DRONING ON

The permit test for flying a drone is a lot more difficult than the average US driving test

It’s a rite of passage in the US, a moment when most teenagers feel that they have found freedom, when they finally pass their driver’s test. But there’s now a new hallmark on the entry into adulthood. Today (Aug. 29), anyone in the US can now make money flying drones—assuming they can pass the test.

In June, the US Federal Aviation Administration announced that it would soon be putting into place a set of regulations for anyone that wanted to fly drones commercially in the US. Previously, the only way to use a drone in a business was to apply for an exemption, which was a costly, arduous process, and the FAA had only handed out a few thousand.

Today’s regulations will ensure that anyone who can pass the FAA’s test will be able to start a drone business, and according to Bloomberg, over 3,000 people have already signed up to take the test today alone.

This test isn’t exactly like the average driving license test—it’s pretty difficult and there are no driver’s ed classes for drones yet. (To be fair, if you just want to fly a drone, but not make money off of it, you can just fly them, assuming you follow the rules.) The FAA released an 87-page study guide, any part of which test takers could expected to be quizzed on. It’s not light reading: It covers everything from the classes of US airspace, aviation-related acronyms, how to act as a pilot, how weather affects aircraft, the physics of flying, Morse code, and, of course, how to fly a drone.

The FAA also released a set of sample questions that would-be pilots can use to sharpen their knowledge, but they just highlight how truly difficult this test is. While some of the questions might be things you could logically guess, for example:

(FAA)
(FAA)

The vast majority of the questions are things that require proper understanding of the US airspace, its protocols, and how to best safely fly in them. You can’t just guess. Here are a few samples:

(FAA)
(FAA)
(FAA)

And some of them involve a deep understanding of cartography:

(FAA)
(FAA)

The FAA’s test has 60 questions, and you have to get 70% right to pass. If you think you can pass muster, are over 16, and want to start a drone business, here’s what you have to do:

  1. Make an appointment at an FAA-approved test facility, and bring along government-issued identification.
  2. Study up—seriously.
  3. Pay $150 for the test.
  4. Pass the test and wait up to 72 hours for your scores to be posted online.
  5. Apply with the FAA for a Remote Pilot Certificate—the official name for a drone pilot—through this FAA portal.
  6. Print out your temporary certificate and wait for the real one to be delivered in the mail.
  7. Frame your certificate. (This is optional, but it’ll look great on the wall next to your diploma.)

If you fail, you can reapply to take the test again after 14 days. And don’t forget to register your drone before you start flying.

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