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Part 107 For Dummies: The EASIEST Way to Explain It So That ANYONE Can Understand!

Written by Greg Barnes

Greg Barnes (left) and Dong Lee (right) of 2cofly, celebrate as Josh Hague (center) passes his FAA Part 107 knowledge test!
Just one month after joining 2cofly with no drone knowledge whatsoever, Josh Hague (center) passes his FAA Part 107 Knowledge Test! Greg Barnes (left) and Dong Lee (right) of 2cofly celebrate with Josh!

For those of you in the drone community, you already know what the FAA Part 107 certification is. But how can you relay that to your friends and family who know NOTHING about drones? Well, here’s the EASIEST way you can explain it to ANYONE (well, maybe not a toddler), in a way they will definitely understand!

People also ask the question: IS IT TRUE that you can be licensed to fly a drone before you’ve ever FLOWN a drone or even TOUCHED a drone controller?? Is that how someone learns how to fly a drone? Our response is: Jeezo peezo! Slow down and we'll get to that in time! Ok, so here we go.

If you want to fly a drone, you need a license, no matter what.

If you want to fly a drone just for fun, you need to get your TRUST certification, which is basically a drone license for recreational users. (TRUST stands for The Recreational UAS Safety Test.)

If you want to fly a drone for compensation, you need to get your Part 107 certification, which is the drone license for... well, now I'm repeating myself — it's for people flying drones for compensation.

It's really simple.

2cofly's commercial operation with archaeologists

Now, what does "compensation" mean? Does it mean money? YES!! But it also means other things. Let's say your friend offers to have you over for a home-cooked dinner if you take pictures of her brand new house she just bought. Or a brand new carwash opens up and says "we'll give you a FREE carwash if you take ONE drone picture for us!" That means you're being compensated for your work, so even though it's just one meal or just one carwash, you'd still need a Part 107 for that. The exciting thing for me about "compensation" is, someone could pay me in money, which is great, but you know, sometimes I just want gas. As in gasoline. For my car. Someone could pay me in gas. Or cookies. Or office supplies — anything that really floats my boat.

(Yes, we know, there are some recreational drone pilots who think: "Well, the FAA would never know... NOBODY, really, would ever know if I'm being paid, whether with money or office supplies, so no neeeeeed for me to get my Part 107." But here at 2cofly, we always advocate doing things by the book.)

It's important to point out, in the case of people who drive cars... Just because someone has their driver's license doesn't mean they're a good driver. It just means they're allowed to drive legally.

Many drivers SUCK!! (Especially people who drive in front of me, who never seem to be able to go fast enough for my liking.) As we’ve all seen on the road, God only knows how some drivers got their license. Some drivers are just plain bad! Having a license simply proves that you passed a test and are legally allowed to drive. It’s not really an indicator of how good you are at driving.

Same thing for the drone licenses:

If a person has their TRUST certification, it just means they're legally allowed to fly a drone.

If a person has their Part 107 certification, it just means they're legally allowed to fly a drone AND get paid for it.

(But just because someone has either of these licenses doesn't mean they're a good remote pilot. It just means they're allowed to fly legally.)

In a car, bad driving takes many forms. It might look like: you’re driving at night even though you know you don’t have good night vision, or you’re texting and driving, or you switch

Bad driving: Greg actually drove up a cliff like this. Don't be like Greg! (But Greg wrote this, and Greg says, be nice to Greg!)

lanes fast and recklessly because you’re driving on unfamiliar roads and don’t know where your next turn is. Or, you could be a perfectly good driver who’s only ever driven in warm climates like Guam. But then you travel to a really cold place like Upstate New York in the winter, and you have no idea what to do when you start skidding over black ice, an extremely dangerous road condition which kills so many drivers in winter. Or you travel to another country where the streets are like a free-for-all. You might be a really great driver — but will you be prepared for that? Your license allows you to drive, but it’s no indicator of how well you’ll perform at driving in any given situation.

In the same way, bad drone piloting can take many forms. It might look like: you’re flying with minimal experience and aren’t yet proficient with the controls, or you don’t check the weather before you fly, or you’re texting/calling a friend while flying. Or, you could be a perfectly good remote pilot who’s only ever flown in certain conditions, like calm, ideal weather at sea level, such as Guam or

Malakal Island, Koror, Republic of Palau
Different types of environments: Our first drone mission in Palau was over a property with a 150-foot cliff!

Micronesia. But then you travel to a place like Colorado, over a mile above sea level with its thin air, or a place like Alaska, known for their deep sub-zero temperatures, or a place like the scorching deserts of Arizona or New

Mexico. You might be a perfectly good drone pilot on Guam, but drones handle differently in those types of environments. Will you be prepared to fly in those conditions? Your drone license (TRUST or Part 107) allows you to fly a drone, but again, it’s no indicator of how well you’ll fly in any given situation.

So again, just because someone has a license to drive or fly, doesn't necessarily mean they're a good driver or pilot. It just means they're allowed to drive or fly legally. (And don't we all know some drivers who SHOULDN'T be allowed to drive?) (People who know me, stop pointing at me.) (...please.)

There are 5 pretty easy steps in the process to becoming allowed to drive a car:

  1. Take a written test,

  2. Get your driver's permit,

  3. Learn how to drive (under supervision),

  4. Take a real-world driving test with someone watching/grading you, and

  5. Receive your driver's license.

With drones, it's different. With drones, some of those steps are taken out. Basically, a drone pilot would get their license, then learn how to fly a drone. So the process to becoming allowed to fly a drone looks like this:

  1. Take a written test (#1 above)

  2. Receive your drone pilot's license — not a permit (#5 above), and then

  3. Learn how to fly a real drone (no supervision required).

With drones, there is no permit, and there is no real-world test — those two steps do not exist. So if you've ever wondered or if you've heard that drone pilots can get their drone license without ever having flown a drone before, that's actually true.

DJI Matrice 300 with magnetometer and terrain following, flying less than 1 meter altitude
Drone mission at 0.8 meter AGL. We always put safety first and encourage all drone pilots to do the same.

NOTE: Here at 2cofly, we acknowledge that the rules are the rules: We understand that the FAA allows prospective pilots to fly an aircraft even though they've never flown one before,

so long as they have their license to do so. However, we do not believe this is the best way for a person to learn how to fly a drone. Instead, we at 2cofly STRONGLY encourage ALL prospective drone pilots to spend many hours on a simulator — learning the controls and analyzing the physics — before launching a real drone into the National Airspace System. We believe the correct method is:

  1. Spend many hours learning how to fly a drone in a simulator, using controls similar to the real thing,

  2. Take a written test (either TRUST or Part 107),

  3. Receive your drone license, and then

  4. Fly a real drone, using the skills you learned in the simulator.

We encourage ALL drone pilots to get the correct license for them, to become proficient and skilled at piloting a drone, and to fly all drone missions safely, with the utmost of care.

So that’s it. We think that’s the easiest way, not only to UNDERSTAND what the Part 107 is, but to EXPLAIN it... to ANYONE!

Watch our Drone Safety Day video:


blog written by

Greg Barnes

Operations Manager

(671) 689-7939

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