UAV Coach to Help Develop the Recreational Drone Flyer Test

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This week, the FAA announced the 12 organizations selected to advise the agency in developing the Recreational Drone Flyer Test. We are excited to announce that UAV Coach has been selected as one of the organizations, and we will be participating in developing the test administration process.

UAV Coach was selected on account of our response to a Request for Information (RFI) issued by the FAA earlier this year. The FAA’s objective is to work with third-party entities to allow them to administer the knowledge training and test content on various platforms for the recreational flyer community.

These are all 12 organizations selected to advise the FAA in developing the recreational test administration process:

  • UAV Coach
  • Embry Riddle Aeronautical University
  • Drone Launch Academy / Southeastern University
  • Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC)
  • DJI
  • Horizon Hobby, LLC.
  • King Schools
  • Unmanned Safety Institute
  • First Person View (FPV) Freedom Coalition
  • Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
  • Academy of Model Aeronautics
  • Drone Racing League

Learn more about the upcoming Recreational Drone Flyer Test requirement and how UAV Coach will be involved: UAV Coach Selected Among Drone Stakeholders to Help the FAA Develop the Recreational Drone Flyer Test

And, we want your input on what would make the Recreational Drone Flyer Test most accessible and simple for you to accomplish. Share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below so we can take them into consideration as we work with the FAA and drone stakeholders to develop the test administration process. 

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What is minimum age for the rec license to be considered??? Being an educator, would like to see 14 yrs old for a rec license, maybe even 12, but that's it. Can I apply to be a testing center at our high school for the new rec license? 


Matt Ernst

Advisor, Taft Drone Club

Advisor, Aiken Tech Club 



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One important thing to keep in mind when coming up with this test is that its not just recreational drone pilots that will have to take it but regular RC plane and helicopter pilots. Some of my local AMA club members are in their 90s and have been flying safely for decades. Many at the club have never flown a drone or have any interest in flying one so to have a test that has a lot of drone related questions will be unfair especially since its because of the drones these regulation and tests are being imposed on them. I know that the AMA is involved and hopefully they will help steer the test to be fair for all RC pilots.


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On 12/14/2019 at 8:02 AM, Spitfire76 said:

Many at the club have never flown a drone or have any interest in flying one so to have a test that has a lot of drone related questions

That’s a great point.  

On 12/14/2019 at 8:02 AM, Spitfire76 said:

especially since its because of the drones these regulation and tests are being imposed on them.

That’s an interesting point.  I’ve been hearing that a lot lately. There’s little doubt that the popularity of multirotors brought what some might consider unwelcome attention by the FAA but I think RC pilots are just as culpable.  

People conflate the issue of safety and regulations.  The FAAs regulatory effort has more to do with commerce than safety.  This situation exists primarily because of a confluence of technologies that were being used before the mass introduction of Multirotors: 

  1. FPV
  2. Long range BVLOS transmitters
  3. More advanced flight controllers
  4. YouTube
  5. Electric batteries

In 2008 YouTube was gaining in popularity and more RC’rs were posting their high flying FPV adventures.  This garnered the attention of other hobbyists and people who began to see the potential for commercial application. 

RC companies were already developing flight controllers that simplified and better stabilized RC fixed wing and helicopter control.  The introduction of Lipos lowered the barrier of complexity even more.  Electric helicopter’s could lift quality cameras and gimbals with less vibration making the possibility of commercial aerial photography  accessible to those that could afford it.  

From 2008 to 2010 the overwhelming number of videos being posted on YouTube where coming from RC helicopters and Fixed wings designed for aerial photography, not multirotors.   It was in 2011 the FAA started to illegally try to regulate the commerce of RC flying.  This started several high profile lawsuits, one of the first was the FAA vs Pirker:  A side note:  notice the name of the attorney that represented Pirker, Brendan Schulman.  He’s now an attorney at DJI.  I also want to point out that this was not done with a multirotor but a Zephyr fixed wing.  

This lawsuit was taking place around the same time that DJI launched the Phantom.  The Phantom was the first multirotor you could purchase that didn’t require any assembly, charge the batteries and fly.  That certianly lowered the barrier to access but it was the inspiring aerial footage on YouTube from RC helicopters and FPV fixed wings that drove the demand for multirotors.  

