely have to seek out reading materials or training courses to have a good chance at passing the knowledge test.

Luckily for you, the internet abounds with these training materials. You can choose any of the free resources – such as Youtube videos, podcasts, free online courses – or sign up for a paid training course. Paying for a training course is not necessary, but it does practically assure you that you will pass the test. After all, these paid training courses have absurdly high passing rates for their students who took the knowledge test.

Another tip is to not rush the preparation phase. Give yourself a week or two to go through the material slowly and carefully. Commit to a study schedule, take notes, and ask questions. With enough prep time, passing the knowledge test should be a breeze.

Final thoughts

With an ever-expanding market for drone services, more and more drone hobbyists have started aspiring to be commercial drone pilots. However, it takes more than excellent flying skills to be a licensed drone pilot. You need to know about airspace classifications, weather conditions, drone loading performance, and various other areas of knowledge which can help you a more responsible and safety-conscious drone pilot.

The Part 107 knowledge test is the FAA’s method to establish this standard base of knowledge. With enough time and effort dedicated to preparation, passing the test is really not hard. You can take solace in the fact that since the Part 107 rules were enacted, hundreds of thousands of people have taken and passed the Part 107 knowledge test. No pressure at all!