Obtaining your Part 107 is a matter of taking and passing a test at an FAA approved facility. To prepare you for the test the FAA has provided a study guide and 40 test questions.
Jonathan Rupprecht offers a Free Part 107 Test Study Guide and useful guide that covers the 40 questions in detail and more. I found Jonathan’s site a wealth of knowledge and the most comprehensive study aid available.
What you must know
Here are some tips that may help you understand the material as you study.
- If you could attach a 400 ft (or less) string from the drone to an object (cliff wall, tower, ground, etc.) you are good. As an example, you can freely fly over the edge of any cliff but you cannot fly across the canyon if it is wider than 800 ft without dropping to within 400 ft of the canyon floor. The rules are easy to understand when you visualize a 400 ft string. It has nothing to do where the operator is or where the drone took off from. You can be higher than 400 ft Above Ground Level (AGL) if you are within 400 ft of something attached to the ground.
- Using a sectional identify the Longitude and Latitude of any object on the map. Several questions rely on this skill which sounds simple but make sure you can really do it. I missed a couple of very simple question because I relied on my past experience and didn’t verify my skills in this.
- Understand the symbols on the sectional, especially obstacles like towers, to identify their elevation, height and the airspace they exits in. The test questions help demonstrate the kind of information you need to be able to find so make sure you understand how to obtain the answers.
- You must understand what happens when the fixed-winged aircraft is not properly loaded. With too much weight forward of the Center of Gravity (CG) the stability of the aircraft increases but the elevator control is reduced. Simply, it requires more energy to raise the nose of the aircraft. This can cause a serious condition during the landing flare if the nose cannot be raised sufficiently to slow the aircraft. When too much weight to the rear of the CG handling (pitch stability) is reduced and there is an increase in elevator control. The nose tends to be too high and the moment (mass movement from side to side) slows down pitch changes because the mass has to be moved making the aircraft less responsive and introducing handling problems.
- Air density, weather conditions, and performance. Make sure you understand what changes air density and how those changes effect performance.
- There are quite a few questions related to Aeronautical decision-making (ADM). Be sure to read and understand the FAA guide.
- Sectionals – You must be able to read the basic information from the sectionals to identify airspace and airport information. Know how to identify the tower frequency, type of airspace and the airspace ceilings and floors.
Under Part 107 in order to fly in any airspace other than Class G a Certificate of Waiver (COW) or a Certificate of Authorization (COA) is required, which can be obtained through an online application form. The process is the same for both, with the difference being an Authorization is good for a maximum of six months, and a Waiver can be valid for up to four years. The FAA says alllow up to 90 days for processing but I’ve read that currently a COA typically takes only 30 days. The intent is that by the end of 2018 the COA will be instant. COWs can take longer than 30 days so you should allow for 90 days for a COW.
A Waiver allows flight by defining how it will be conducted safely. Flying at night is a Waiver, which requires you use lights and the waiver spells out the specific details.
A certificate holder maintains a record of the pilots and aircraft authorized to fly using the certificate. You do not need a Part 107 to obtain a COA or COW. It is the responsibility of the certificate holder to maintain the list of pilots and aircraft that can operate under the certificate. Operating requirements, like use of a visual observer, are clearly spelled out in the certificate. If there is any required communication it will be spelled out in the certificate. Every certificate is reviewed and may be amended by the FAA during the approval process. The FAA can cancel a certificate at any time enabling them to simply revoke any certificates that are not compliant with new rules.