UAS vs. sUAS certification - pathways to UAS for holder of a not current private pilot lisence?
Answered By AOPA
I hold a not-current (from mid 1970s) private pilot license and will shortly take the part 107 exam (which certifies for sUAS (drones < 55 lb). 

But I want to get certified to also fly UAS (drones > 55 lbs). So far I can only find one pathway to that: get back in a manned aircraft with an instructor; I can't afford that.

Is there another pathway to UAS certification provided by the FAA?  - Such as flight training on the ground with an instructor at a console operating an UAS?

I just completed a ground school course in a sUAS community college program (West Valley College in Silicon Valley) and it was basically in an unmodified part 61 format. So I think with that and my previous flight experience, I am ready to fly a UAS with an instructor at a console on the ground, but so far I can't find how to do this. 

Any ideas?


Chris Norton, Santa Cruz, CA
1 Replies
AOPA Staff Answer
Hi Charles,

There isn't a way to get certified to fly drones over 55lbs right now. Part 107 is only concerned with UAS under 55lbs. There is an exemption process out there for operators with equipment over 55lbs, but my understanding is that this is mostly for commercial operations. There are several companies out there that offer hands-on training operating UAS, but there isn't any FAA standard because the FAA doesn't require any practical testing when obtaining a part 107 certificate. You may want to search out one of these training providers if you want that type of training.

An alternative approach would be to operate as a hobbyist, and learn to fly drones on your own. No certification is required and many of the modern UAS are infinitely easier to learn to fly than a R/C plane or helicopter. You may also want to look for a local AMA club to you help learning how to operate a UAS.