My Experience Taking the FAA 107 Test - RC Groups

My Experience Taking the FAA 107 Test

August 29th marks the beginning of Part 107 Remote Pilot testing. I was lucky enough to get in on the first day. Here's how it went down.

Splash

It's the UAG Exam

I'll start right in by saying the title of this article is a bit of a misnomer; I figured out this afternoon as I filled out paperwork and scribbled my signature a few hundred times (I think I signed my name less when we bought our house!) that the name of the test is called the UAG, or Unmanned Aircraft - General. The certificate type is Remote Pilot, and the rating is a Small Unmanned Aircraft System. Finally, Part 107 is the FAR, or Federal Aviation Regulation. Now, with that out of the way, let's talk about what I experienced, and more importantly, what you can expect when you show up at your local testing center to take the UAG.

CATS - Signing Up

CATS, or Computer Aided Testing Service, handles almost every type of airmen knowledge test for general and commercial aviation. You'll find CATS testing centers at most small and regional airports that have flight schools. I initially applied to take the UAG test on the CATS website. Within 24 hours, a representative called me to schedule my test. This happened earlier in the month, and I was able to schedule it for today, August 29th, the first day of testing, at Zone Aviation at the Lorain County Regional Airport. The cost was $150, due upon signing up for the test on the CATS website.

Entering as a Student Pilot

I have about 90 hours total-time in various SEL aircraft and took the Private Pilot written exam over 10 years ago; admittedly, I retained about 50% of the information. It's a giant undertaking to study for the Private Pilot knowledge test, and I prepared with a number of written books. One that was essential to my studies at the time was the Gleim Private Pilot FAA Written Exam book that featured all 700+ questions to prepare you for the actual test. Times have changed since I took the exam; the FAA no longer publishes the exact questions for memorization. That means you will be studying similar questions developed from current FAA reference materials.

One of the glaring issues with taking a test on the opening day of a brand new FAA rule/program, is that there isn't much (if anything) available in the way of published study guides; only a handful of speculative study articles exist online that are based on what's known about the Private Pilot knowledge test and what the FAA has offered up on Part 107 study guides. A number of pay websites have sprung up to cash in on ill-prepared hobbyists wanting to earn their UAS wings. I usually oppose this type of business, but given the current situation, I would recommend finding a reputable Part 107 study program and get started.

Armed with the information learned 10 years ago that was barely put to use before abandoning my full-scale flying dreams, I decided to take the UAG/Part 107 test with no FAR/AIM (Federal Aviation Regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual) studying and only a practice test on Part 107 UAS-based questions found on FAASafety.gov.

Part 107 Small UAS Course - FAASafety.gov

The FAA has developed a handful of study guides to help prepare you for the Unmanned Aircraft - General test. The only one I used was the interactive study course found on FAASafety.gov. It's actually the real test for anyone that already has a pilot's license, and skips over all the FAR/AIM information that the pilot already knows. Anyone can take the test, but it will only count if you already possess a pilots license. You'll need to sign up on the website, then watch the brief videos and read the accompanying questions and answers. At the end, you'll take the exam and wish that it was that easy to get your Remote Pilot License.

The Day of the Exam

I arrived at Lorain County Regional Airport and entered Zone Aviation a full 30-minutes before my scheduled time of 1pm. The place was empty as the owner, Bob, was out flying - a typical scenario with a small flight school. At 12:45pm, Bob returned, and we began the intricate paperwork and signature dance that so characterizes the FAA. Not only did he need to know who I was, but he needed me to verify for accuracy and spelling all of my identifying information multiple times on electronic and paper forms: name, address, email, phone, social security, etc. This is standard procedure for any pilot, as our government wants to make sure you are who you say you are... especially when aircraft are involved.

About 10 minutes into my form-filling campaign, a gentleman walked in who was also taking the UAG test at 1pm with me. Bob informed both of us that we weren't the first ones there on day-1 of the Part 107 test. Another guy had come in this morning to take the UAG and failed the test. Let me tell you, I was nervous before he told me this, and I really started sweating at that point! I began to question whether I had prepared enough for the FAR/AIM aspect of the test. I knew the Part 107 UAS-based questions, but a lot of time had passed since I studied for, took, and passed the FAA Private Pilot knowledge exam.

After both of us had verified everything except our blood types, we headed back to the CATS test room to get started. The room wasn't much wider than a large office desk, and contained three stalls with privacy walls and circa 1998 Windows PC's. I sat down, logged in, verified again who I was, verified that I was taking the correct test, and verified that I was still breathing. Bob referred us to a number of placards on the walls: one about cheating, one about cameras in the room, another about not leaving the room without permission... FAA test taking is serious business!

