Recently, Friendship Church has purchased a drone to add to their arsenal of video gear. The drone is the DJI Mavic Air 2, otherwise now known as “FishyOne.” While this is an exciting, new way to capture pictures and video, there are also some strings attached that come with purchasing a drone. Many people think that you can just buy a drone and fly it wherever and whenever you want. What they don’t tell you on the back of the box of the drone, is all the regulations you need to follow whether you’re flying it for fun or for work. Since I was going to be flying it for work, I needed to pass what’s called a ‘Part 107 Exam’ to be able to fly legally. This was my experience studying for and passing the Part 107 exam.
When you buy a drone, you must register it with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regardless of how you intend to use it if it weighs 250 grams (0.6 lbs.) or more. If you’re flying commercially, meaning making money from your drone footage, you must pass the Part 107 exam and get certified through the FAA. “But a church is a non-profit! Do churches need certified pilots?” Yes, non-profits and churches need to hire certified drone pilots because even though Friendship Church is not a for-profit business, there’s still money being exchanged and it’s a ‘furtherance of a business.” So as the person flying the drone, I could face a huge fine from the FAA, and Friendship Church could be liable if the drone crashed and damaged property or hurt someone. It has also been reported that the FAA is going after clients who don’t hire certified drone pilots. For more information on this topic you can click here.
So, what do you have to do to pass this test? Well to take the test is $150 at an approved flight school, and there are many ways you can study for the Part 107 exam. The FAA has a downloadable study guide, that is an 87-page PDF, that covers 75% of the material. You will then have to do some more Googling and Youtubing on your own to learn about sectional charts; which is a huge part of the test. Since I would die of boredom from reading government documents, I decided that I would enroll in one of the various online drone schools. All I had to do was watch a bunch of videos, take some quizzes, and a little reading. The course also offered a couple of practice tests, which made me feel totally prepared and confident to take the test! I don’t think you can just show up to take the test without taking the time to study because you are not going to do well.
You may be surprised to know that there’s very little to no information on how to actually control or pilot the drone. It’s not like taking your driver’s test where there is a written and performance exam. The test is 60 questions, it’s all multiple choice, and you don’t fly a drone to demonstrate your flying ability. So, what do you learn in drone school to pass the test? The overall goal of this is for you, as the pilot, to understand all the regulations and how drones fit into the world of aeronautics. You will learn about the different types of airspace, how to read sectional charts, how airport runways work, and how to understand weather reports. You will get a very novice level of what manned pilots learn in their schooling. Some of this information I learned is helpful, some of the information is interesting but not necessarily helpful, and some of the information was a no brainer. They had to warn me that flying narcotic drugs with my drone was illegal; gosh I was thinking about doing that but now that they mentioned it I better not!
This is an example of what a sectional chart looks like.
These are some examples of what a METAR reading looks like.
After you go through all the material, and take the practice tests, it’s time to take the exam! You can’t take the test online; you must go to an FAA approved testing center to take the test in-person. I took the test at Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, which also has a flight school. The only thing you can bring with you to the test is a simple calculator. Smartphones are obviously prohibited so they held onto that for me while I took the test. They provided me with a pencil, a piece of paper, and a test booklet. The instructor guided me into the back hallway through to a classroom. In the classroom there were three separate, windowed rooms with a desk, computer, and a chair. I was being video monitored, while taking the test, the whole time and was given 2 hours to take a 60-question multiple choice exam. It only took me about half an hour to complete the exam and I passed with a 90%!
If you want to make money from flying a drone you must take the test and get certified. Number one because it’s the law and two because you do learn a lot of good information about safety, the regulations, and the weather. If you want to just go buy a drone for fun, I would still strongly recommend you learn and follow the regulations. The last thing the drone industry needs is someone flying recklessly and damaging something or someone with their drone.
The drone is a cool piece of technology that Friendship Church will use from time to time. It’s a new way to show glory to God by using the unique tools of the drone to show His creation. Like any gift that God gives us, we want to care for and maintain it while using it to the best of our abilities.