Do I Need a Drone License to Fly a Drone? [Read Before You Fly]

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do you need a license to fly a drone

The personal drone industry has seen an incredible influx of interest over the last decade.

Thousands of new drones make their maiden flights each day, and the number of active pilots of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is increasing at a drastic rate.

While this is all good news for drone manufacturers, drone retailers, children (and adults) who have an interest in mechanics and/or aviation, and industries that can use drones to their financial and tactical advantage, the prevalence of drones darting through the sky (often in residential neighborhoods and commercial areas that are understandably sensitive to such devices) does raise a few important questions.

Get a drone license at Drone Pilot Ground School

In this article, we’ll discuss the issue of needing a drone license for piloting a drone.

There is not a simple “yes” or “no” answer to this query, as regulations and requirements differ depending on the location in which the drone is being flown, and the purpose of the flight.

In the following paragraphs we’ll discuss drone pilot licensing requirements for flying a drone recreationally as well as commercially, and we’ll also delve into the topic of obtaining a remote pilot’s license (should the need arise).

Flying a Drone Recreationally

flying a drone recreationally

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has provided clear guidelines regarding pilot drone license requirements for flying drones recreationally. If you fly your drone indoors, you don’t need a remote pilot’s license and you may not even need to register your drone with the FAA.

If you fly your drone outdoors for recreational purposes then you will need to register the device if it weighs more than 0.55 pounds. At this point you have two options for flying your drone recreationally. According to the FAA, you do NOT need to obtain a remote pilot license under the following conditions:

  • You are flying the drone purely as a hobby and for solely recreational reasons.
  • You follow the guidelines set forth by your local community.
  • You keep your drone within a visual line-of-sight.
  • Yield to any and all manned aircraft.
  • Remain at least five miles away from airports and air traffic control towers.
  • Your drone must not weigh more than 55 pounds.

You can also fly your drone for recreational purposes if you or someone monitoring you has a valid remote pilot license. The restrictions for such recreational flights are as follows, according to the FAA website:

  • You must register your aircraft as a non-model, unmanned aerial vehicle.
  • You must adhere to the FAA’s Small UAS Rule, Part 107.
  • It is an absolute requirement that if you operate your drone under this second set of rules that either you or someone supervising you has a valid remote pilot’s license.

Long story short, if you plan to fly your drone in a field, park, or other area where there manned aircraft aren’t constantly passing through and there is no immediate threat to power lines or people then you do not need a remote pilot’s license, although you will likely need to register your drone and ensure that you are only using the device as a hobby.

Drone License for Flying a Drone Commercially

flying a commercial drone

As with most things in the United States and many other countries, flying a drone as a way to make money means you have to cut your way through a lot of red tape that wouldn’t otherwise exist if you were doing the exact same activity simply for fun.

First, you must register your commercial drone and obtain an airworthiness certificate for the drone. This is mainly required for insurance purposes. You must also follow all federal, state and local laws regarding UAV operation, including details such as:

  • Recording capabilities
  • Distance from schools, banks, federal buildings, etc.
  • Obtaining a remote pilot certificate

In order to operate a drone for any business purposes (to make money) in the United States you will need a license.

This is called a Remote Pilot Certificate.

Remote Pilot Prep Course

The Prep Course by Drone Launch Academy is comprehensive and fairly priced. 

They’re so confident  they’ll give your money back as well as the $150 test fee if you should fail. 

 If you or your drone are coming from another country then you must apply for a waiver exemption to conduct your drone in a commercial manner.

The FAA does not recognize international drone pilot certificates and you could easily find yourself and your company in hot water by ignoring this law.

Commercial drone operation is becoming a big business in the United States, which means regulators are tightening up when it comes to making sure drone operators are adhering to all applicable laws and standards.

Commercial drones are often used by construction companies, media companies, government surveyors and professional video makers, and whether you are the proprietor of such a company or using a contractor who operates a drone it is in your best interests to make sure all of the FAA’s guidelines and rules are being followed – no exceptions.

Drone License for Flying a Drone in Special Circumstances

There are many special circumstances in which some drone pilots may be eligible to receive a special exemption for flying a drone in an area or at a time when it would otherwise be prohibited. Due to the need for brevity we won’t discuss each specific circumstance in this article. However, if you believe you may qualify for an exemption then you should visit and do some research on a  “Section 333 Exemption” to determine if you can legally operate a drone under this clause.

commercial drone pilot

How to Obtain a Remote Pilot’s License

If you need a remote pilot license now, or if you think you might need one in the future, the good news is that the process is relatively affordable and hassle-free.