The test started: 120 minutes to complete 60 questions. The CATS testing format consists of a question with three multiple choice answers. An FAA-issued reference book was provided, that featured graphics and sectional chart excerpts, along with a calculator and three pencils. It didn't take me long to realize that the UAG test was bloated with FAR/AIM general aviation questions and rather light on the UAS-based stuff. Most of the questions centered around reading and understanding the sectional chart, airspace definitions and their respective altitudes, communication protocol at various class airports, etc. There were some obscure weather-related questions in there as well... stuff that you wouldn't know unless you were either a meteorologist or a pilot. Peppered in were a few Part 107 questions; it was obvious that the FAA wants the Remote Pilot to understand airspace and know how to read a sectional, first and foremost. Keep in mind that the 60 questions on my test were randomized from a large pool, so the next test taker could very well have a different experience than I did.

I finished in a little under 1.5 hours, and my score was immediately placed on the screen in front of me with no agonizing spinning beach ball or flipping hour glass; by the time i had clicked the last question, the test was already graded. I passed! I missed 8 questions out of the 60, and I was able to go back and see which ones I missed if I was so inclined. My test taking partner also passed, so we congratulated each other and made our way out to the main office to finalize this ordeal.

The Final Step - IACRA

I had dreams of walking out of the flight school with a little laminated Remote Pilot license, but that's obviously not how it works. The test is behind me, but I need to apply for the license electronically. That means logging on to the FAA Integrated Certificate and/or Rating Application system - affectionately referred to as the IACRA. From there, you'll sign up for an account, answer a few more personal questions, and input your EXAM ID to close the book on this story and get your paper license. But alas! Nothing is ever cut and dry with the government; it can take a minimum of 48 hours for the exam result to make their way to the IACRA system.

At the moment, I'm stuck in limbo. I passed the test, but I don't have that official title of Remote Pilot with a Small Unmanned Aircraft System rating. I'm going to continue to wait for my golden ticket, as I have been for quite some time now. I'm not worried though, because Part 107 is such a vast improvement over the absurd 333 exemption, that it's worth the wait.

Update

I awoke to a nice surprise in my IACRA console this morning: a little green button to print my temporary certificate! I took the test on 8.28.16, and received my temporary certificate on 9.8.16. Total time to process was 10 days. Now to wait for the real certificate in the mail to arrive.

Links

CATS Testing

FAASafety.gov

FAA Integrated Certificate and/or Rating Application System

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Sep 08, 2016 at 08:42 AM..
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Aug 30, 2016, 12:13 AM
Eye in the Sky
HGhost's Avatar
No offence to anyone doing this, but appears to me it is a lot of Stupidity for anyone who is flying a Model aircraft to be subject to what a Jet Liner Pilot needs to know.

Most ( even commercial) pilots are simply flying models mostly for photography, or mapping, etc etc.......trying to make a few dollars in the Reality market for example or using it to get a better view of a rooftop perhaps.....guttering etc etc...

The need to know all the protocol for a Passenger Jet Pilot , seems to be overkill for a commercial grade model aircraft, which is what about 98% of what people will be doing.

IF one was looking to become a Delivery Pilot for lets say Amazon or perhaps wanting to have something to help them get in the military and fly a Large true "DRONE" I could understand all the i's and t's.....that need to be obtained

I believe it is just another way Uncle Sam has found to make a dollar ........

again it is up to the individual....but seems to me a lot of Hoopla for Nothing.
Aug 30, 2016, 01:15 AM
Registered User
Matt, Thank you for posting your experience. I spent 6 more hours today on UAVgroundschool (yes, I paid) as I started with no "PILOT" training. The sectional maps are a PIA to read - class airspace is complicated around airports. Weather study a little better once you learn all the government acronyms (and they are a doozy) - personally I think the test is overreach for sUAS if we stay under 400 ft and away from airports- but since it has to be same for anyone in US they have to tailor it to fit regardless of where you live. I don't plan on going west or east (way too much airway congestion) but that's my thought.
Aug 30, 2016, 10:29 AM
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by speed2004
Matt, Thank you for posting your experience. I spent 6 more hours today on UAVgroundschool (yes, I paid) as I started with no "PILOT" training. The sectional maps are a PIA to read - class airspace is complicated around airports. Weather study a little better once you learn all the government acronyms (and they are a doozy) - personally I think the test is overreach for sUAS if we stay under 400 ft and away from airports- but since it has to be same for anyone in US they have to tailor it to fit regardless of where you live. I don't plan on going west or east (way too much airway congestion) but that's my thought.
This is only so far for comercial use no for the hobby people, there is nothing I can find that say is for a 10 year old.or a 5 year old. Good luck testing the little children. The only thin right here is the goverment want money to send to Iraq, Syria and refugees, and using the FAA as a business. Is not even for education of new pilot's . Any one ask where this money goes.?
Aug 30, 2016, 10:37 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by HGhost
No offence to anyone doing this, but appears to me it is a lot of Stupidity for anyone who is flying a Model aircraft to be subject to what a Jet Liner Pilot needs to know.

