There’s soon going to be a test for recreational drone pilots to pass before they can fly their drones.
What will the recreational drone flyer test actually be like? That’s in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as 13 organizations, which are primarily drone-related companies.
In May, the FAA announced that hobby operators would have to pass an online aeronautical knowledge and safety test and carry proof that they have passed the test with them while operating a drone, as part of a Congressional mandate. It’s unclear if there will be a fee to take the hobby test, how long it will take or what types of questions will be asked. Though, the FAA has implied that it would be conducted online (rather that in-person, like the commercial operator’s test.
“We love that the drone community is growing so quickly, and because drones can be flown straight out-of-the box, we need to make sure that drone pilots only take flight once they know the FAA’s aviation rules and safety practices,” the FAA said in a statement.
The FAA followed that up with a request to the community to submit their suggestions for what the test should be like through what’s called a request for information (RFI), earlier this year. And based on responses to that RFI, the FAA handpicked twelve entities to assist the agency in developing requirements that potential test administrators must meet.
Those companies are:
- Horizon Hobby
- Drone Racing League
- Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
- Drone Launch Academy
- Southeastern University
- Science Applications International Corporation
- Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Coach
- King Schools
- Unmanned Safety Institute
- First Person View Freedom Coalition
- Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
- Academy of Model Aeronautics
Among the standout companies on the list are DJI, which has an estimated, more-than-70% market share. The group also represents the drone racing community, with the addition of Drone Racing League, which is primarily known for putting on Drone Nationals, which aired on ESPN.
Currently, commercial drone pilots must take and pass the Part 107 Aeronuatical Knowledge Test for UAS operators, but there is no similar requirement for hobby pilots. The commercial drone pilot test asks intricate questions around airspace classification, reading sectional charts, weather patterns and more. Pass the test, and you’ll get a license, which allows you to operate under the standards set under Part 107. The test, which was launched in 2016, must be taken in-person at an approved test center and typically entails a $150 fee. The test is fairly challenging. A few of the companies in the group of a dozen companies weighing in on the hobby pilot test, such as Drone Launch Academy and UAV Coach, actually offer their own Part 107 test prep courses.
In contrast, Jay Merkle, Executive Director at the FAA’s UAS Integration Office has said that he intends for it to be “a fun, enjoyable format instead of a restrictive, dull format.”