RC’rs who blame the over regulation on multirotors (drones) need to stop and accept the responsibility that they had in creating this environment.  They did almost nothing to protect their civil liberties, choosing to leave the defense of their hobby to a feckless organization.  When the FAA started to redefine their role in both the commercial and hobby use of RC the AMA tried to carve out an exemption rather than protect our rights. In fact, initially they pointed the finger at commercial operators splitting the RC community in two when the truth was that the fate of both groups were inextricably linked.  

Very few people actually tried to do anything but complain about it on RCGroups.  We at least tried to start the Association of Commercial UAS,, to try and defend our right to use UAS commercially.  So I take acception to the idea that somehow drones where the cause of the situation we find ourselves in.  

ALL of the RC’rs who were active from 2008 to the present who chose to do nothing are responsible and should be ashamed to think it was simply the introduction of the “drone” that are responsible.  

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Congratulations, UAV Coach for being a part of the process. Because I teach middle school, I’m thinking of all the young people getting drones for Christmas and other holidays. If this recreational test is required, I recommend it be included on all drone/sUAS packaging and that testing be easily accessible in each school district/county. Perhaps each area’s community college and/or public library could administer the test? Also, the cost should be reasonable if we want people to comply. I recommend no more than $10.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Some points to consider:

1. There are more recreational RC flyers than commercial RC flyers by a wide margin.

2.  There is comparatively little hard evidence that most recreational or commercial RC flyers are currently unsafe.  It’s a relatively few “clueless, careless, and criminal” actors that are the problem and the education and certification process that is being contemplated should help reduce the ranks of those folks.

3.  However, the current movement is likely driven mostly by a few commercial stakeholders like Amazon and others who want to profit from the commercial use of low altitude airspace that has been used safely by recreational RC flyers for many years.  It is also driven by fear, and a perceived need to gain control before things get (more) out of hand.

4.  The risk to the public from unproven commercial operations such as package delivery will be substantially greater than most recreational RC flying,

5.  There is a risk that recreational flyers will be burdened with most of the costs for implementing whatever evolves from the FAA’s efforts (including education, certification, remote ID, etc.), which given the above, will benefit a few commercial stakeholders. This would be wrong.  The financial burden to recreational flyers should proportional to the relatively low risk they pose.  The unproven commercial user’s should cover most of the cost for any new systems from which they will mostly benefit.

6.  The innovative hardware and software that make sUAS operations possible was developed, driven, and paid for by hobbyists.  Whatever the FAA/commercial stakeholders do, they should avoid interfering with this inventive process from which everyone benefits.

Some suggestions:

1.  The cost in time and dollars of online training and testing for/of recreational flyers should be very low if not included in the FAA’s online registration fee of $5.  

2.  Don’t issue sUAS registration numbers to ”unlicensed” RC pilots.

3.  The time spent on training should be limited to an hour or so.

4.  One fee should cover an unlimited number of trials at passing the test at one sitting.

5.  The testing process should be modeled after the Amateur Radio testing process.  However, there is no minimum age for getting a Ham Radio license, so in the case of RC flying that can cause damage and injury, maybe pilots below an age at which they can be held legally responsible need to fly unlicensed but under the supervision of a licensed adult PIC.  A “student pilot” license category wouldn’t work because someone would have to sign off on them.

6.  Recreational RC flyers should be encouraged, if not required to fly with insurance.

Edited by Earthman
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Add to my prior post...

7.  For most RC aircraft, the minimum operations area applicable to just needing to report your flight to the FAA ID system; i.e., flying without an active transponder of some sort on the aircraft, should be a box that is 2,000’ long x 1,000‘ wide x 400’.  This is a bit larger than the area I typically use when flying my fastest aerobatic fixed wing RC aircraft.  There should also be provisions for declaring a larger flight box for faster aircraft since I’m sure some pilots may need, or are capable of using a larger area when flying VLOS.

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After further consideration, and since I can’t edit my prior Suggestion 7, in stead of defining a flight box that a non-transponder-equipped aircraft must stay within, the FAA should just make it VLOS since everyone has different visual acuity.  This is basically what the rules say now, which works fine.

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