Drone Pilot Flying Drone

How to Become a Drone Pilot?

Estimated reading time: 10 minutes

Drone pilot can be a lucrative and exciting job, and it is relatively easy to break into the industry.

However, before you can begin your career as a drone pilot, there are some steps that you need to take to ensure that you are following the rules that have been set out by the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Not following these rules can result in fines of between $1000 and $5000. 

Why Do You Need a Drone License?

A drone is an unmanned aircraft. Drones are used for many purposes commercially, for military purposes, and to monitor storms.

In the U.S., it is essential to be licensed as there are many safety concerns with allowing drones to fly unchecked.

Some of those concerns includes crashing into buildings. Interfering with airspace, Invasion of privacy though aerial surveillance, Radio Frequency Interference etc.

When Should You Apply for a Drone License?

You should obtain your drone license before you fly your drone for the first time. There are a couple of different situations that apply to people who are applying for a drone license. 

You can apply as a first-time pilot, or you are an existing Part 61 Holder. If you are a first-time drone pilot, there are a few eligibility requirements that you must meet to apply for your license. These are:

If you are an existing Part 61 Certificate Holder, some eligibility requirements are different. You must:

  • – Hold a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61.
  • – Have a completed flight review in the last two years.
  • – Pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Exam

If you have not completed a flight review in the previous two years, you will need to go through the process to get a Part 107 Certificate.

Part 107 Certificate for flying drones.
Part 107 Certificate

How Much Does It Cost to Get a FAA Drone License?

The costs associated with getting your drone license might seem high initially, but considering the potential to earn money with it, it is a good investment in your future.

The initial cost to get licensed is $160 to write the test. This is paid directly to the testing center where you choose to write your test. 

Once you have passed the test, there is no additional fee to receive your certificate.

Registering Your Drone:

Once you have your certificate, there is a $5 registration fee for your drone. This registration is valid for three years. If you are choosing to be a commercial drone operator, it is mandatory to register your drone

Registering your drone can be done simply by going online to the FAADroneZone website and filling out a form. To register a drone, you need:

  • To be over the age of 13
  • An email address
  • Your physical address (and mailing address if your physical address is different from your mailing address)
  • The make and model of your drone
  • A credit or debit card

Drone Insurance:

An optional expense in flying your drone is obtaining Drone Insurance. The Drone insurance is not currently required by the FAA, there are some things to consider before you decide to skip this expense. 

First, identify the type of flying you are going to be doing with your drone. If you are getting your drone for recreational purposes, it might not be necessary, depending on how much money you invested in your drone.

However, if you are planning on flying commercially, many projects will require their operators to hold drone insurance.

Companies Providing Drone Insurance
Drone Insurance Companies

There are also different types of Drone Insurance to consider:

Drone Liability Insurance:

This type of insurance will protect you from third-party claims of property damage. This includes if you crash your drone into a building, vehicle, or person.

SkyWatch is the leading on-demand drone insurance provider in the U.S. and is super easy to use where policies start at just $5 an hour.

Hull Insurance:

This insurance protects your physical drone. Many drone manufacturers have Hull Insurance that you can purchase, to repair and replace your drone should it become damaged.

Payload Insurance:

This insurance protects the additional equipment that might be a part of your drone. This includes thermal, multispectral, or cinematography cameras, as well as ground equipment like laptops, tablets, and remote controllers.

What Are the Steps to Obtain a Drone License?

The process to get your drone license can seem overwhelming. However, it can be broken down into a few simple steps.

First Time Pilot:

  • 1: Before anything else, you need to create an Integrated Airman Certification and  Rating Application profile on the FAA website. This will give you an FAA Tracking Number, which allows you to register for a knowledge test.
  • 2: Book an appointment to write the Aeronautical Exam.
  •  3: Once you have passed the Aeronautical Exam, you will have to use the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate System to complete form 8710-13. This form is your request for your Remote Pilot Certificate.
  •  4: Once you have completed the application and passed the security background check, you will receive an email with a temporary remote pilot certificate. The permanent certificate will be mailed to you once all the FAA internal processing has been completed.
  •  5: Ensure you have your Remote Pilot Certificate available whenever you are flying your drone.

Existing Part 61 Certificate Holder:

 1: Log into your account on the FAA FAASTeam website and complete the online training course for Part 107 small unmanned aircraft systems.

 2: Log into your account on the Integrated Airman Certificate System and fill out form 8710-13.

 3: Make an appointment with one of the following to validate your identity:

  • – FAA Flight Standards District Office
  • – FAA Designated Pilot Examiner
  • – An Airman Certification Representative
  • – An FAA Certificated Flight Instructor

When you attend your appointment, be sure to bring your completed form, photo I.D., proof of a completed flight review, and your online course completion certificate.

 4: The representative you see will sign your application and issue you a temporary certificate. You will receive your permanent certificate by mail once everything is processed.

 5: Ensure you have your Remote Pilot Certificate available whenever you are flying your drone.

