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.


E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • @Nikola: The circular you link to really is applicable only to manned aircraft and pertains to what sort of license and equipment is required for various uses. For drones, multiple classes of licenses don't exist (yet!).

    My understanding is that the FAA, by default, considers all UASs to be "civil aircraft", and as such they must adhere to Part 107 (or have a 333 exemption). Two exceptions are carved out, model (hobby) UASs or public UASs. Public UASs are those legally owned by a public agency and may be flown under a COA or 107. Model aircraft are flown under Section 336. So in the UAS world there's no longer a commercial versus non-commercial distinction. UASs are either Civil, Public or Model.

    A somewhat sticky and yet unanswered question is what category applies if I fly my personal UAS as part of a volunteer SAR group if I consider participation in a SAR group my recreation or hobby? (Clearly the FAA rule drafters didn't know any SAR volunteers!). The FAA will say that's not a hobby and the aircraft should be flown under 107. SAR "hobbyists" might take issue with that and push for some type of clarification. Practically speaking, flying under 336 (Model) requires line of sight operations which might render it less than useful for SAR anyway. A waiver is possible for LOS under 107.

  • Moderator

    Ah I thought it was the QX1 sorry Daniel

  • 3D Robotics

    @Tom: I can assure you that this is worse than the EIT process, having completed them both. Not that that is an excuse for either the FAA or NCEES. In this day and age it does not need to be difficult to administer a computerized exam. Thanks for following up with the information regarding CATS. I was not aware.

    @Sergey: That is a Sony R10C we were flying on site a few weeks ago. They begin shipping on 09/01. I believe the initial batch is totally accounted for, but please contact Ryan Burns (ryan.burns@3drobotics.com) if you are interested in purchasing one.

    @Nikola: The FAA is pretty clear about hobby use. Their definition does not depend on whether the pilot is compensated, but whether the pilot is using the UAS as "a means of refreshment or division [sic: I think this should be diversion]." 

    See: https://www.faa.gov/uas/faqs/

    "Recreational or hobby UAS use is flying for enjoyment and not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. In the FAA's Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft, the FAA relied on the ordinary, dictionary definition of these terms. UAS use for hobby is a "pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation." UAS use for recreation is "refreshment of strength and sprits after work; a means of refreshment or division." 

  • I'm still wondering where the dividing line is between commercial and non-commercial.  According to this document (and everything I was taught when I got my Private Pilot's license) http://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC%20120... if you aren't being compensated for flying, then it's not commercial.

    Where I'm going with this is for local, volunteer, non-profit search & rescue.  It's a very specific case.  You're only flying for your SAR team (which is all-volunteer and 501(c)3) in your county not for other teams or other counties.  You don't get paid to fly or accept any compensation for flying.  You're not a government or law-enforcement group.  So how would this not fall into the hobbyist definition?

  • Moderator

    I think Sony have cancelled them

  • I like what I see under the Solo. Where finally will it be available in Europe?

  • What gimbal is on the picture? Looks like a brushless one. Is it already available?

  • Moderator

    I can't believe how simple it all is. Perhaps the easiest in the world. Especially if you are a Part 61 pilot. Maybe 3DR should follow Autels lead and pay for owners Part 107 qualifications. 

  • Byzantine? Umm....You just make a phone call. You think that's worse than the EIT or PE process? Yeah, I know, it ain't all Internety, but it does involve the FAA, so that's to be expected. And you perhaps haven't realized the additional hoops you'll have to jump through with the FAA after you pass your exam. Like a Private Pilot license, more awaits you before you get that plastic card in your hands!

    Also, it doesn't have to be PSI, it can also be Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS), PSI's competitor. Given that CATS had a testing center at a quiet airport local to me versus PSI at a much larger and difficult-to-park airport, I went with CATS for my exam scheduling. Also with CATS you CAN schedule online, sorta, because they end up calling you back to confirm time and date. Same $150 price for either, I believe, as that's what the market seems to be able to bear. No deals for drones.

    Finally, I'm not sure how it works with PSI, but with CATS you must show up at the specific location you have a testing appointment with, at your scheduled time. No walk-ins allowed.

    CATS| Drone Knowledge Test
    FAA approved testing service provider for UAS/drone and airman tests, remote pilot airman certification. Test locations and administration for aviati…
  • I'll have to reread the exam schedule part.  The way I read it,  it sounded like I could go to any listed KTC and take the test without an appointment.


    David R. Boulanger

This reply was deleted.