There are a couple of requirements for being able to get a commercial drone pilot license.

1. You have to be at least 16 years of age.

2. You have to be able to pass the FAA’s Aeronautical Knowledge Test.

3. 48 hours after passing the test you may apply online with FAA for your Drone Pilot License (called Remote Pilot Certificate)

4. The Transportation Security Administration will run a background check on you that you have to pass. This is done automatically when you apply for the Remote Pilot Certificate.

It is very much worthwhile to look into paid courses for the FAA part 107 Aeronautical test. There are lots of small steps you have to go through to get your certificate, and taking a course will guide you through everything you need to know and do. It is a huge time saver.

It will also be cheaper in the long run to follow a comprehensive paid course than to take the test several times and failing. Plus you may lose money from not being able to fly.

Our favorite option is the Drone Launch Academy. It is a great course and if you fail the test you will get your money back along with the $150 test fee! Check out some samples of the course at their site.

Drone Pilot Ground School is also a great option, and they will both refund the money you paid for the course and give you your $150 test fee back if you don’t make the test on the first try. You also get lifetime access to all the content, which is useful since you need to do an update test after 24 months. 

It has a higher price point, but they have trained over 18 000 students, and also have bonus lessons in topics like airspace research, flight operations management, drone insurance, getting a night-time operations waiver, pricing and packaging, and real estate marketing.

You can use the code DRONEGURU50, to get $50 off the course!

Get a drone license at Drone Pilot Ground School

Drone Launch Academy FAA Part 107 Comparison

According to the FAA’s website relevant study materials are available online by going to:

The team at DroneGuru also put together a FAA Part 107 Study Guide to help you get prepared for the test.

The aforementioned links will provide you with a lot of the information you need to become qualified as a drone pilot, and you can even review sample test questions via these links.

Keep in mind that for some reason the FAA online course was created with the assumption that you already have a Part 61 pilot certificate, so you will need more info than that to be able to prepare for the test.

To take the test you’ll need to find an accredited knowledge testing center in your area. Visit or call (800) 947-4228 or (800) 211-2754 to find a knowledge testing center nearby. The cost of the test is approximately $150 and you’ll need to bring a valid form of U.S. government identification (state I.D., driver’s license, military identification card, residency card, passport, etc.) that show your photo, date of birth, current physical address, and signature.

If you fail the test, you can try again in 14 days. If you pass, however, then you’ll need to complete the FAA Airman Certificate and the Rating Application.

Applications are usually validated within 10 days, at which point you can print out your temporary remote pilot license. This temporary drone license is valid for up to 120 days, by which point the FAA will have mailed you your permanent Remote Pilot Certificate.

Obligations After You Get Your Drone License

There are some things you are required to do after you got your Remote Drone Pilot Certification.

Every other year you need to pass an aeronautical knowledge test to make sure that your knowledge is up to date. You can read more about this on FAA’s site here.

If you have an accident that causes injury or more than $500 worth of damage, this must be reported to the FAA. You must make this report within 10 days.

Keep your documentation available on request to the FAA, this goes for your drone as well. They may want to inspect it.

Always do a preflight inspection to make sure that you can fly safe.

Also remember to check out this very thorough article by Sydney on how to get a commercial drone license. A comprehensive step-by-step guide with up to date information.

Stewart Lawson

22 thoughts on “Do I Need a Drone License to Fly a Drone? [Read Before You Fly]”

  1. Good afternoon
    A lot of info about this subject but you are the only one that has put it direct and to the point
    Thanks and Iam going to buy a drone and enjoy

  2. Our school bough 2 drones to teach students about them. If I am in charge of them and will be flying them, do I need a remote pilot airman certificate?

  3. Government always trying to control everything to further take away our freedoms once more piece by piece little by little. Now people can’t even send private messages using drones. Nothing new folks just more of the same totalitarianism.

  4. Stewart, thank you for this, but I’m confused about something if you could just clear it up for me real quick– if I understand the current state of legislation correctly, namely the National Defense Authorization Act that Mr. Trump enacted in 2017, ALL drones flying for any purpose weighing more than 0.55 lb’s (250 grams) must still be registered. Period. Is this correct? I think what people may be confusing is the fact that although your drone must still be *registered*, it is possible to register it as a commercial drone or as a recreational drone (under Section 44809 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2018).

    Legislation is constantly being updated and reformed both on a local and a national level… makes it hard to stay on top of all this, but again– I just want to make sure everyone knows who exactly can fly when and where, etc.


    • If you fly recreational you register yourself as a recreational flyer. One registration number for all your drones. If you fly commercially you register each drone. Each drone has a different registration number.

