Category Archives: Q&A

FAA Remote Pilot Certifications: here’s the database to search Part 107-certified pilots

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about the FAA Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot database. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Does the FAA have a website where you can see if a drone operator has a license to fly commercially? 


Hello, Dave!

The short answer is yes! You can browse the FAA’s public registry of Part 107-certifed remote pilots here.

In order to browse the database, you will have to start by submitting information about yourself, including your name and address. From there, you can browse all airmen (okay, how about airwomen?!), whether they are manned or remote pilots.  You’ll be able to see each pilot’s certificate and their rating (including that of yours truly).

If you’re hiring someone to do commercial drone work for you, this is a great place to check if that drone pilot is actually certified.

As of March 21, the FAA had issued 37,579 remote pilot certificates, according to an FAA spokesperson.

And if you’re a drone owner who flies commercially but is not yet Part 107-certified, save yourself the embarrassment of not showing up in this database by taking the Part 107 test. I promise, it’s not as hard as it may seem, even if you don’t have a background in aviation. (Here’s my guide and video to taking the Part 107 test, which is a 60-question written test that takes up to 2 hours. If you don’t have a background in aviation, you’ll certainly need to devote a few evenings to studying, but it’s not something you can’t do.

Note that not all pilots who have certificates may show up in your database search. Pilots do have 90 days to opt-out of having their address posted so there is a significant lag in posting, and someone’s legal name may not be the name you know then as when you search them.

Looking for study resources to ensure you pass? I used Drone Pilot Ground School and passed on the first try. I also recommend UAV Ground School — you can save $25 with coupon code DRONEGIRL. 

Happy flying, and happy test-taking!

Ask Drone Girl: B4UFly, what do the grey circles mean, and can I fly my drone there?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about using apps to figure out where you can legally fly drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I am about to receive my first real drone, the Phantom 3 Advanced.
My question is on the app it shows airports in an orange circle so obviously NO FLYING. but if I live in a city close by and it’s got a grey circle what’s that mean ?

Hey there!

It’s great to check where you can legally fly your drone BEFORE you actually purchase it. Many people buy their drone, and THEN realize they live a mile from an airport and can’t fly in their own back yard.

To answer your question, first I’d need to know what app you’re using to figure out the colors you’re referencing. There are TONS of apps out there to check where you can and can’t fly. There’s the FAA’s own B4UFly app, but in my opinion the interface is difficult to use. There are lots of other drone apps out there that do the same/similar job, but better. Check out Airmap, KittyhawkHover, or Skyward, which was recently acquired by Verizon.

Personally, I use Airmap, so I’ll walk you through their app to figure out whether you can fly there.

Here’s where I live (San Francisco): Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: B4UFly, what do the grey circles mean, and can I fly my drone there?

Ask Drone Girl: how do I even get started with drones?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about getting started with drones. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I was wondering if you have any recommendations on where to start in learning about drones? I’m totally new to this, and looking for a maybe a new career change. What would be a good drone to get to start out, and where would you recommend getting a drone pilot license if I got that route?


Hey Nicole,

Welcome to the drone world! Rules are constantly changing, and it could be difficult to know where to look.

Here’s where I suggest you start:

  1. Buy a cheap, toy drone.  Never flown a drone before? Don’t just drop $1,000 on a quality drone. Buy a $30 drone to see how you like it. These drones can be hard to fly, but they’ll ensure you actually like flying. Mastering flying a cheap, toy drone, also ensures you’ll be a pro pilot by the time you get your fancy, advanced drone. You would way rather fly the $30 toy drone into the pool than your new DJI Mavic, right? Trust me, I’ve heard way too many stories of this happening. Here’s an excellent guide from UAV Coach explaining the basics of flying.
tdr spider
Learn to fly on something you can afford to crash, like this $25 TDR Spider drone.

2. Learn the rules. There are different rules depending on whether you intend to fly for hobby (you are simply flying to have fun) vs. for business (you are making money off your flying). The best site to get this information is on the Know Before You Fly site, which was created by AUVSI and the AMA in partnership with the Federal Aviation Administration. On this site, you’ll learn requirements about having to register your drone, the rules about where you can fly, and more.

These include things like: Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: how do I even get started with drones?

What is the best drone to film my marching band?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drones and marching bands! If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

I’m looking for a drone that will auto hover and film. I will be using it primarily to record our high school marching band from directly above to assist with formations. There are just SO MANY makes and models, I end up overwhelmed and lost in details from one to another. I’m hoping to stay around $400.

Hey there,

This is my favorite question ever, and not because I know exactly what to recommend to you! I was in orchestra in high school (I played the viola) so I can appreciate the marching band too.

How cool! An aerial video of the formations will definitely help out your students — and you. What an excellent use case for a drone.

I recommend you get the DJI Phantom 3 Standard. At $499, it’s a bit over your budget, but it’s totally worth it. It’s also currently on sale on Amazon for just $439!

The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is definitely my favorite drone for under $500. (DJI already has a Phantom 4 drone, so you’re essentially getting last year’s model at a discount.)

GPS assisted flight means the drone can hover in its place for a flight time of up to 25 minutes. (However, just because the drone can hover, I always recommend someone has their hand on the controls just in case). Continue reading What is the best drone to film my marching band?

Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone manufacturing. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Do you think we will see Drones manufactured in the U.S.? There are many fine products on the market at this time but of course we feel a loyalty to our country! I own 5 drones so far !


Hey Pat!

You bring up a very interesting point. While I would also love to buy American-made products to support U.S. businesses, the reality is, most of the drones in the world are not made in the U.S.

There have been a number of attempts at U.S. manufactured drones, but none have succeeded. “Solo” drone maker 3D Robotics was based in Berkeley, Calif, with a large office in San Diego, Calif. (its main manufacturing plant was just across the border in Tijuana, Mexico) but it has since transitioned away from manufacturing commercial drones after laying off a number of staff. San Mateo, Calif.-based GoPro also laid off employees after recalling its Karma drone because they were falling from the sky.  Though, the Karma drone is back on the market. In January, the makers of San Francisco-based Lily, a widely-hyped drone that never actually made it to market, announced they were calling it quits and would refund those who made pre-orders.

The major companies that are left — DJI, Yuneec and Autel — are all Chinese companies, and many of the smaller drone companies are also mostly based outside of the U.S.

I discussed this phenomenon with Steve McIrvin, CEO of Autel Robotics USA. Continue reading Will we see drones manufactured in the U.S.?

Ask Drone Girl: where can I find music for my drone videos?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about music for your drone videos. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Do you have any website to refer me to for music free of copyrights to use for aerial video editing? Thank you.

-Jean Philippe

I’ve never gotten this question before. And I like it!

If you are posting your videos for the public (not just a family home video), then you need to either get the rights from the musician to use that music, or you need to use rights-free music. Any video posted to social networks like Facebook and YouTube also require you to either get permission from the artist to use their music or use rights-free music.

My favorite source of rights-free music is Free Music Archive. If the work is under a Creative Commons license, you may use the work as long as you abide by the license conditions, which are outlined below and in more detail on the Creative Commons website.

For my own Drone Girl videos, my video producer, Hamilton Nguyen, says he uses music from BenSound. They have great, simple background tracks.

Readers, where do YOU find music for your videos? Leave your tips in the comments below.

Happy flying, and happy video editing!

Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about hobby vs. commercial drone flying. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.
I was thinking about taking the Part 107, but was curious if I need to. I would really only fly for fun, but I have a friend that has an non-profit charity for a children’s hospital. I was considering taking a few pictures for him as a favor during a golf outing he has each year. I would not be paid and would be doing it as a hobby for fun and giving to him for a memory.
Is there any legality issues with that. If he put them online on Facebook or something would it be a problem?
Hey Jeff,
This is an excellent question, and I love how you are using drones for good — for charity work in fact! What an excellent cause.
As far as using a drone for charity work without Part 107, let’s consult the FAA’s words themselves.
Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a “pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.” UAS use for recreation is “refreshment of strength and spirits after work; a means of refreshment or division.”
You are certainly doing this outside of your regular occupation, and you could definitely argue that your use of a drone for charity work does qualify as refreshing of your strengths and spirits.
If you are flying for recreational purposes, make sure that you are flying in accordance with the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (Public Law 112-95 Section 336), which means you need to fly within visual line-of-sight, give way to manned aircraft, provide prior notification to the airport and air traffic control tower, if one is present, when flying within 5 miles of an airport, and register your drone with the FAA.

Continue reading Ask Drone Girl: Do I really need to get my Part 107 certification?

Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?

Next up in our “Ask Drone Girl” series is about drone classes for structural inspections. If you have a question for Drone Girl, contact her here.

Hey Drone Girl,

I live in Sacramento, California and I am looking for some drone training for inspections of structures. Do you know where I might find this type of training? I am willing to travel to other states where good training is offered.


Hey Scott!

This is a great question! I’m so glad you are looking to get additional training. Many people who fly drones for commercial purposes simply get their Part 107 certification and then don’t pursue other learning opportunities, despite using drones for highly technically advanced use cases.

The first thing that comes to my mind is that when you are inspecting structures, you’re probably going to incorporate thermal imaging into your flights.

From a purely theoretical point of view, I would recommend taking Brendan Stewart’s Aerial Thermography drone course. It’s an online course happening later this spring, so it’s good option for people looking ahead who want to learn from the comfort of their own couch. Sign up here. (By the way, UAV Coach offers tons of awesome great drone training courses. I used their Part 107 course and passed!)

That being said, I reached out to Brendan to give some additional background.

“Our aerial thermography course is really designed to provide the background knowledge on how thermography works, how to make sense of the infrared picture you’re seeing, and understand the process required to turn that “raw data” into usable information and added value for your client,” Steward said. “The course is designed for total beginners to thermography, who might be flying some less specialized use cases like light aerial photography and cinematography. We spend about the 1st 30% of the course on theory, understanding how to match equipment to the operation, interpret the data you receive back, and also how to deal with some of the optical illusions created by trying to navigate based on thermal imagery streamed back to your flight controls.”

As far as hands-on inspecting structures courses, it will be tougher to find a course that fits the bill. But there is good news! Continue reading Where can I find drone training for structure inspections?