(Photo courtesy: Getty Images)

JOPLIN, Mo. — According to a Research and Markets report, companies across a large variety of industries will spend over $16 billion on drones and drone services — creating 100,000 new jobs by 2025. Flying a drone isn’t limited to commercial purposes. Many choose to fly for fun or personal enjoyment. Either way, there are necessary requirements you must meet to operate an unmanned aircraft. Those requirements vary, depending on how you plan to use your done.

Flying A Drone: For Recreational Purposes

Many people assume that a recreational flight simply means not flying for a business or being compensated, but that’s not always the case. Compensation (or the lack of it) is not what determines if a flight is recreational or not.

Non-recreational drone flying include things like taking photos to help sell a property or service, roof inspections, or taking pictures of a high school football game for the school’s website. Goodwill can also be considered non-recreational. This would include things like volunteering to use your drone to survey coastlines on behalf of a non-profit organization.

Congress created the “Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft” (USC 44809) to allow those flying drones purely for fun or personal enjoyment to operate without complying with Part 107. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), people flying under this Exception must comply with the following rules:

  • Fly only for recreational purposes (personal enjoyment).
  • Keep your drone within the visual line of sight or use a visual observer who is co-located (physically next to) and in direct communication with you.
  • Give way to and do not interfere with other aircraft.
  • Fly at or below 400 feet in Class G (uncontrolled) airspace.
    NOTE: Flying drones in restricted airspace is not allowed. Drone pilots should always check for airspace restrictions prior to flight on our B4UFLY app or the UAS Facility Maps webpage.
  • Have a current FAA registrationmark (PDF) your drones on the outside with the registration number, and carry proof of registration with you when flying.
    NOTE: Beginning September 16, 2023, if your drone requires an FAA registration number it will be also required to broadcast Remote ID information. For more information on drone registration, visit How to Register Your Drone.
  • Do not operate your drone in a manner that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.

Flying A Drone: For Commercial Purposes

As the economy for freelance contractors continues to grow, new professions have emerged up in order to service the changing technological and economic demands of multiple industries. One such job is commercial drone pilot. If you plan to fly a drone for commercial purposes, the FAA requires you to take the following steps (also known as Part 107 guidelines.)

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STEP 1: Prepare For Testing

Unlike other FAA certificates, there is no required drone pilot ground school curriculum to take the Unmanned Aircraft General (UAG). However, you still need to prepare for the knowledge test. It is advisable to take a drone ground school course that covers all the knowledge areas on the test which include: 

  • Federal regulations that apply to small aircraft operations.
  • Aircraft performance and loading.
  • Checking airspace.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Aeronautical decision making.
  • Preflight and maintenance.
  • Operations at night .

In the Four State area, the UGA — Small knowledge test can be taken at Mizzou Aviation in Joplin. In preparation for the test, Jaden Durling, a flight instructor at Mizzou Aviation, recommends meeting with a fixed-wing aircraft pilot, drone pilot, or flight instructor.

“It’s always good idea to reach out to someone before taking the test, especially a fellow pilot or flight instructor. I think the best person to speak with is a flight instructor, because they can direct you on how to study for that test. I would say this particular test is pretty similar to a private pilot test,” said Durling.

Once you have a grasp of the important concepts and have taken a few practice tests, set up an FAA Tracking Number (FTN) with IACRA, find a test center (such as Mizzou Aviation), and register for the FAA knowledge test. 

STEP 2: Take And Pass The FAA Exam

The knowledge test is 60 questions and you have two hours to answer all the questions. The fee for the aeronautical test is $175. If you do not pass (answer at least 70% of the questions correctly), you must wait 14 days to retake the exam. 

“You can come and take the test here at Mizzou Aviation. There’s someone that monitors you as you take the test. It’s kind of like how you would take the A.C.T. Someone is there to watch you and make sure you don’t cheat,” said Durling.

STEP 3: Obtain A Remote Pilot Certificate

After you pass the knowledge test, you’ll have to complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application). You’ll have to pass a TSA security background check. Once everything is processed with the FAA, your certificate will be mailed to you. At that point, you will officially be a drone pilot. 

“When flying a drone, you have to be situationally aware of where you are, especially in regards to flying near and airport or flight path, because no one wants a mid-air collision. I can think of a lot of situations where a drone pilot would need to be situationally aware. You’ve got to be aware of your surroundings, just like a pilot would be when flying in the cockpit. Situational awareness is probably just as important when flying a drone, as it is when flying a plane,” said Durling.

STEP 4. Register Your Drone

Whichever drone you decide on, register it. The FAA requires anyone who flies a UAS (unmanned aerial system) or drone that weighs between 0.55 and 55 pounds, to register their device. Registration costs $5, and you must renew it every three years.

For more information on becoming a legally certified drone operator, you can contact Mizzou Aviation, HERE.