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How to keep your Part 107 certificate current, even as testing centers are closed amidst coronavirus

If your Remote Pilot certification has lapsed, you may be able to keep your Part 107 certificate current — without actually having to go to a test center and take the recertification test.

Typically, certified drone pilots need to head to a Federal Aviation Administration-approved test center every two years and pass a written test in order to keep their Part 107 certificate current.

But now that some testing centers have been closed for more than a month due to coronavirus-related shelter-in-place restrictions, the FAA has created an alternative, so drone operators can still fly commercially while remaining compliant.

On Monday, the FAA will published a Special Federal Aviation Regulation (SFAR) on how Part 107 certificated pilots can establish currency while testing centers are closed due to COVID-19 response. 

And in it, the rule states that some pilots whose recency lapsed can take an FAA online training course instead.

Who qualifies to keep their Part 107 certificate current through the online training course?

The number of people eligible to take the online training course to keep their Part 107 certificate current during coronavirus may actually be quite small.

In order to qualify, you had to already have been certificated as a remote pilot under part 107, and your two year period would have had to have lapsed between April 1 And June 30, 2020.

That means if your recency lapsed on March 1, you’re out of luck (the FAA says you should have taken the test IRL in February).

I qualify! What do I need to do?

In lieu of taking an aeronautical knowledge test at a knowledge testing center, you need to take one of two online training courses: ALC-451 or
ALC-515, both of which can be taken at www.faasafety.gov.

Completing that online training course will extend your aeronautical knowledge recency by six calendar months.

In order to take those courses, you’ll need to create an account with the FAA, which you can do for no additional cost.

Read more: The best Part 107 online test prep courses of 2020

Argh, I don’t qualify. Help!

For what it’s worth, Remote Pilot certificates do not expire. If your recency has lapsed, then unfortunately you cannot fly commercially right now. But when test centers reopen, you can take the recurrent written test again (you won’t have to take the full, 60-question initial test to get certified). Assuming you pass, you can re-establish your ability to exercise the
privileges of flying under Part 107 — thus being able to make money from your drone.

If you need to do drone business right now and want to remain compliant, the FAA said in a memo that they recommend hiring a drone pilot whose Remote Pilot Certificate is current join you on the job (six feet apart, of course). Under Part 107.12, anyone can control the drone as long as they are “under the direct supervision of a remote pilot in command and the remote pilot in command has the ability to immediately take direct control of the flight of the small unmanned aircraft.”

“That regulation permits a person to operate a small UAS under part 107 without holding a remote pilot certificate as long as they are under direct supervision of a Remote Pilot who is current,” according to the FAA.

That means that the person holding the Remote Pilot Certificate does not necessarily need to be the drone pilot, they just need to serve as the “Remote Pilot in Command.”

Whether you’re able to stay current through the online course and are planning ahead six months from now when your certificate lapses again, or you’re frustrated you can’t take the recurrent test now, here’s some silver lining: you can still schedule exams via this page for future dates.

If you’re bored at home, take the time to study for your Part 107 test now. Further, book your test slot now. We expect time slots to book up as a flood of people who intended to get certifications during the last couple months rush to all get them done immediately when shelter in place restrictions lift (and test centers serve a number of certifications, not just drone pilots).

Schedule your test online here or through PSI’s customer service call center at +1 (800) 733-9267, though PSI said if you choose to call that you should expect longer than usual wait times. PSI’s customer service number operates on weekdays between 7:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET, and on weekends between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET.

Find out more about how to keep your Part 107 certificate current via the FAA’s FAQ page here.

If you’re a small business owner who has been financially impacted by coronavirus, check out my page of financial relief and freebies for drone pilots, entrepreneurs and drone business owners.

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