Effective August 29, 2016, the FAA has created its first and only airman certificate specifically for the use and operation of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), called the “remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating.” A small UAS includes a small unmanned aircraft, weighing less than 55 pounds on takeoff, including everything that is on board or otherwise attached to the aircraft. AOPA has developed a short, step-by-step guide on remote pilot certification in response to the FAA’s final rule on the operation and certification of small UAS.
The first step is to determine whether you are eligible for a remote pilot certificate. To be eligible, you must (1) be at least 16 years old, (2) be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language, and (3) not know or have reason to know that you have a physical or mental condition that would interfere with the safe operation of a small UAS.
There are different methods for obtaining a remote pilot certificate from the FAA, depending upon whether you are a pilot or nonpilot applicant.
You are a pilot applicant if you hold a pilot certificate (any grade, except student pilot, for any aircraft category) issued by the FAA under part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations and have accomplished a flight review within the past 24 calendar months. If you do not meet these two requirements, you are a nonpilot applicant.
The next step is to follow any one of the pathways listed below, whether you are a pilot or nonpilot applicant.