The most pertinent question regarding the Part 107 license is not how it should be acquired. As a matter of fact, it is vital to assess whether one should acquire a Part 107 license or not. There are certain benefits and drawbacks associated with the acquisition of a Part 107 license. Of course, one gets to become a commercial drone pilot and earn money by virtue of the Part 107 license.
What benefits does one reap by obtaining a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone license in contrast to using drones only as a hobby rather than using them for commercial purposes? Do you get to fly your drone in more areas?
Again, it is mandatory for drone pilots to attain a Part 107 drone license if they intend to use their drone for commercial purposes and earn money. However, there can be certain drawbacks associated with having a Part 107 license.
If you are not already familiar with it, the Part 107 license is similar to a driver’s license for commercial drone pilots. If you intend to acquire one, you will have to pass a written test that requires you to furnish ample knowledge of the airspace. Once you get the license, you will have to adhere strictly to a set of rules and regulations such as restriction of flying in controlled airspace or flying over a crowd or in the dark etc. If for some reason or the other, you still want to do any of these things, you will have to solicit special permission from the relevant authorities.
And if you plan to use your drone for commercial purposes such as teaching some drone hobbyist, selling your aerial photographs or performing in a flying exhibition, you will have to acquire a Part 107 license.
But if you are not interested in making money, here are three pros and cons of getting a Part 107 license:
First Disadvantage of a Part 107 License: No flying at night
Pilots with the Part 107 license must agree not fly their drone at night unless they get a special permission from FAA which can be a rather tedious process. However, drone enthusiasts who do not have this license do not have to strictly adhere to these regulations. This can be a massive issue for some drone pilots such as Amber Lee who had to refuse a certain job that required her to fly at night and there was no sufficient time to solicit FAA for the special permission.
That exact job was carried out by a drone hobbyist free of cost!
So, she believes that regulations should be the same for both set of pilots.
First Advantage of a Part 107 License: Flight near airports if in uncontrolled airspace
Drone junkies still have to abide by the Special Rule for Model Aircraft. In accordance with those rules, a drone pilot must provide a notice well in advance to the air traffic control tower if flying within five miles of an airport.
When it comes to commercial pilots, they do not have to worry about the flying distance from the airport. The only thing that matters is the type of airspace that they are flying their drone in.
Drone pilot and attorney Loretta Alkalay says that the ability to being able to fly your drone within five miles of an airport in uncontrolled airspace is the single most important advantage that hobbyists with a Part 107 license get. In addition, they also do not have to inform the air traffic control tower. She is a resident of an area that is within five miles of a Class G airspace and with the Part 107 license, life is made easier for her.
Second Disadvantage: Is the effort really worth it?
The Part 107 license process is not impossible but it can be time-taking. The test is one hour long while the preparation time varies depending upon your previous knowledge. In addition, you also have to pay $150 fee to take the test.
With all that huge effort involved, a number of commercial drone pilots with the Part 107 license are suspicious about FAA’s will of clamping down on businesses that have no legal license. They believe that clients are not concerned whether their service provider owns a license or not. They are of the view that if other competitors are running their businesses without owning a license, it is well worth a try to also give it a shot to run a business without a Part 107 license. (We obviously do not condone this strategy!)
Drone pilot Flo Minoton opines that she has not had any competitive advantage in the market since clients are not bothered if the person they are hiring has a Part 107 license or not.
To rub more salt in the wound, the unlicensed folks are able to make nighttime excursions as well.
Second Advantage: Your credibility as a business is bolstered
Despite the effort involved in the acquisition of a part 107 license, Minton still believes that it does enable her to bolster her credibility with other people and especially the law enforcement agencies in using her knowledge.
During a drone flight on a beach in Boca Raton, Florida, a lifeguard approached her. She remembers that before the lifeguard could tell her that she was not allowed to fly her drone here, she showed him here FAA card and told him that she had sought permission from the Boca air traffic control tower. She also let him know that any local regulations were invalidated since July 1 by the new Florida state ordinance that stipulates that only the state can regulate the drone use. She further adds that the lifeguard apologized to her and also told her that there were numerous prats who would barge in here on the beach to fly their drone without the appropriate license and permission. Minton appreciated his efforts to crack down on the unlicensed drone pilots.
Third Disadvantage: Restricted in other areas
A drone pilot with a Part 107 license cannot only fly a drone at night. In addition, he also has to agree to keep his drone within the visual line of sight, under an altitude of 400 feet, at a speed below 100mph and certainly not over people. These restrictions tend to hamper a number of potential adventures. Tons of exquisite First Person View drone flights have been undertaken by pilots beyond the line of sight and there are numerous drone aerial photographs that can be captured over the people’s heads.
But if that gorgeous photograph that you captured from above a crowd goes viral, then you are probably going to get into the spotlight and your license will be stripped off you if you are found guilty.
Third Advantage: Knowledge is stronger than the sword!
Are you familiar with the difference between a cumulonimbus and a stratiform cloud? If an airplane is landing on runway 16, do you know the direction it will land in?
The $150 fee to take the Part 107 test seems like nothing when you compare it to your already expensive hobby of drone flying.
Moreover, the information that one gets while preparing for the test is similar to the one that you will encounter on manned aircraft tests. So, if you intend to get your Sport Pilot license, your extensive knowledge gained by virtue of the Part 107 test will help you get it.
That knowledge can really play an important role. It can help get a job in the drone industry and may even go a long way in getting the drone insurance rate down. It obviously will depend on the insurance service provider.
In addition, your credibility will be bolstered in the drone industry and people will have to take you seriously.
Even if you have friends who are not interested in drones, a Part 107 license will leave in you in good stead. Hey, the FAA license looks quite adorable in the wallet as well!