3D Robotics

As always, this post is mirrored over on my website with the rest of my musings on drones at http://www.ddmckinnon.com/category/drones/


I am as excited as anyone in the commercial drone field for the passage of Part 107 and the relaxing of the currently extremely restrictive rules on commercial UAS usage, which will dramatically increase adoption of tools like Site Scan, the product that my team at 3DR has been building for the last year.

However, just registering to sit for the exam requires a guide itself. Startlingly, this is even more painful than the process implemented by NCEES for the Engineer in Training and Professional Engineer exams.  The FAA doesn’t appear to have evolved in the last 50 years. All registration is done by phone, all study guides are published in non-semantic pdf documents, and all instructions are scattered about a patchwork of different public and private websites and documents. I hope this post can serve as an easy-to-digest, authoritative guide for registering for the exam.

  1. Find a test center near you. You can either look through the FAA’s awful official test center list here or use a 21st century web app like this one.

  2. Despite the conflicting information out there, you cannot register for the test online. You must call or email to schedule the exam.
  3. Don’t call the test center directly. They are not in charge of scheduling. You must call the mothership, which in this case is not the FAA, but PSI, a private company with which the FAA has contracted to administer the test who has published very dense website explaining some of the procedures. For some reason, PSI gives two numbers, neither of which were answered on my first attempt, 1-800-211-2754 and 1-800-733-9267.
  4. Once you get through to the operator, I spoke with Deborah who was amazing, you will walk through availability and testing centers. The Oakland test center’s schedule was wide open, so I don’t think this is terribly popular yet. The test center takes a credit card over the phone for the $150 fee.
  5. Prepare everything you need to take the exam. You must bring a photo ID with a current address. If the address on your ID is not current, you must bring a utility bill or other fairly official piece of documentation.
  6. Study! The exam ain’t easy and includes quite a bit of general aviation knowledge with which typical commercial drone operators won’t be familiar.

And that’s it! I will report back when I take the exam on Monday.


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  • Here's the problem with SAR uses: you simply don't have the luxury of time to get a waiver.  83% of all searches are resolved in the first 12 hours.  97% in the first 24 hours.  Waiting 48 hours is useless.  Thermal imaging is only useful if the subject is still alive.  Sure, you might be able to bring in helicopter or fixed wing resources but they need to maintain a much higher altitude and forward speed.  They're also not able to get into tight areas like slot canyons.
    Searches are under the direction of an incident command system so there would be coordination of the airspace.

    Anyone know how to write to the head of the FAA?

  • Moderator

    @Marcelo yes, its super simple. Just read the books ;-) There is some doubt as to the FAA being ready for non Part 61 pilots.

  • Hi Rob,

    The price came from a Google search tag that my Antivirus told me threatened my very existence if I went to it, so I chickened out and I'm not sure what currency it was in either.

    I also, as you know, eulogize Sony, but I was surprised to find on several Google searches, lots of preliminary information coming out in May and then virtually nothing after.

    All this specialized stuff is subject to evaluation in real time as to market value and not infrequently these days, manufacturers float a concept or initial beta batch of products just to see if they have a market.

    I worked at NEC for several years and watched it happen many times.

    It may still come out, I am sure, something eventually will, but even that is a problem these days because it may only be on the market for a couple years (like the QX1) and then just get pulled if it doesn't produce adequate profitability.

    Consumer products can easily have a total life span of less than 6 months.

    Fortunately the 107 commercial stuff that is coming is going to produce a whole new pro and prosumer market where  longevity is generally a bit longer (I expect and hope anyway).

    Basically in the rarified atmosphere that you and I live in, flux is the norm.

    But to some degree at least, that's why it's fun.



  • Gary, I think it's probably pretty unlikely that Sony "dropped the ball".  Maybe delayed a bit but... this is Sony we're talking about.  Now the price... yeah... could be.  Hopefully not though.  Ouch.

  • Hi Dan

    Excellent article.

    Quick question: is the License certification required for Real State Drone photography and filming (I know, rookie question :-)) Thanks

  • Hi Daniel,

     Sony announced the UMC-S3C miniaturized camera that you linked to above four months ago to be available in August.

    Well, it's August and there are not even any updates or price or any new information about it.

    Still have a week to go, but from what I can see Sony completely dropped the ball on that one.

    And it looks like it could be an over $4000.00 camera even if they do actually make it.



  • Actually I am very happy with my Canon S110.  Just figured a bigger sensor plus more MP would be fun.


    David R. Boulanger

  • 3D Robotics

    @Gary: No problem. It looks like Sony did discontinue the QX1, but I wouldn't be surprised if they replaced it with something better. Check out this miniaturized version of the A7S, for example. I have one in the office and it is rock solid. I will post something here once I have a chance to get it up and running with Solo.

    @Rob: Software integration between Solo and R10C was not straightforward and it works only with the Site Scan app. The actual product was a result of some joint development between Sony and 3DR and will not be available for retail sale as it is nothing more than a paperweight out of the box.

    @David: Check out that S3C that I posted above. Don't be deceived by the 12 MP. This images captured by that camera are stunning and excellent for photogrammetry given the extremely high SNR.

  • Not to continue a discussion that has nothing to do part 107 but..  I was looking to put a QX1 on my helicopter soon.  the Olympus and Kodak stuff just does not compare.  Sony A6000 sounds good but at added unneeded weight.  Bummer.


    David R. Boulanger

  • That's actually a nice looking gimbal. But what's the story on the R10C?  I actually tried to buy a new QX1 just yesterday, and found it was discontinued.  Will the R10C be available to everyone, or is it a 3DR special only for SiteScan customers?

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