Lucas Rockstrom-Lead Engineer
Monday, 8-29-16, 0900. A notification from the Boss reminded the crew that the new FAA commercial drone rules are now effective and, if interested, we should call and register to take the test. I have extensive experience building and flying model aircraft of all sorts so, not wasting a minute I called and, after a few minutes on hold, I had paid the $150 and was registered to test on Thursday. This gave me three days to study and prepare for the test. I immediately began looking over the 87 page study guide and sample test provided by the FAA and found that this test was not going to be as easy as I’d thought; the test covers everything from rules and regulations to airspace classification. I realized my existing knowledge would be of little use to me here.
The next day, it was time to dig in. I first read through the whole study guide. Then I went through the sample test questions and did my best to answer those. There were a few tough ones which I had to go back through and look up. Next I googled the answers to the sample test and found a really good source at jrupprechtlaw.com which not only answers the questions but also gives the reference to where the answer is as well as an explanation of each available option. I discovered that I had been incorrect on a number of the sample questions.
After a good day’s studying, I felt much better about the test. But, since I was doing this for work and there were a lot of people in the office waiting to see how I’d do, I still felt a lot of pressure to do well.
Thursday, Test day. I had a few hours to study before the test so I skimmed back over the study guide and made sure that I had read through every section. I arrived at the testing center 20 minutes early feeling anxious. After a short wait I was in the testing room, going through the pre-test familiarization with the computer program. My first test question: “The rudder of an airplane is used to control what? Yaw, roll, or pitch.” Awesome! This is going to be way easier than I thought. Unfortunately that was the easiest question on the test. From there it went on to ask questions like “radio towers have support wires that extend horizontally, it is recommended to stay how far away from the tower?” or “How long must you wait to fly after drinking any alcohol?” And, “What hazards exist in flying over the devils lake MOA?” And lots and lots of airspace questions. It took me about 1 hour to answer everything I could quickly. With the remaining hour, I went back through, and double checked every question. I submitted the test at which point I could see all the questions that I had gotten wrong, excluding the answer. My heart racing, I quickly added them up… 9, yes! I passed! What a relief. Back downstairs, the proctor printed out my sheet that said I passed and I was on my way.
I’m now waiting for confirmation from the FAA at which point I will print off a new sheet, take them both to the FAA’s office and have it signed, officially making me a certified drone pilot.