Month: June 2016

The New Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating

On June 21, the FAA approved new commercial Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) rules that, among other things, announced a new Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating is required to fly a small UAS or drone for commercial purposes. If you’re looking to operate a UAS for hire, here is all you need to know to get started:

Applying for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating – New Pilots

New Pilots (people not currently holding an FAA-issued pilot certificate) must meet the following to qualify for a Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand English (exceptions may be made if the person is unable to meet one of these requirements for a medical reason, such as hearing impairment)
  • Be in a physical and mental condition to safely operate a small UAS
  • Pass the initial aeronautical knowledge exam (a computerized written test) at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, such as Group 3 Aviation. To stay current, you’ll be required to pass a recurrent knowledge test every 24 months.

Once you’ve passed the Initial Knowledge Test, you then apply through the FAA’s online IACRA system. Once registered with IACRA, you will login with your username and password. Click on “Start New Application” and, 1) Application Type “Pilot”, 2) Certifications “Remote Pilot,” 3) “Other Path Information,” and 4) “Start Application.”

Continue through the application process and, when prompted, enter the 17-digit Knowledge Test Exam ID you received when you passed your knowledge test. Please note, it takes about 48 hours for your test code to be recognized in the system once you pass the test so it is best to attempt to complete your application two days after you’ve passed the test.

Your application is submitted electronically and the TSA will automatically conduct a background check. You will receive a confirmation email once your application has completed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) vetting process. The email will provide information that will allow you to log into the IACRA system and print a copy of the temporary certificate.

Applying for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating – Current Pilots

Current pilots (having had a biannual flight review within the last 24 months) who hold an FAA-issued pilot certificate other than student certificate are also required to apply for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. The knowledge test is not required for current pilots, but you must pass a recurrent online training course (Part 107 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) ALC-451) every 24 months. That online training is already available at If you are not current, you have the choice of having a BFR or following the new pilot rules above.

Once completing the online training, pilots must fill out FAA Form 8710-13 (can be done through the online IACRA system) and bring it, with proof of the training and government issued photo identification, to a FAA Flight Standards District Office (FSDO), airman certification representative (ACR), designated pilot examiner (DPE) or FAA-certificated flight instructor (CFI) for identity confirmation and signature. If you elect to work with the FSDO, ACR or DPE, you’ll leave with your temporary Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating from them. If you’re working with a CFI, you will be sent your certificate once the FSDO has signed it off and sent it to the FAA pilot registry office.

We have a DPE and CFIs here at Group 3 Aviation and are happy to help you with this step. Give us a call to schedule an appointment.


This of course is a quick overview of the process to get your new certificate. All details on how to apply the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating can be found on the FAA’s website here. The FAA has also published a list of Frequently Asked Questions here. It’s a good idea to closely review both pages before applying, whether you’re a new pilot or current pilot.

Reserving your spot for the Knowledge Test

The FAA Knowledge Test for this certificate will be available in August, however the exact date has yet to be determined. Here at our FAA-approved testing facility, we’ll be able to administer it immediately upon its availability.

We are currently taking names and numbers and will call people in the order we received your name as soon as we are able to take reservations for the test. Call us at 818-994-9376 or email us to get on the pre-reservation list for the knowledge test.

When showing up for your test, you must bring government issued photo identification.

The cost for the test at our testing center is $165, $10 off for AOPA and EAA members.

Preparing for the test

The FAA has outlined airman certification standards for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating. Reading through those standards (found here) as well as the sample questions from the test will help prepare you in advance. Additionally, we highly recommend reading through the Advisory Circular 107-2, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems, which clearly outlines the rules and responsibilities of a UAS pilot in preparation. The FAA stated the test will cover the following topics:

  • Applicable regulations relating to small unmanned aircraft system rating privileges, limitations, and flight operation
  • Airspace classification and operating requirements, and flight restrictions affecting small unmanned aircraft operation
  • Aviation weather sources and effects of weather on small unmanned aircraft performance
  • Small unmanned aircraft loading and performance
  • Emergency procedures
  • Crew resource management
  • Radio communication procedures
  • Determining the performance of small unmanned aircraft
  • Physiological effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment
  • Airport operations
  • Maintenance and preflight inspection procedures

It’s important to note the FAA has stated no ground school is required to take the knowledge test and no past training or courses taken will count toward your certificate. Be aware of predatory programs claiming their classes, online or in person, meet prerequisites for the Remote Pilot Certificate with a Small UAS Rating Knowledge Test. However, the FAA does encourage self-training, online training or taking a course to become familiar with the regulations.