If you are an existing Part 61 Certificate Holder, some eligibility requirements are different. You must:

  • – Hold a pilot certificate issued under 14 CFR part 61.
  • – Have a completed flight review in the last two years.
  • – Pass the Aeronautical Knowledge Exam

If you have not completed a flight review in the previous two years, you will need to go through the process to get a Part 107 Certificate.

What is the difference between a Part 61 Certificate and a Part 107 Certificate?

The Part 61 Certificate is given to pilots who are certified as sport pilots, recreational pilots, private pilots, commercial pilots, and air transport pilots.

This is different from the Part 107 Certificate, which allows you to operate a drone to make money in the U.S. but does not allow you to operate any other aircraft.

What Are Some Restrictions of The Part 107 Certification?

A Part 107 Certification comes with some rules that must be followed. Some basic rules are as follows:

  • – The drone must weight more than 55 lbs or 25 kg.
  • – The drone must remain in the visual line of sight of the pilot in command. This must happen without the aid of any device, other than corrective lenses.
  • – Drones cannot be operated over any persons who are not involved in the operation and cannot be under a covered structure or in a vehicle.
  • – Activities must take place during the daylight or during twilight.
  • – Maximum ground speed of 100 mph (ca. 161 km/h) and a maximum altitude of 400  feet (0.12 km) above ground level.

If your operation requires you to deviate from one or more of the above rules, you will need to apply for an operational waiver from the FAA. The exemption allows you to deviate from the regulations by demonstrating you can still fly safely.

How and When Should You Renew Your Certificate?

Once you have obtained your Drone Pilot License, it is only valid for 24 months. After 24 months, you will have to take a recurrent knowledge test. To some people, this feels monotonous and unnecessary.

 The FAA has determined this is required because many drone pilots choose to use their license for recreational reasons and won’t be exercising drone operations often enough to recall all the concepts that are tested in the original knowledge test.

The signing up for the test is done in the same way as the original test. It will cost a fee of $150.

The recurrent test also includes fewer questions than the initial Aeronautical Knowledge test, although it will cover the same topics. 

Once you have passed the test, you will not be issued a new certificate, but you will be required to keep the paper with your test results on it with you to show that your certificate is valid.

Drone Training Colleges:

Another optional additional cost to obtaining your drone license is to attend a drone training college. Attending a drone training college is hugely beneficial to help you learn the tools and functions of your drone and master the art of flying it.

 A course will also prepare you for the FAA testing by teaching you all the information that you need to know to pass the test.

Obtaining a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Science in Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Engineering will also open the jobs available to you to increase the amount of money you can earn as a drone pilot.

Drone College with students
Students in Drone Training College

What Are the Topics On the Aeronautical Knowledge Test?

The idea of writing a test may seem overwhelming. However, the Aeronautical Knowledge Test can be broken down into straightforward categories:

  • – Regulations relating to small aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight    operation
  • – Flight restrictions, airspace regulations and operating requirements that apply to   unmanned aircraft
  • – Effects of the weather on small unmanned aircraft and the weather sources for aviation
  • – Loading and performance for small unmanned aircraft
  • – Emergency procedures
  • – Managing crew resources
  • – Procedures of radio communication
  • – Determining the performance abilities of the small unmanned aircraft
  • – Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol on the pilot
  • – Decision-making and judgment in aeronautics
  • – Airport operations
  • – Preflight inspection procedures
  • – Small unmanned aircraft maintenance

Top 10 Drone Training Colleges In USA:

There are many Drone Training Colleges across the United States. Here is my pick of Top 10 Colleges:

  1. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, FL, and Prescott, AZ
  2. Kent State University in Kent, OH
  3. Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN
  4. Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, OK
  5. Indiana State University in Terre Haute, IN
  6. Kansas State University in Salina, KS
  7. The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ND
  8. Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA
  9. South Dakota State University in Brookings, SD
  10. Green River College in Auburn, WA

How Much Money Does a Commercial Drone Pilot Make?

Now that you know how to get your drone pilot license, and some necessary costs and rules, let us talk about making money as a commercial drone pilot. 

There are two options when you seek employment as a drone pilot. The first is working with a specific company, and the second is working freelance on projects. When you work with one specific company, you are usually paid on salary. 

This salary can range from $33,000 to $70,000, depending on the level of experience you have. The salary is also impacted by whether the job is in the private or public sector.

If you choose to work as a freelance drone pilot, the amount you can make depends strongly on what you are charging for your services.

The industry standard seems to be between $300 and $800 for real estate imagery, although it can vary depending on the type of job you are contracted to do.


You can find a job as a drone pilot using many of the same resources you would use to find any other job.

Local job listings, job boards, and networking. To be a drone pilot can be overwhelming when you start learning about the steps that need to be taken.

However, when you break them down and work through it all step by step, you will see it is not as hard as it seems.

Drone Pilot jobs comes with some great benefits including a low cost to get started, a quick training period, and the ability to set your own hours.

If you are interested in becoming a drone pilot, now is the time to do it as the drone industry is booming, providing plenty of opportunities!


How to Become a Drone Pilot?
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How to Become a Drone Pilot?
We cover all the basic criteria needed to become a drone pilot.
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Remoteflyer Private Limited
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