      • Ok, thanks Conrad. So either way (commercial + recreational) you do still need to pass the Part 107 test to fly?

        • Recreational – Registration only (no access to LAANC yet)
          Commercial – Registration + Part 107 Certificate (direct access to LAANC)

          Access to LAANC is needed only when flying in controlled air space (near an airport, school, some city centers, etc.)

          • @tekfr33kn Thank you! I know it has been a few months since I posted, but I just thought I would check back and add the same thing that you just added. Now that I am certified, I know that the answer is exactly what you said– to fly recreationally, you still need to register it, but you only need to pass the part 107 exam if you are flying commercially.

  5. DroneGuru,
    Can I fly a drone commercially without a license that weighs less than 0.55lbs?
    Can I fly a drone less than 0.55lbs after dark, closer than 5 miles to an airport?
    If FAA does not oversee any drone less than 0.55lbs, is there a list of rules for that situation?

    • @JoJo These are good questions. As far as I understand, the FAA really isn’t going to care about your drone if it truly is under 0.55 lbs (they actually classify this weight as “childrens toys”). So, what this means is that you would not need to register it to fly commercially or recreationally and you would not need a waiver or anything of that nature to fly at night. However, you would still not be able to fly within restricted airspace (within 5 miles of an airport). Depending on the airport, even commercial pilots with their Part 107 license need to request permission to enter this airspace.

      • @JoJo Sorry to spam you, but I am curious– what are you doing commercially with a drone that weighs less than 0.55 lbs?

        • Good question I can think of a couple delivery scenarios (dru#@) with very light payload. Probably exactly what your suspecting. Wouldn’t be a smart idea to say the least. Hey just being honest though it’s the first thing that popped in my mind.

  6. Such a confusing clusterF… It would be nice if the government left us the hell alone.. Common sense rules should apply, other than that, leave us the hell alone.. Its all just another way for the government to steal our money.

    • $5 for 3 years isn’t much money to steal. The ability to hold recreational users accountable when they endanger firefighting efforts, break laws by flying where they shouldn’t or drop their vehicle on someone in a crowd is a perfectly justified reason for registration requirements.

  7. Be careful of using the drone and internet at same time. Most drones are made in China and they have a feature that they can monitor your drone activities

  8. You are consistently mis-stating the weight limit. It is “less than 55lbs.” not “not more than 55lbs.”. Please take the time to correct this. A 55lb drone is illegal. A 54.9lb drone is legal.

    • Good gawd 50 lbs drone?? What is that a military grade?? I can’t imagine the money that would cost🤔🤔😯😯

  9. OK. Clearly, I need this spelled out since I am incapable of putting all the various rules together without confusing myself. Here is my situation:

    1. I have a Mavic Pro (not the 2; I have the original) which is significantly heavier than .55 lbs, but much lighter than 55 pounds.
    2. I am flying for purely recreational purposes. At this time, I have no intention of doing any commercial flying.
    3. I have registered my drone on the FAA site and it is labelled in accordance with what said site states about visibility on the drone.
    4. I do NOT have a drone pilots’ license.
    5. I live 3.4 miles from Long Beach Airport (in California).

    Here is are my questions:
    1. What more do I need to do to fly my drone in my driveway and around my house?
    2. Do I need to call up the tower to get permission? I hear there is an app I can use, but I’d prefer to not have to jump through the hoop of notifying anyone to fly my drone in my driveway.
    3. Is this LAANC thing an option in lieu of calling the tower or is that only for commercial drone pilots? Or, am I just confused as to the purpose of LAANC?

    If someone could clear up my confusion along with supporting links to an official FAA page (since that tends to make it official if a policeman asks me about it), I’d appreciate it.

    • In your case, it *sounds like* you need to find out if your “driveway and around my house” enters B, C, D and E airpspace. IF YOU ARE, you’ll need the license so that you can easily request permission to operate, via LAANC. AFAIK, it is an automated, instant decision and good for 12 hours – but you need the license to access it. You still have to follow the 7 rules – or apply for an exemption. IF YOU ARE NOT in a restricted airspace, then you just need to follow the 7 rules – and stay out of any restricted airspace, period.

  10. Anyone know how it works if you have a mavic mini (which is under the .55lbs) and DO NOT have a 107 license but would like to take some real estate shots for my families real estate business at no charge? do you still need to have a 107 license even if you are not charging them?

  11. Do I need a license to fly a drone? Here are my circumstances. I will be on and off a military base which has airfields. I will be near railroads and under highways. I will always be at ground level and use the drone to sample creeks which will always be below ground level (my footing).

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