I can’t believe it’s already been four years since I first took the FAA’s Part 107 test that allows me to legally fly a drone for commercial purposes. Yesterday, for the second time, I traveled to a testing center in Duluth so I could take the recurrent test that’s required every two years. Now I’m ready to go for two more years.
(I regularly use a drone to create photos and videos for Jean Hedren, my Realtor wife. You can visit her blog and website here. For fun drone videos, check out her YouTube channel here. In addition to the drone videos showcasing area lakes, many of her listing videos also include spectacular drone footage.)
So what is Part 107, anyway? Here in the United States, it’s a section of the federal regulations that governs unmanned flight for “commercial purposes” as opposed to just “recreational” purposes. The FAA defines “commercial purposes” very clearly, and in the Part 107 regulations it gives specific examples that include Realtors, home inspectors, photographers, and videographers.
Even if no money changes hands, the FAA requires that anyone flying a drone for “a commercial purpose” possess an sUAS Remote Pilot Certificate. And I’m OK with that. I want to build a business that’s based on honesty, integrity, and safety.
And while some of rules and regulations on the test may not seem relevant for day-to-day drone operations, many are. Plus, it’s hard to fly a drone safely for commercial purposes without a thorough understanding of weather, sectional charts, airport operations, and how the national airspace works.
That’s even true here in the back woods of northwest Wisconsin, where we have a surprising amount of low-altitude air traffic. Most of the many airports in this area are small and untowered; several are private. (Remarkably, certain of these private airports have longer runways than the nearby public airports; near them you’ll often see low-altitude jet traffic on weekends. The rest of us have to drive up to the cabin.)
Some local lakes see occasional seaplane traffic, even if they’re not designated as seaplane bases. We have low-level military training routes, and medevac helicopter flights are common—especially on weekend afternoons during ATV and snowmobile seasons. Just the other day a sightseeing recreational pilot following the shoreline flew right over our house at an altitude of around 200 feet.
So yes… Even if you’re just out flying a drone recreationally, it’s good to pay attention. And if you’re thinking of ever flying for a commercial purpose, it’s a good idea to first study up and get certified. To be honest, the test isn’t that hard. And apart from the extrinsic benefits of having my FAA Part 107 sUAS Remote Pilot Certificate… I’m glad I learned what I learned.