Do I Need a License to Fly a Drone

Do I Need a License to Fly a Drone?

Do I need a license to fly a drone? What are the drone license requirements? These are by far the most common questions I’ve come across from drone lovers around me. 

As the popularity of these flying wonders continues to soar, so does the confusion surrounding the regulations and requirements for operating these UAVs! 

That’s why I thought of preparing this piece to answer all your queries and prevent any legal trouble when flying your drone. So, let’s start. 

Do I Need a License to Fly a Drone – The Short Answer 

Whether you need a license to fly a drone depends on what type of pilot you are. 

Let me explain this to you. 

As per the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), you aren’t required to obtain a license to fly your drone for recreational activities.

Instead, you must pass the free online test called The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). This test will familiarize you with the FAA’s rules for safe and responsible drone operation.

Note: These are the rules for a recreational flyer. 

Conversely, a valid license is mandatory for commercial flyers under Part 107. Hence, if you intend to use your drone for commercial activities, say, delivery, you must get your Remote Pilot Certificate (RPC) from the FAA by passing a knowledge test and a practical flight test. Plus, there is a fixed set of rules for you, too! 

Note: These are the rules for a commercial flyer under Part 107

2 Important Factors That Influence the Need for a Drone License

2 Important Factors That Influence the Need for a Drone License

From the weight of your drone to the purpose of flying it, below are the two critical factors that influence the need for a license:

Drone Size and Weight

Does your drone weigh more than 55 pounds or 250g? If yes, you must register it with the FAA and obtain a license to use it for work/business purposes. The same goes for size. 

In general drones, smaller drones don’t require a license, as they are designed for non-commercial purposes only. 

Purpose of Flying

As already said, your purpose of flying the drone is another significant factor that will determine whether you require a drone. 

  • If you plan to use your UAV for things like videography, photography, or drone racing with your friends (I love this!), don’t worry; you don’t need a license. Just get it registered if it weighs over 250g. 
  • If you plan to start drone-based commercial services, like surveying, mapping, carry things, and crop monitoring, you must get a license to avoid landing in legal trouble.  

Important: The FAA may assess civil penalties of up to $27,500 and criminal penalties of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both, on failure to register your drone. 

How to Obtain a Drone License – Step-by-Step

How to Obtain a Drone License - Step-by-Step

In this section, I’ll take you guys through the detailed steps to obtain your drone license, if applicable. 

Step #1: Get Your FAA Tracking Number (FTN)

An FTN number is necessary to apply for a drone license. You can get this by creating an Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application (IACRA) account. Just click on this link and register yourself. If you’re an existing user, you can also log in. 

Step #2: Schedule + Prepare for the Knowledge Test

Once you’ve got your FTN number, the next step is to pass the initial aeronautical knowledge test: “Unmanned Aircraft General – Small (UAG).” For this, don’t forget to schedule your appointment with any FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center

You can check out this page for a brief list of topics you must prepare for. 

Note: Bring a government-issued photo ID to your test.

Step #3: Apply for Your Drone License

After passing the knowledge test with at least 70%, congratulations, you can now apply for your drone license. Revisit the IACRA website and complete FAA Form 8710-13 to get your Remote Pilot Certificate. 

Here are the steps: 

  • Login with your Username and Password
  • Click on Start New Application > Application Type: Pilot > Certifications: Remote Pilot > Other Path Information > Start Application
  • Follow the on-screen application instructions.  
  • Enter your 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID when asked. Please note that it may take up to 48 hours from your test date for the knowledge test to appear in IACRA. 
  • eSign your application and Submit it for processing.

Step #4: Wait for Your Temporary Drone License

After submitting your application, the TSA will conduct your security background check.

If everything goes fine, a confirmation email will be sent to you with the instructions to print a copy of the temporary Remote Pilot Certificate from the IACRA website

Step #5: Get Your Permanent Drone License 

Finally, you’ll get your permanent Remote Pilot Certificate via your registered ID after completing all other FAA-internal processing.

Consequences of Flying a Drone Without a License

Consequences of Flying a Drone Without a License

As I said above, flying your drone without a license can land you in legal trouble. For example:

  • Hefty civil ($$32,666 per incident) and criminal ($250,000, imprisonment for up to 3 years, or both) penalties. 
  • Drone confiscation by the authorities. 
  • Ban from flying your drone for a specific period.  
  • Sued by individuals who have been harmed by your drone flights. 

Conclusion 

Here you go, peeps. I hope now it’s clear to you that a license is mandatory to fly your drone in the United States. 

If flying for recreational purposes, all you’re required to do is take The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). It’s completely free and lasts for around 15-30 minutes.

I passed my test in exactly 20 minutes! Conversely, a Part 107 license from the FAA is a must for flying your quadcopter for commercial purposes. 

For more details, I request you to go through the above sections. If you’ve any doubts, feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll help you out. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Can a Tourist Fly a Drone in the USA?

A: Yes, a tourist can fly a drone in the USA. All you must do is follow the FAA guidelines, including passing the mandatory TRUST test and registering your drone. 

Q: Are Drones Illegal in NYC?

A: Drones are illegal to fly in NYC without the Unmanned Aircraft Permit, issued by the NYPD in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DOT). 

Q: What Is the Penalty for Flying a Drone Without a License? 

A: The FAA levies a heavy penalty for flying your drone without a license. If found guilty, it may charge civil penalties of up to $27,500.

Criminal penalties, on the other hand, include fines of up to $250,000, imprisonment for up to three years, or both. 

Plus, you must remember that the FAA may also introduce other penalties for unlicensed drone flying in the future. So, stay updated! 

Q: What Is the FAA Drone License Cost?

A: $175 is the cost of an FAA drone license. You’re required to pay this fee for the Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate knowledge test at any FAA-approved testing center nearby you.

Author
Diptesh Das

Diptesh Das is your friendly ‘content maniac’ and drone enthusiastic! Being passionate about content writing. He is a firm believer of the power of words and thereby ended up leveraging them to create an impact by sharing his drone knowledge and experiences.

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