There’s one thing we can all agree on–the FAA has a knack for making things very complicated. When the first set of rules on UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) came out, they added some huge barriers to enter the UAS market. The biggest obstacle being a person who wanted to use a UAV for commercial purposes would need to be a certificated pilot. Even as a recreational pilot, this would cost at least $4,000 to get through the training and certification process.
Although it was extremely expensive and seemingly unnecessary, the FAA was trying to put together a set of rules for a market that was blowing up overnight, and they didn’t have the time to work out the details. They needed some kind of certification process for the commercial pilot but didn’t have enough time to create one…so they simply fell back on the existing set of pilots and said, “We’ll fix it later!” (not an actual quote).
Do not fret because I have good news for all of the UAS enthusiasts and users out there. They have officially revisited the topic and now have an entirely separate certification process for a UAS pilot. The process seems to be simple as it will only require the interested party to take a written knowledge test. I have not seen a question bank or any kind of study materials yet, so it might not be as easy as I think; however, there will not be a “flight portion” of the training.
You may be asking more specifically what this all means. In short, you don’t have to be a certificated pilot to use a UAS for commercial purposes, at least starting in August. You simply have to pass the test, take it to your local FSDO, and they will get you a temporary certificate granting you authorization to fly UAS. As of August 2016, every commercial operator will be required to get this authorization, including current certificated pilots. Current certificated pilots (sport, recreational, private, commercial and ATP) will be able to go online to do an FAA training (details TBA), so they can add this ‘rating’ to their existing certificate. The process will have some kinks in it at first I’m sure, but this is a solid step forward in the world of UAS.