Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about checking a drone pilot’s license expiration date. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
Does the FAA have an online resource to check the expiration date for a drone pilot?
You’re referencing the Federal Aviation Administrations’ Remote Pilot Certificate, which you need in order to operate drones commercially in the U.S. To get one, you must pass the UAS aeronautical knowledge test (many people refer to it as the Part 107 test or Part 107 certificate), since taking the test is mandated in Title 14 CFR Part 107. Upon passing, pilots receive a license, which is good for two years. After two years are up, you’ll need to take a recurrent knowledge test if you wish to continue flying commercially.
So is there a place to check when those two years are up? The short answer is “no.”
But I’ll elaborate further. The first nuance here, is that your remote pilot certificate never actually expires. It is a life-long certification (unless specifically revoked).
Your FAA Remote Pilot Certificate never expires, but…
Just like getting other FAA certifications for manned flight, after passing your test you’ll receive a certificate printed on a plastic card, and that card does not have an expiration date.
BUT, you cannot legally operate a drone for commercial purposes if two years have lapsed since taking the test (the certificate doesn’t expire, but you cannot operate for life).
To continue your operating privileges, you need to have passed either the initial test or the recurrent test within the last 24 months. You can let time lapse beyond that, but you cannot legally operate commercial drones within that time.
If the initial two years have passed, you can let two years lapse with no drone flying, and then come back four years later, take the recurrent test, and resume operations. There’s no disadvantage to letting your Certificate lapse, besides the fact that you cannot operate commercial drones within that time.
Upon passing your recurrent test, you’ll be given a test report which has the new expiration date written on it. Keep that test paperwork, as you could be asked to show it as proof that your certificate is current.
There’s no way for a member of the public to check the current status of a Remote Pilot Certificate online, but you can see if someone has a certificate. The FAA does maintain a public registry of Part 107-certifed remote pilots (which you can view here), but keep in mind that not all pilots may show up, as there are some ways to opt-out of the database. The database also only shows the data the certificate was first issued, but won’t have information on whether it is up-to-date.
How do I take the recurrent test so my Remote Pilot Certificate is up to date?
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. The breakdown of topics on the test is slightly different on the recurrent test than on the initial test.
Here are what types of questions potential pilots can expect to see on the initial license test:
Some notable changes between the recurrent and initial test: the FAA says that the recurrent test removes questions on weather (though some readers have noted that they still got weather-related questions), loading and performance airmen certification standard. Pilots have 90 minutes to complete the test, which is, again, a multiple choice format. And again, test takers must pay a testingg fee (typically $150).
If you need to study up again for the recurrent test, online drone training program Drone Pilot Ground School, has a module specifically for studying for the Recurrent Test. If members purchased a program in the past, they will have access to the recurrent module (unlike many drone testing courses where customers pay a monthly fee to gain access to the training modules, Drone Pilot Ground School members remain members for life).
Use discount code “DRONEGIRL50” to save $50 off their online courses (or simply click this link and it will automatically be applied).