The Drone Exam 101: What you need to know

Introduction to drone pilot certification

If you want to operate your drone in one of the European countries, you must abide by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) rules and regulations. We still receive a substantial number of questions about registering your drone with the National Aviation Authority (NAA). The answer is simple - You do not have to register your drone with the authorities. It is you who needs to register with the NAA. In Ireland, it would be the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). Therefore, you will need to get trained on theoretical and practical aspects of drone operations before you get flying your drone. Further, we will look to answer relating questions about drone exams:

  • How to choose the right drone pilot training program?
  • How to prepare for a drone pilot exam?
  • What questions might appear in the drone pilot exam?
  • What should you do after receiving the course completion certificate?

Without further due, we will answer all these questions. To submit additional questions about this topic, please use our contact form or email us at train@avtrain.aero.

How to choose the right drone pilot training program?

To choose the right drone pilot and operator training program, you need to understand what drone operations you want to conduct. In addition, if you're going to operate anywhere in European Union, you will need to obtain a remote pilot certificate of competency (in other words - a drone pilot license) issued by the National Aviation Authority under the EASA rules and regulations. 

There are three drone operational categories: "Open", "Specific", and "Certified". Associated potential risks define the categorisation of operations. During the transitional period until the 31st of December, 2022, your drone weight should be below 25kg, as currently, there are no class identified drones available in the market. 

The "Open" category covers lower-risk civil drone operations. You can review conditions to determine if you fall under the "open" category here. This category is sub-divided into three subcategories: A1-A2-A3, which we may summarise as:

  • A1: fly over people but not over assemblies of people
  • A2: fly close to people
  • A3: fly far from people and urban areas (at least 150m away)

To operate in the Subcategories "A1&A3", you need to register with the IAA on the MySRS platform. Go through the online training program, pass the exam and receive "Proof of Completion of Online Training".* 

To operate in the Subcategory "A2", you may sign up for our certification course. It is a completely-online training course. In the end, you will have to sit in the exam and pass it at least at 75% grade. Then Avtrain examiner, as Designated Unmanned Training Organisation (DUTO), will endorse your application on MySRS. You will need to self-certify your practical skills. And as a result, you will receive "Remote Pilot Certificate of Competence".* 

Press here to learn more about the training program in the subcategory "A2".

The "Specific" category covers riskier drone operations and operations in the controlled airspace. Always refer to geographical zones and aeronautical notices issued by your NAA. Meanwhile, take a look at the Airspace map brought to you in partnership with Altitude Angel here

To operate in the "specific" category, you will need to sign up for our training program. It is a blended training course, where first you will learn from instructional videos and various interactive activities at your own pace. And the second part will be a Live Webinar where you will learn about risk assessment methodologies such as SORA, PDRA and STS. In addition, you will need to pass theoretical and practical flight assessments to receive endorsement from Avtrain towards your application to receive the "Remote Pilot Certificate of Theoretical Knowledge".* The IAA will issue this certificate, and all EASA countries recognise such certificate.

Press here to learn more about the training program in the "specific" category.

The "certified" category caters for the operations with the highest level of risk. For example, future drone flights with passengers on board, such as air taxis, will fall into this category. The approach used to ensure the safety of these flights will be very similar to the one used for manned aviation. Currently, no training program is defined or conducted towards operations in this category. Stay tuned as Avtrain will pursue to be among training organisations to have the recognition to deliver such certification training courses.

How to prepare for a drone pilot exam?

As a future drone pilot and operator, you will employ various ways of study to fly your drone under the EASA rules. Learning in a training facility (such as Avtrain), competency-based training, and self-study are acceptable ways of training. Learning with Avtrain enables you to receive internationally recognised training at your own comfort. We developed our training program and materials in accordance with the EASA rules and Regulations. Be attentive to lessons and activities as they will prepare you for safe drone operations and a successful attempt to pass the knowledge test. 

If you already own a drone, get familiar with it and get acquainted with the manual or leaflet provided by the UA manufacturer. Practise your flying skills by getting knowledgeable with drone navigations and settings. Review frequently asked questions on the EASA website. Find them here.

What questions might appear in the drone pilot exam?

We will not tell you exactly which questions will appear in the exam but will guide you through subjects reflecting safe drone operations. You need to be familiar with the general knowledge about UAS. That includes flight termination systems and flight control modes. You will need to make sure you are well aware of ways to obtain information about meteorology and what effects it has on UAS performance. You must be aware of operational procedures, for example, mission planning, airspace considerations and site risk assessment. You should be able to consider air and ground risks and provide mitigation solutions. Be knowledgeable about the human performance limitation factors, such as fatigue or sun glare. Understand well the aviation regulations and satisfactory conditions for air safety. In order to increase your level of practical airmanship - practise, practise, practise. Remember, nobody was born knowing how to pilot a drone or drive a car. 

Our customers are successfully passing the exam because we designed our courses to meet the requirements, and we encourage you to ask questions, so all is clear before you attempt taking the exam. We expect and thrive for only one result - that is successful completion and safe operations afterwards. 

What should you do after receiving the course completion certificate?

After completing our training program and successfully passing the assessments, we will guide you on your next steps depending on the training program you have completed. After receiving Remote Pilot Certificate issued by the IAA, if you wish, take great aerial photos and videos for your family and friends. Some of our customers and your fellow drone pilots conduct field surveys or establish drone delivery businesses. Be creative. The application of drone operations is impossible to count.

Subscribe here to stay up to date with rules and regulations covering drone (UAS) operations.

*In addition to the drone pilot training program, there are additional fees levied by the NAAs you need to consider. That includes issuing Remote Pilot Certificate, registering UAS operators and others. Press here to review the IAA applicable fees.

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide the most recent general information. However, it is your responsibility to refer to guidance, rules and regulations issued by the respective National Aviation Authority and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Avtrain will not be held responsible for any damages that could arise from using this website and acting upon the information that it contains.

January 19, 2022

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