How to Get a Drone License in California (Explained for Beginners)
You’ve flown a drone a few times before and you really enjoyed it. You finally decided to buy your own drone, and now you’ve found that to potentially earn money from your drone, you need a license.
How do you obtain a drone license in California?
Here’s how to get a drone license in California:
- Meet the eligibility criteria
- Get your FAA Tracking Number
- Find an FAA Knowledge Testing Center and register
- Take your exam
- Pass the exam
- Fill out FAA Form 8710-13
- Receive your certificate
In today’s guide, we’ll walk you through all the steps to becoming a bonafide drone license holder in California. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll be ready to register to take your FAA exam!
Here’s How to Obtain a Drone License in California
The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA does more than make all the rules about aircraft flight (including drones). The organization also issues drone licenses to commercial pilots.
Let’s jump into the steps for obtaining a drone license in California.
Meet the Eligibility Criteria
To keep those golden California skies safe for everybody, the FAA does not permit just anyone to test for a commercial drone license. You have to meet a set of criteria to even be eligible as a first-time commercial pilot.
You must be at least 16 years old. The FAA also requires exam takers to be in good mental and physical health, enough so that they’re capable of flying a drone safely.
You need to have a full grasp of the English language, being able to understand it, write it, speak it, and read it. English needn’t be your first language or even your main language, but you must be very fluent in it.
Get Your FAA Tracking Number
Once you’ve determined that you meet the above criteria, it’s time to obtain your FAA Tracking Number or FTN.
To do that, you have to go through the Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application or IACRA website. If you’re confused about this at all, the IACRA is associated with the FAA, so you’re still staying under the FAA umbrella.
The IACRA website has a new user guide that you might want to check out ahead of navigating the site.
On the IACRA site, you have to create a profile and register. This is free to do.
You’ll need this profile to take the aeronautical knowledge test aka the FAA Part 107 exam, so keep your credentials handy.
Find an FAA Knowledge Testing Center and Register
You’re gearing up more and more for the big exam, but there’s more prep work to do yet. Now that your IACRA account is active, you need to find a place to take the FAA test.
No, the FAA does not issue its aeronautical knowledge test online, as convenient as that would be. You have to physically go to a testing center.
The FAA selects which Knowledge Testing Centers you can register with. You can use this link to search for an approved Knowledge Testing Center in your neck of the woods.
Once you find a Knowledge Testing Center that’s local (or semi-local), select a date and time for your exam.
Your FAA aeronautical knowledge test is now in the books!
Take the FAA Exam
The FAA Part 107 exam tests the full scope of your knowledge as an aspiring drone pilot.
For as many services as the FAA offers, they don’t provide any kind of test prep. You can study independently, but we highly, highly recommend looking into an online drone school with Part 107 exam prep.
We’ve reviewed all the best online drone schools on our blog. In many of the programs, the practice exam questions you see are pulled from past FAA Part 107 exams.
That doesn’t mean those exact questions will appear on your exam, but answering these kinds of questions makes you feel better prepared for what’s to come on the aeronautic knowledge test.
Few online drone schools are free, but many of them offer guarantees with refunds if you don’t pass your FAA Part 107 exam the first time around.
That should give you good peace of mind that if you sign up for an online drone school, you’re probably going to pass the exam as well. At least you would get your money back if you didn’t.
According to the FAA website, here are some of the subjects you will be tested on during the Part 107 exam:
- Nighttime drone operations
- Airport operations
- The physiological effects that alcohol and drugs can have on your flight skills and decisions
- Radio communication procedures
- Emergency procedures
- The effects of weather on your drone’s performance and aviation weather sources
- Drone flight regulation rules, limitations, operations, and system rating privileges
- Preflight inspection procedures
- Drone maintenance
- Judgment and decision-making
- Drone performance
- Crew resource management
- Drone loading and its effect on performance
- Airspace operating requirements and classifications
Pass the Exam
This part is all on you. Hopefully, you prepped and studied sufficiently enough that you feel ready to take the FAA Part 107 exam and kick its butt.
Of course, you might fail, and that’s not the end of the world. If you do, then you have to find an FAA Knowledge Testing Center, register, and take the test again. You can do this after 30 days have elapsed since the first time you took the exam.
Let’s say you scored at least 70 percent on the FAA Part 107 exam. Congratulations are in order, as you passed!
» MORE: How Hard is the Part 107 Exam?
Fill Out FAA Form 8710-13
Passing the FAA aeronautical knowledge test doesn’t automatically mean you receive your drone license.
Once you get the good news that you passed and you calm down a little, you have to go back to the IACRA website. Hopefully, you still remember your username and password.
On the IACRA website, you need to fill out FAA Form 8710-13.
- To access the form, select the option Start New Application on the IACRA website.
- You’ll be asked to input an application type, so select “pilot“.
- Then choose your certification, which should be a remote pilot.
- Next, click “Other Path Information“, and then “Start Application“.
- You’ll be asked to input a variety of information, including your Knowledge Test Exam ID. This ID is 17 digits long. The ID is issued to you via the IACRA website up to 48 hours after you take the Part 107 exam. If you try to get your certificate too early, you won’t see your Knowledge Test Exam ID.
- You’ll be asked to sign the application. You can do this electronically.
- Your electronic signature means you sign off on the processing of your drone license.
Receive Your Certificate
Before the FAA issues you the license, the TSA will do a security background check on you. You’ll receive a confirmation email after this happens.
The email will also include a copy of your temporary drone pilot license, which you can print from the email and carry on your person.
The IACRA license does act as a commercial drone license but is only intended to be a stand-in until your real license arrives.
Per the FAA website, other internal processing on the part of the FAA related to your application must be completed, and then you’ll receive your permanent license in the mail.
Note: Your Commercial Drone Pilot Certificate is valid not just in California, but throughout the US.
I Have My Commercial Drone License in California – Now What?
Woohoo! You’re officially a drone license holder in California. Now you can use your drone for commercial gain.
Of course, holding a commercial drone license does not give you free rein to fly your drone however and wherever you want.
You have to follow the Part 107 rules, which is true of all drone pilots whether commercial or recreational.
You must also abide by California’s drone flight laws. We won’t get into those in today’s post, but check out our post where we break down all the ins and outs of staying on the right side of the law when flying a drone in Cali.
Be sure to enjoy using your drone as a license holder, as it doesn’t last forever. That’s right, your FAA Part 107 license is only good for two years from the date the license is issued to you.
Then you have to take the FAA Part 107 exam again to prove that you’re current on your knowledge. This recurs every two years for as long as you’d like to be a commercial drone pilot.
The good news is that you can now do your recurrent test online.
IACRA – Federal Aviation Administration (link)
IACRA – New User Guide (link)