Is a drone on your Wish List? Airline pilots share what you need to know.

ALPA is happy to participate in helping the public fly drones safely, as it sparks the aviation bug for so many across the nation this holiday season. But before you take your drone out for a spin, we’d like to review the training requirements and emphasize how essential it is for you to follow them for everyone’s safety because now, you are sharing our airspace.

5 Simple Steps for Safe Drone Operations

  • 1. Register your drone.
    You must register drones weighing greater than 0.55 pounds at the FAA DroneZone. It costs $5.00 and the fee covers all the recreational drones you own for a two-year period. If for flying drones for commercial use, the registration is tied to your individual drone.

  • 2. Find out what kind of drone operator you are with the User Identification Tool.
    Are you flying for fun? Or are you considered a remote pilot? It’s important because the rules are different.

  • 3. If you’re flying for fun, take the free TRUST test.
    When you finish, you will receive a completion certificate. The certificate never expires. However, if you lose your certificate you will need to re-take the test and obtain a new certificate.

  • 4. If you fly for commercial, government, or any other non-recreational purpose, you’re considered a remote pilot and you need training. If you already have a Remote Pilot Certificate, check to see if it’s current.

    Remote pilots must learn the rules for flying drones under Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 107. Current remote pilots need to take Part 107 Small UAS Initial (ALC-451) online training course and file an IACRA application with their local flight standards district office, designated pilot examiner, or flight instructor.

    Tip!: It is important for Certified Remote Pilots to keep their aviation knowledge up to date. If you have a Remote Pilot Certificate, you are required to complete one of two online training courses within the previous 24 calendar months to operate UAS under part 107.

    5. Develop a flight plan.
    Now, you’re trained and ready to test your wings. Download FAA's B4UFLY Mobile App, which provides real-time information about airspace restrictions and other information to help you fly safely. For example, it shows flying in the Special Flight Rules Area around Washington, D.C. is prohibited.

    Tip!: Be mindful of the airspace and restrictions over and around the area you fly. Also be mindful of drone operations in the vicinity of airports, where it is much more likely to encounter other aircraft.  While the FAA’s current focus is educating pilots about proper drone operations, the agency still has the power of enforcement in the event of careless and reckless operations, especially if the safety of the national airspace system or people and property on the ground are endangered. Such an action could have adverse implications on your airline career!

    • Use the Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability (LAANC) applications, which provide real-time information about airspace restrictions and near-real time airspace authorizations.

    FAQ: Can remote pilots fly drones at night?

    • A: Provided the drone is equipped with anti-collision lighting visible for at least 3 statute miles that has a flash rate sufficient to avoid a collision, Part 107 certified pilots may now operate at night. 

ALPA continues to be watchful of drone operations in the U.S., Canada, and everywhere our pilots fly. By knowing and following the rules associated with flying drones, pilots can better safeguard the airspace we all share and prevent unnecessary accidents from occurring that may endanger the public. 

Operating in Canada? Check out Transport Canada’s recent safety information safety informational material.

Want to learn more? Check out the FAA’s ‘12 Days of Drones’ safety campaign for this holiday season. It highlights a key aspect of safe drone operation for the public good. If your drone inspires you to become a pilot, check out for more information about how you can find an airline pilot mentor! 


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