Do I really need to be a certified drone pilot?
If you’re just planning to fly your drone / UAV recreationally, then no. You don’t need Part 107, the Section 333 exemption or any other kind of UAV certification. You’ll just need to abide by standard safety guidelines as regulated per the FAA.
A few of those guidelines include:
- Flying in the daylight
- Flying under 400 feet
- Establishing a direct line-of-sight
- Not flying in national parks
- Not flying directly over people
- …and more
We recommend consulting Know Before You Fly for recreational sUAS guidelines.
Note: If you’re flying a drone that weighs over .55 lbs / 250g, you’ll need to register it with the FAA, even if you’re just flying recreationally. This went into effect on December 21st, 2015.
To operate commercially though, where “commercial” describes any kind of flight operation that can be tied to economic benefit, the FAA requires you to get certified.
So Part 107 explicitly regulates commercial sUAS activities.
Government entities or organizations (e.g. law enforcement agencies, public universities, state governments, local municipalities) have 2 options for flying UAS:
- Fly under the small UAS rule – follow all rules under 14 CFR Part 107, including aircraft and pilot requirements.
- Obtain a blanket public Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) – permits nationwide flights in Class G airspace at or below 400 feet, self-certification of the UAS pilot, and the option to obtain emergency COAs (e-COAs) under special circumstances.
Of course, just because you’re certified doesn’t make you a strong drone pilot. You’ll need to master basic flight proficiency. You’ll need a strong command of the sUAS landscape, your hardware, your software and what can go wrong. And of course, to earn money as a professional drone pilot, you’ll need a strong business plan.