Flying Higher Than 400′
Obstructions allow the remote pilot to operate a drone above the 400 foot AGL altitude limit. When there is a structure in the area of operation and your UAS is within a 400 foot radius of that structure, you may fly 400 feet above the top of the structure.
The FAA doesn’t give us a clear definition of what a structure is, but it is probably safe to assume that it is a man-made structure such as a building, bridge, radio tower, etc.
Be careful that you are not flying in controlled airspace above a structure.
Example 1: Flying Above a Short Tower
In the following example you are flying your drone above the structure with a high point of 324 feet MSL. The airspace above the tower is Class C with a floor at 1,300 feet MSL. Since you can fly 400 feet above the high point of the tower, your maximum altitude would be 724 feet MSL (324 + 400) which is well below the Class C airspace floor of 1,300 feet MSL. You are clear to fly to 724 feet MSL.
Example 2: Flying Above a Tall Tower Into Controlled Airspace
In the following example you are flying your drone above the structure with a high point of 1,041 feet MSL. The airspace above the tower is Class C with a floor at 1,300 feet MSL. The tower does not enter Class C airspace itself but there is less than 400 feet distance between the two. The maximum altitude you could fly a UAS without ATC authorization would be 1,299 feet MSL (up to, but not including, 1,300 feet MSL.)
The Confusions of Class E Airspace
Lafayette airport, used in the examples above, also has a Class E airspace surrounding it. The two structures are located in Class E at 1,200 feet AGL. Therefore, wouldn’t the UAS be limited to 1,199 feet AGL since Class E is controlled airspace? Actually, authorization is not required in this case.
The point of confusion with Class E airspace comes from the fact that there are different types of Class E airspace. Even though Class E is controlled airspace, for most drone operations ATC authorization is not required. Generally, authorization is only required for type E-2, which is in the proximity of an airport.
The FAA did a very good webinar on this topic in June 2019, explaining Class E airspace for drone pilots. The following is an excerpt. What we see here is that when operating a drone above a structure you may move into Class E airspace with a floor at 700′ AGL or 1,200′ AGL without ATC authorization.
The following obstruction types are shown on sectional chart legends. Get to know these now because they will be covered on the Part 107 exam. Also, if you get stuck you can refer to the Sectional Aeronautical Chart in the Chart Supplement handed out during the exam.
|1000′ and higher AGL||This symbol is used for man-made structures which are at least 1,000 feet in height.|
|Below 1000′ AGL||This symbol is used for man-made structures which are less than 1,000 feet in height.|
|Group obstruction||Multiple obstacles are in an area which cannot be identified individually and the highest point is 1,000 feet or greater in height.|
|Group obstruction||Multiple obstacles are in an area which cannot be identified individually and the highest point is less than 1,000 feet in height.|
|1000′ and higher AGLHigh-intensity lightsMay operate part-time||An obstacle with high-intensity or strobing lights that is at least 1,000 feet in height.|
|Below 1000′ AGLHigh-intensity lightsMay operate part-time||An obstacle with high-intensity or strobing lights that is less than 1,000 feet in height.|
If you’re planning to become a Part 107 pilot and fly a drone commercially, you must be aware of the importance of proper planning and decision-making. A critical part of the Part 107 regulations is to ensure the safety of people and property, which is why it’s crucial to make informed decisions before every flight.
To help Part 107 pilots make sound decisions, the FAA has introduced the DECIDE model. DECIDE stands for Detect, Estimate, Choose, Identify, Do, and Evaluate. It’s a six-step process that Part 107 pilots can use to make better decisions and prevent accidents or incidents while flying drones.
Let’s take a closer look at each step of the DECIDE model:
Detect: The first step is to detect the problem or potential hazard. This could be something as simple as detecting an obstacle in the flight path or noticing a change in the weather conditions that could affect the flight. It’s essential to be aware of any potential hazards and identify them early on.
Estimate: The second step is to estimate the impact of the hazard. In this step, the Part 107 pilot must determine the severity of the hazard and its potential impact on the flight. For example, if there’s a sudden gust of wind, the pilot should estimate how it could affect the drone’s stability and maneuverability.
Choose: The third step is to choose the best course of action. In this step, the Part 107 pilot must consider the options available and select the best one. For example, the pilot could choose to fly around the obstacle or land the drone and wait for the wind to calm down.
Identify: The fourth step is to identify any potential risks associated with the chosen course of action. The Part 107 pilot must identify any additional hazards or risks associated with the chosen option and determine whether it is safe to proceed.
Do: The fifth step is to implement the chosen course of action. In this step, the Part 107 pilot must put the plan into action and fly the drone according to the chosen course of action.
Evaluate: The final step is to evaluate the outcome of the decision. After the flight, the Part 107 pilot must review the flight and evaluate whether the chosen course of action was the right one. If not, the pilot should identify what went wrong and how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
By following the DECIDE model, Part 107 pilots can make informed decisions that reduce the risk of accidents or incidents while flying drones. It’s essential to remember that safety should always be the top priority, and making sound decisions is critical to ensure that everyone involved in the flight remains safe.
In conclusion, if you’re a Part 107 pilot, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the DECIDE model and use it every time you plan to fly a drone commercially. By doing so, you’ll be able to make informed decisions that prioritize safety and reduce the risk of accidents or incidents during flights.
Following are 40 sample Part 107 questions from the FAA. Practice questions are great for study but they didn’t give you the correct answers or explanations. So we’ve done that for you here. If you’d like to see more questions like this be sure to check out Part 107 courses at PilotsEd.com. Read more
The Airmen Knowledge Testing Supplement is a digital version of the handbook you’re given during the Part 107 test. It includes figures that are referenced in many of the questions. We also reference these same figures in our practice tests.
The full version can be downloaded here.
You can see from the cover that this handbook is not just for remote pilots. It’s used for sport pilot, recreational pilot, and private pilot training. What you get is a 113-page book with a lot of stuff you don’t need for Part 107 pilots. Also, the images are very high resolution (probably for printing) making it hard for most computers/devices to render smoothly. So we’ve made our own concise version that’s just 23 pages with optimized images.
Our concise version can be downloaded here.
The Part 107 exam is not administered by the FAA but rather is contracted out to independent testing facilities. Unsurprisingly, it’s not clear what the test is actually called when you go to register.
What you’re looking for is Unmanned Aircraft General – Small for your first time and Unmanned General – Recurrent for those who are already certified and just need to renew their certification.
The registration fee is around $175, which goes to the testing facility. The FAA receives nothing.
How long you should schedule your exam in advance really depends on the size of the facility. Some are small, one-computer rooms while others have 20 stations. Some people have been able to get in the next day while others have to wait a week. Plan accordingly.