Whatever you choose, be sure to study or prepare before the test, as a failure of the test requires you to take it again, repaying the fee. If you do fail the test, you’re allowed to take it again 14 days after your last attempt.

We will update this post as soon as we have a direct link to study materials from the FAA and we will post updates on our Facebook and Twitter account.

Whether you need to take your Knowledge Test or need a DPE or CFI to sign off on your new certificate, please give us a call. We’re here to help, and answer any questions we can.

Professional Tips: Aerial Photography with Helicopters

Nothing boosts the appeal of a photo like a change in perspective. Whether you’re a professional photographer, hobbyist, artist or social media maven looking for a way to boost links, shares and following, taking your photos from a whole new perspective is how you differentiate your work from the masses. And what better way to do that than from a helicopter?

Aerial Photography: Helicopter vs Drone

Hiring a helicopter to help you capture those unique shots is easy and affordable, while offering you all the flexibility you need for your project. We can fly doors on or off, allowing you to sit in the front or back, and are legally allowed to operate at a large altitude range. With a helicopter, you can bring a selection of cameras and lenses, allowing you flexibility in how you take your photos, and with the speed of a helicopter, you can shoot several subjects in the same flight, saving your own valuable time.

Drones, while they can be useful for specific needs, do have their limitations. Regulations require drone operators be FAA-licensed pilots and the drone cannot fly above 400 feet, if you’re using your photos for commercial gain. And a blog or website where you make money on ads and by sending followers from your social media is considered commercial gain. Be sure to confirm the drone pilot is licensed to avoid legal repercussions.

What’s more, most off-the-shelf drones carry wide-angle lens micro cameras like GoPro, limiting your control over the image. Higher end drones and camera gimbals designed to carry a professional camera sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and you’re still limited by the FAA-imposed 400-foot altitude.

Hiring a Group 3 Aviation helicopter for your aerial photography means you can bring all your cameras, pick your altitude, let us know how long you can fly, and leave the rest to us.

Group 3 Aviation’s R44 Helicopter

Our R44 is the ideal aerial photography platform for serious photographers. First, it is less expensive than a larger aircraft, allowing you to get the most out of your shooting investment. With your choice of seats to shoot from and the ability for us to remove individual doors, it provides the ideal opportunity for you to get clear shots.

What’s more, the helicopter only has two blades and a tall mast, reducing chances a blade will end up in your photos.

Before every flight, you’ll meet with your pilot to go over what you’d like to capture from the helicopter and receive a safety brief. Your pilot will do everything allowed by FAA regulations and safety practices to help get your shot. However, the pilot is also responsible for assuring your safety and that of the flight. We’ll work with you to mitigate any concerns to help you get your photos safely and within legal requirements.

Tips for Ideal Helicopter Photography

Unlike shooting on the ground, there are some specific considerations when shooting from a helicopter. Here are some tips to assure you get the best out of your helicopter photography experience.

Consider the orientation of your subject and the time of day. If you’re shooting a mountain range or building facing west, afternoon or even golden hour may be the best time to fly. A fault line may show the best definition from the air mid-day, or if you’re going for dramatic effect, early morning or late evening to accentuate shadows, for example.

Camera settings
Aerial photographers regularly recommend shutter speeds between 1/500 and 1/1000. In calm conditions, 1/500 can be ideal. However, 1/1000 may be the best bet depending on your focal length. Longer focal length = faster shutter speeds. Think about focal length before the flight. A very wide focal length will make it difficult to keep parts of the helicopter, mainly the blades, out of the image. Shooting in burst mode can help increase chances some shots do not have blades. In most cases, f/5.6 will work fine, but, depending on focal length, be ready to switch to f/8 or f/11 to attain the brightness you desire. Auto settings sometimes work, but be ready to use manual modes to increase the chances of capturing the ideal shot.

Doors Off Safety
When the doors are off, an additional layer of safety is important. In flight it gets windy in the aircraft, and even cold. Dress appropriately by wearing practical layered clothing to stay warm, and tie your hair back if it isn’t too short to stay out of your eyes.

Also, when the doors are off, no loose items are allowed in the aircraft to prevent the risk of items falling out. Extra items that are not strapped down are often not allowed. Your cameras will need to be on straps around your neck, sunglasses will need neck straps if you choose to bring them, and if you bring a camera bag, it also needs to be secured. We also highly recommend bringing an empty memory card as you’ll not want to see a full one fly from the aircraft when you attempt to change it out mid-flight.

Book Today

We’re here 24/7 to help you book your ideal photo flight. Give us a call today to discuss what you’d like to capture and how we can help you do just that, all within your deadline and budget.

Change the perspective of your photographs by hiring a helicopter to capture aerial photography.

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