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Kara's Corner

How to Prepare for More than the Part 107 Knowledge Test

January 19, 2017

Before I flew a drone for the first time, I was an active hobbyist photographer making my rounds in the Bay Area’s vibrant music scene. I’d get a thrill out of entering a photo pit in a concert hall or music festival. Over time, though, I hit a creative apex. That’s when I encountered a breathtaking image, taken from an aerial perspective, of the California coastline. Learning how to create a similar effect became my new inspiration.

In June 2014, I borrowed a friend’s first-generation DJI Phantom 1, and lost it, along with my $600 security deposit, on my third flight. Discouraged, it took me a whole year to purchase the follow-up model, a Phantom 2 Vision+. I mustered up the courage to take flight, several months later, on a trip to Iceland. Life lesson: being surrounded by a gorgeous, otherworldly landscape will motivate anyone to break out of their comfort zone.

Friends and professional connections took notice of my progress and asked me if I would like to provide aerial imagery services for their events? Of course I couldn’t because I don’t work for free and ― most importantly, I didn’t have the proper certification to fly a small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS) in exchange for compensation.

The FAA’s introduction of Part 107, on Aug. 29, 2016, has dramatically democratized the process of obtaining certification. A score of 70% or above on the Part 107 Knowledge Test is the new requirement for becoming a remote pilot. Over 23,000 licenses have been released in the past three months, according to Recode. That’s 300 per day, on average. Apparently, the FAA expects 90% of test takers to pass the Knowledge Test. However, you shouldn’t be deceived by the lofty figures ― the exam is difficult unless you have a prior background in aviation.

September, October, and November passed in a flurry of work and travel. I picked up two new clients for my marketing consultancy, continued raising my daughter (which is a full-time job, as any parent can attest), and casually glossed over the Part 107 Knowledge Test training resources from the FAA’s website. A lucrative offer at a Holiday party was the final impetus for me to schedule a time to take the exam and make a concrete plan to prepare for it.

Kara Murphy - drone photo- airplane- drone360 magazine website

This aircraft sits in Alameda, CA, and pays homage to the city’s former U.S. Naval Air Station. It also makes for a pretty nice drone shot! (Kara Murphy)

I started with ASA’s Remote Pilot Test Prep ― a study guide organized into small, manageable sections of reading material followed by a series of questions representative of what will be on the exam. While I finished the book and its exercises in a matter of hours, I felt underprepared as the content was assembled in haste. Most pages were littered with typos, while explanations on how to interpret METARS, airspace, and sectional charts weren’t very thorough. I was frustrated by the vague explanations on crucial information that needed to be mastered in order to pass and operate as a remote pilot.

A few days later, with my rapidly approaching exam date looming, I encountered a sample clip of MZeroA.com’s Remote Pilot 101 program. Jason Schappert’s approach to teaching ― refreshingly down-to-earth, engaging, and thorough ― was exactly what a beginner like me needed. He doesn’t assume you already know what he’s talking about and makes it a point to explain concepts in excruciating detail.

I was hooked and didn’t hesitate to pay $99 to access the entire course. Not only did I finally understand everything that I couldn’t comprehend in the first book, I also learned some important lessons about operating as a remote pilot-in-command in the real world.

As it turns out, there are other surprising ways to get your certification revoked besides being under the influence or refusing a sobriety test. When I arrived at the testing center and was told that in addition to the 60 questions on the exam, the FAA was testing 3 new sample questions, and I wouldn’t know what they were, nor would they count toward my final score, I didn’t panic. I was confident in my overall knowledge of the material.

That’s the thing: despite what all the preparatory resources advertise, you shouldn’t approach preparing for Part 107 simply as learning how to answer what’s going to be on the Knowledge Test. You’re going to be a remote pilot performing specialized services. You’ll encounter challenging situations. If you aren’t familiar with the rules, you’ll risk getting your privileges revoked and, worse, potentially putting others in harm’s way.

I can’t recommend Remote Pilot 101 enough. The lessons are divided into short, digestible videos with accompanying quizzes at the end of each section. When I think of what I spent on the course ($99), the book ($13), and the exam ($150), it was worth it ― especially since my first paid gig as a remote pilot-in-command more than recouped the costs associated with the Knowledge Test. There will be more on that experience in a future post. For now, I hope you’re inspired to get certified. The drone industry is in its infancy and the professional possibilities are boundless.

Featured image: Pixabay/Pexels


Kara is a Bay Area-based certified remote pilot, marketing consultant, and writer working with clients including DroneDeploy, UAV Coach, Flying Robot international Film Festival, and Wedding Drones. Follow her on Instagram for her more artistic aerial imagery, find out how to hire her here.

Comment On This Article
  • Jeff Ellis

    Thanks for the info Kara. I’ve been considering RemotePilot 101 for a while and had heard good things about it. This article convinces me that’s it’s the right one.
    I look forward to see your work. And am interested in how you will go about marketing your drone skills.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8af3dbd013a9cabaecb919159ee1173f30eeb7b1132f9bdd61d663255f2e5c9a.jpg

    • http://iloveitsf.com/ karaemurphy

      Hi John, great pic. I definitely need to ramp up the marketing (another website refresh is in order). I’m meeting with the same company that hired me for my first Part 107-related gig in a few weeks to discuss more long-term gigs since they have a lot of work coming their way. Thank you for tuning in and I look forward to sharing progress on this blog (and may start blogging more for myself too).

  • Gary Thomas Sr.

    so I cant just buy the dam thing I gotta have a license for it? to pilot and survey …….People Love this stuff but its already 1200. to go now. Is it worth it from 300 feet?

    • http://iloveitsf.com/ karaemurphy

      Hi Gary, I just saw this comment. Apologies. You only need Part 107 certification if you plan on doing any commercial work with your drone. You can fly as a hobbyist, just make sure you register your aircraft with the FAA. It takes all of 5 minutes and costs $5: https://registermyuas.faa.gov/

  • Gary Thomas Sr.

    wale watching ? sea sights?

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