If you’ve wanted to become a commercial drone pilot in the United States, you might have come across the Part 107 test. To become a commercial drone pilot, you must pass an airman knowledge test under FAA’s Small UAS Rule (Part 107). The Part 107 test is known to be a steep learning curve for new drone pilots. Topics such as airspace charts and aerodynamics can be intimidating. So, how do you study for the Part 107 test?
The FAA has issued an official study guide for drone pilots. However, it may be slightly challenging to learn merely from the study guide and pass the Part 107 test. Additionally, the Part 107 study guide was issued in August 2016, to say the least. Therefore, in this article, we’ll break down the important parts of the Part 107 syllabus and include resources to study them.
Note: Before you begin brushing upon the below-mentioned subjects you must gain a thorough understanding of the Part 107 regulations. Go through the 14 CFR part 107 and familiarize yourself with all the drone regulations. These regulations make up a large part of the test, therefore make sure you know them in and out.
1. Airspace Regulations and Classification
Studying airspace is perhaps one of the most important parts of the Part 107 test. If you’re a beginner at aviation concepts, understanding VFR sectional charts can be tedious. Since these airspace charts are essentially a 3D environment condensed into a 2D map, they are packed with information. This can present itself as a steep learning curve. However, once you have the fundamental understanding of all the National Airspace System (NAS), legends, and what they signify, reading airspace charts becomes second nature.
To begin with, you must first understand what is airspace and how it is divided. Airspace is categorized into Controlled and Uncontrolled Airspace. Furthermore, airspace is classified into 6 classes: Class A, B, C, D, E & Class G. You must read the FAA’s Pilot Study Guide and Chapter 15: Airspace from Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK) to grasp the basics. However, given below are additional resources to help you solidify your understanding of airspace classes.
- Chapter 3: Airspace from the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM)
- Understanding Airspace – Part 1: Airspace Categories & Aeronautical Charts
- Understanding Airspace – Part 3: Classes of Airspace
- Understanding Airspace – Part 4: How to Read a VFR Sectional Chart
- How to Read a Pilot’s Map of the Sky
- What is a NOTAM?
- A Complete Guide to TFRs
2. Aviation Weather
Reading and understanding aviation weather can be tricky mostly because of the different formats and the level of detail. When deciding to fly your drone especially in high-risk areas or in controlled airspace, the pilot must factor in the weather report for that area. You must learn about the most common weather reports such as METARs and PIREPs. METARs are the international standard of weather reports. However, reading a METAR report can be quite confusing therefore take your time to understand every component of it mentioned in the study guide.
Another essential part of aviation weather is learning to read aviation forecasts. These are essential for your pre-flight planning. Using the weather reports aviation forecasts are generated for a particular area. As a drone pilot, you must have a comprehensive understanding of the Weather Theory, to begin with. You must read Chapter 12 of PHAK to understand the basic concept of aviation weather.
Learning to decipher aviation weather can be a challenging task. Here are a few extra resources to help you understand these concepts better:
- Chapter 13: Aviation Weather Services from PHAK
- GS: How To Decode METARs and TAFs | Part 1
- METARs and TAFs Explained | PART 2
- How to Read METAR Aviation Reports (Complete Guide)
- How to Decode TAFs
- AIRMETs and SIGMETs Explained
- General Aviation Pilot’s Guide to Preflight Weather Planning, Weather Self-Briefings, and Weather Decision Making
3. Loading and Performance
The purpose of this section is to determine that an applicant is knowledgeable in the loading and its effects on the drone’s performance. For this purpose, you must be well versed with the drone’s operator manual to understand the maximum gross takeoff weight. Factors such as temperature, harsh weather, elevation levels, etc. can influence this maximum limit and inhibit the drone’s performance.
This section of the test also focuses on various aerodynamic properties of aircraft in general. Therefore, you must go through the FAA’s study guide to fully comprehend concepts such as lift, the center of gravity, drag, maximum load factor, aircraft stall, etc. All of these subjects have been discussed in the study guide.
To gain a better understanding of flight aerodynamics, read:
- Chapter 5: Aerodynamics of Flight from PHAK
- Chapter 10: Weight and Balance from PHAK
- Chapter 11: Aircraft Performance from PHAK
4. Radio Communication Procedures
Understanding how aircraft communicate with Air Traffic Controllers (ATCs) and airports is an essential part of the exam. As a remote pilot, you must have a clear understanding of concepts such as UNICOM, CTAF frequency, ATIS, AWOS, ASOS, the phonetic alphabet, numbers, and figures, etc. Keep in mind that aviation terminology is starkly different, thus even numbers are announced differently on the radio. For example, the number ‘10,000’ is announced as ‘One zero thousand’ and not ten thousand.
- Chapter 14: Airport Operations from PHAK
- Radio Communication Primer for Drone Pilots
- Section 2 of Chapter 4: Radio Communication Phraseology and Techniques from AIM
5. Additional Study Material
If you’ve gone through the above-mentioned links of resources you already understand the majority of concepts required to pass the Part 107 exam. The FAA has provided applicants with two additional study resources. The first one is the Advisory Circulars (AC 107-2). The advisory circular is like supplementary material containing knowledge that is not present in either the PHAK or the AIM. Therefore, you must go through AC 107-2.
The second resource to aid you in your Part 107 test prep is the Airman Certification Standard (ACS) for Remote Pilots. The ACS is a summary of all the topics that a remote pilot must have an understanding of to pass the Part 107 test. You can use the ACS as a checklist of topics and keep a track of the ones that you’ve covered.
Preparing for the Part 107 exam can seem like a daunting task. To be honest, it is a little challenging. However, if you organize the entire syllabus into manageable sections, you can steadily track your progress. It can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks to fully prepare for the test. If you find yourself unable to understand the complex topics on your own, there’s always the option to enroll in a Part 107 test prep course or drone pilot training schools. You can check out our list of the Top 5 drone pilot training schools.