The FAA will open up to flying civilian drones in 2015. Should we get pilot licenses to be ready for this? if so, is there a difference between plane or helicopter pilot license?

Links related:
NASA Helps Draw Up Rules for Flying Drones in the U.S
FAA making plans for drone flights in U.S.
U.S. colleges begin offering more drone piloting programs to keep up with domestic drone boom
California bills tackle drones, personal privacy
Aviation schools prepare for boom in demand for drone pilots

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    $\begingroup$ I haven't seen anything referencing what would be required, but I suspect no existing license will make any difference unless you intend to fly under that license as well. $\endgroup$
    – mah
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ Related: robotics.stackexchange.com/q/1339/417 $\endgroup$
    – asheeshr
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


Well, I have two answers for you - one personal, and one practical:

Personally, as a pilot (and very occasional airline passenger) I think anyone operating a drone should be required to get a pilot's license of some kind. Maybe I'm just grumpy, but I spent a lot of time cramming the skills and knowledge into my brain that are required to safely operate in the US National Airspace System. It can get pretty complicated and crowded up there, and I think we need the operators of unmanned aircraft to have a thorough understanding of that.
The last thing anyone wants is a UAV smacking into a plane because it wandered somewhere it shouldn't be

PRACTICALLY though, it remains to be seen what regulations the FAA will impose for unmanned civil aircraft - they may require a pilot's certificate (speculating: In the category and class equivalent to the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle you'll be operating), or they may require a "remote operator's certificate" of some kind (perhaps with special emphasis on remote-operation-specific issues like command uplink delay), or they may not impose a requirement at all and treat them like model aircraft until the first accident involving one of these things causes a public outcry.
Like egid said, until the FAA issues a NPRM telling us what they're thinking of doing here we really won't know - your guesses are as good as ours right now.

I would suggest at least an Private Pilot Ground School course while you're gearing up though -- and I would suggest it even if the FAA decides no license is requried for being a UAV operator. The airspace, chart reading, flight planning, and ATC portions of the course are something you'll probably want to be familiar with (and are broadly applicable across all kinds of aviation), and a good ground school course usually isn't that expensive.
(As to whether you take the knowledge test at the end of the course, that's up to you -- the results are good for 2 years in case you decide to pursue a pilot certificate, but the test you have to take as a UAV operator may wind up being different from the one you'd have to take as a private pilot, or may not exist at all, so you might just be setting yourself up for having to take two tests. Again, at this stage your guess would be as good as mine here.)

  • $\begingroup$ On the bright side, drone's can't fly in the complicated airspace that you are referring to so it isn't an issue.... Yet.... $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Commented Feb 7, 2014 at 3:15

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