Most ( even commercial) pilots are simply flying models mostly for photography, or mapping, etc etc.......trying to make a few dollars in the Reality market for example or using it to get a better view of a rooftop perhaps.....guttering etc etc...

The need to know all the protocol for a Passenger Jet Pilot , seems to be overkill for a commercial grade model aircraft, which is what about 98% of what people will be doing.

IF one was looking to become a Delivery Pilot for lets say Amazon or perhaps wanting to have something to help them get in the military and fly a Large true "DRONE" I could understand all the i's and t's.....that need to be obtained

I believe it is just another way Uncle Sam has found to make a dollar ........

again it is up to the individual....but seems to me a lot of Hoopla for Nothing.
It's very different from what an ATP pilot would need to know; the UAG test covers such a minuscule slice of all that's needed for an airline transport pilot that there's no comparison. As I said in the article, most of the testing deals with reading a sectional; the FAA clearly wants the UAS pilot to understand where they are flying, before they fly.

The price? I think it's relative to the end user. I had no qualms forking over $150 for the FAA to consider me legal from a commercial aspect. Heck, I remember spending over $150 for a single lipo battery! This license is a sigh of relief for any commercial operators that want to come out of hiding and not worry about being underground any longer.
Last edited by Matt Gunn; Apr 20, 2017 at 11:52 PM.
Aug 30, 2016, 10:37 AM
KK4NZS / RP sUAS
Nelapaty's Avatar
Thanks for that info on your experience Matt, it helps me to understand the process. I will have to study a wee bit more..
Aug 30, 2016, 10:39 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maxun
This is only so far for comercial use no for the hobby people, there is nothing I can find that say is for a 10 year old.or a 5 year old. Good luck testing the little children. The only thin right here is the goverment want money to send to Iraq, Syria and refugees, and using the FAA as a business. Is not even for education of new pilot's . Any one ask where this money goes.?
You have to be 16 or older to take the test.

Second page of this doc:
https://www.faa.gov/UAS/media/Part_107_Summary.pdf
Aug 30, 2016, 10:39 AM
PA, WMPF & HE Team Pilot
AndreasHeger's Avatar
Very well said Matt! Right on the spot!
Aug 30, 2016, 10:41 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelapaty
Thanks for that info on your experience Matt, it helps me to understand the process. I will have to study a wee bit more..
If you can pass the HAM, you can do this easily! Good luck.
Aug 30, 2016, 10:52 AM
KK4NZS / RP sUAS
Nelapaty's Avatar
Yes I passed the Ham test if i can get this 107 under my belt that would be awesome. if you remember what kind of questions did they ask in regards to uav's in general.

Sectional charts and weather are throwing me off but gotta keep at it.
Aug 30, 2016, 11:01 AM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelapaty
if you remember what kind of questions did they ask in regards to uav's in general.
Sign up here:
https://www.faasafety.gov/

Take the Part 107 exam for current pilots. Its great practice for non-pilots. Every one of those questions are in the large pool, used in the UAG test. Maybe only a few of them will be used in the test, but they're all in there, and possibly worded slightly different.
Aug 30, 2016, 11:16 AM
KK4NZS / RP sUAS
Nelapaty's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Gunn
Sign up here:
https://www.faasafety.gov/

Take the Part 107 exam for current pilots. Its great practice for non-pilots. Every one of those questions are in the large pool, used in the UAG test. Maybe only a few of them will be used in the test, but they're all in there, and possibly worded slightly different.
Been there done that..sorry didn't mean to be a smart alec. what i should have asked is if they threw in the trick questions that makes you want to pull your hair out.
Last edited by Nelapaty; Aug 30, 2016 at 12:44 PM.
Aug 30, 2016, 11:20 AM
Registered User
devveldogg's Avatar
Thanks for the info Matt. I got my hands on every PDF the FAA has out there, and am doing the interactive study course, but man, it's a lot to digest. Got my HAM a few months ago to be legal and a cheap Boafeng radio. Back to studying...
Last edited by devveldogg; Aug 30, 2016 at 12:47 PM.
Aug 30, 2016, 12:12 PM
STICKS FORWARD!
jinly's Avatar
I took the Amateur Radio License test and obtained a "General Class" License. I don't even have a Ham Radio. I thought I needed it for the Video Tx on my octocopter.

Boy...I am sticking to the "fly for fun" aspects of Model Aviation....Great Article though...

I only got into this Hobby for fun anyways...Good Luck to the rest of the Commercial Pilots.
Aug 30, 2016, 12:35 PM
RCGroups Editor
Matt Gunn's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by jinly
I took the Amateur Radio License test and obtained a "General Class" License. I don't even have a Ham Radio. I thought I needed it for the Video Tx on my octocopter.
Same here! I use it for my 433 LRS and 1.2VTx.


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