The drone industry just marked a huge milestone this week, as the Federal Aviation Administration announced that it has now issued more than 100,000 Remote Pilot Certificates.
The benchmark figure only represents pilots registered to fly commercially, and does not include the many thousands more who fly drones recreationally — as well as the pilots who fly unlicensed. (The FAA has only cracked down on one pilot for flying commercially without a license, though pilots expect many more are skirting the law.)
And the 100,000 milestone may dispel any fears that the drone industry was nothing more than a bubble. Sales numbers are growing in line with the growth in registered pilots, as U.S. dollar sales of drones increased 33 percent in 2017, according to The NPD Group.
A Remote Pilot Certificate is required in the U.S. by the FAA to fly drones for commercial purposes under Part 107. Those regulations required that drone operators pass a UAS aeronautical knowledge test. The test can be taken at one of the 696 testing centers in the United States and asks questions on topics such as air traffic, weather and safety. Upon passing, pilots receive a license, which is good for two years.
The FAA has issued 98,118 Remote Pilot Certificates since July 6. The pass rate on the test is 92%, according to @FAANews.
— Sally French (@TheDroneGirl) July 17, 2018
The rule that requires drone pilots obtain the Remote Pilot Certificate went into effect on August 29, 2016, with a huge chunk of America’s pilots obtaining their certificates in Sept. 2016.
A whopping 1,338 people completed the test within two days of it being made available back in 2016, and thousands more have followed. Within three months, the FAA had issued nearly 23,000 drone pilot licenses.
Since the licenses are valid for two years, many pilots will be required to renew their certificates over the next couple months if they want to remain in good standing with the law. The renewal process will require existing pilots to take a test similar to the one they initially took — but it will have some differences.
Much like taking the initial drone test, the recurrent knowledge testing process requires pilots to book a testing appointment at one of around 700 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States and achieve at least a 70% score to pass. But the breakdown of topics that remote pilots will be tested on is a bit different. You can find everything you need to know about the recurrent knowledge test, including the new test topics, here.