Everything you need to know to get certified and shoot professional drone footage for Film, TV, and Photography!



If you’re alive and involved in film, video and photography then you know that the drone industry is
exploding.  Tons of people want to get in on becoming commercial drone operators, and with good reason! Each time we mention the word “drone” to filmmakers, the excitement is palpable—eyes widen, pupils dilate, palms get sweaty, and people blurt out things like “cooooool… drones!” as they imagine all the incredible aerial shots they could make using a drone on their next film or video project.

But what’s the deal with drone laws and regulations?  Over the past few years it’s been super confusing to navigate the vague regulatory state of commercial drone operators- until now.

This week the FAA is enacting new rules, Part 107, around who can and cannot commercially operate drones.  We’re breaking it down here so that you can become a fully certified drone pilot, start filming incredible aerial shots, and cashing in on the demand for drone pilots.

Step 1: Know the Rules

In order to work as a commercial drone operator, the following must be true:photo-1467864453741-7faf938e3b (1)

  • You must be 16 years or older
  • Must pass TSA vetting
  • Demonstrate Aeronautical knowledge by either: 1) Passing an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center; or  2) hold a part 61 pilot certificate (but not for student pilot), have completed a flight review within the previous 24 months, and completed a short UAS online training course provided by the FAA.

Read an overview of the new rules, Part 107, here or for the very studious, read the complete 624-page ruling here.

Step 2: Study Up

If you don’t already have a pilot’s license and passed flight review within the previous 24 months, you’ll need to study up to take the aeronautical knowledge test. There are already a bunch of drone schools and test prep programs out there.  To get complete drone training, here’s a rundown of the 15 best programs.  To prep for the test, check out The Drone Girl’s  Part 107 Study Guide and review the FAA’s suggested study material, which includes test instructions, study guide, and sample test questions. 

Knowledge areas include:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures
Step 3: Take the Test

After you’ve studied, you’ll need to prove your aeronautical knowledge and demonstrate that you’ll fly safely by taking the aeronautical knowledge test and passing with at least 70% accuracy.  Schedule a test at one of 690 FAA-approved knowledge testing centers across the United States. Testing begins Monday August 29th.  Be sure to bring your government-issued ID!  

Step 4: Get Certified

Once you’ve passed the test, complete FAA Form 8710-13 for a remote pilot certificate (FAA Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application) using the electronic FAA Integrated Airman Certificate and/or Rating Application system (IACRA).  More details on how to do that here.

Check out KitSplit member Bart Johnson’s explainer video on getting certified here.

A bird’s eye view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Step 5: Get the gear

There are a ton of drones for filming and photographing, and they are getting better and better!  Check out some reviews of top drones for filming  from EPFilms here and PCMag here, and UAVCoach here.

If you’re not ready to make the purchase, KitSplit has a great selection of drones available for rent.

When you do buy that drone, share the wealth! List it on KitSplit so that you can make money when you’re not using it renting to other professional drone operators.

Step 6: Register the gear

When you purchase a drone, register it with the FAA and keep the registration number with the drone at all times. All drones between .55lbs and 55 lbs need to be registered with the FAA on this surprisingly nicely designed registration site (cute animations!).

Step 7: Stay Safe and Compliant

When working with drones be sure to follow the FAA’s guidelines, otherwise you could see some hefty
fines. You’ll need to:

  • Pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
  • Report an accident to the FAA within 10 days of any operation that results in injury or property damage over $500.
  • Conduct a preflight inspection, to include specific aircraft and control station systems checks, to ensure the small UAS is safe for operation.
  • Make available to the FAA, upon request, the small UAS for inspection or testing, and any associated documents/records required to be kept under the proposed rule.
  • Follow operating rules, including the following (which are all subject to waiver, i.e. can be overruled, in special situations):
    • Fly only in Class G airspace– check out this US Air Space Map and download the FAA’s app B4UFly to see if the area you’re in is ok for flyin’
    • Keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
    • Fly under 400 feet
    • Fly during the day
    • Fly at or below 100 mph
    • Yield right of way to manned aircraft
    • Do NOT fly over people
    • Do NOT fly from a moving vehicle

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations—you’re on your way to becoming a professional FAA-certified drone operator!  Get ready for the jobs to start rolling in and to make some amazing drone footage like this: 


Are you already certified?

Share tips for the community and let us know what the process was like! Send your thoughts to contact@kitsplit.com and we’ll continue to update the blog with more posts on drones.

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