Recreational Pilots

Are you flying a drone? If so, your operation is considered to be commercial and under the FAA Part 107 regulations. That is unless you meet all eight points found in what’s known as the “Exception for Limited Recreational Operations of Unmanned Aircraft” found in 49 USC 44809 (44809) of the Federal regulations. Whew! I thought flying a remote controlled aircraft was supposed to be fun!

Well, it is but these operations are becoming increasingly regulated as the world tries to figure out what to do with the technology and make it safe and unobtrusive. The recently implemented Remote ID regulations and those in 44809 are intended to help open up the capabilities of unmanned aircraft.

So you want to fly your bird purely for fun. According to 44809 you must meet all eight of these items:


(1) The aircraft is flown strictly for recreational purposes.
(2) The aircraft is operated in accordance with or within the programming of a community-based organization’s set of safety guidelines that are developed in coordination with the Federal Aviation Administration.
(3) The aircraft is flown within the visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft or a visual observer co-located and in direct communication with the operator.
(4) The aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft.
(5) In Class B, Class C, or Class D airspace or within the lateral boundaries of the surface area of Class E airspace designated for an airport, the operator obtains prior authorization from the Administrator or designee before operating and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(6) In Class G airspace, the aircraft is flown from the surface to not more than 400 feet above ground level and complies with all airspace restrictions and prohibitions.
(7) The operator has passed an aeronautical knowledge and safety test described in subsection (g) and maintains proof of test passage to be made available to the Administrator or law enforcement upon request. (emphasis mine)
(8) The aircraft is registered and marked in accordance with chapter 441 of this title and proof of registration is made available to the Administrator or a designee of the Administrator or law enforcement upon request.


Item 1 seems pretty easy. If you’re going to fly and take photos or videos that get posted on the Internet, you’re probably not flying purely for fun. Well, maybe.

Item 2 is interesting because the FAA still hasn’t come out with the definition or recognition of a community-based organization. So until that’s done, pilots should refer to Advisory Circular AC 91-57b for safety guidance. Whew!

Items 3 through 6 pretty much follow the same guidelines found for commercial pilots in Part 107 of the FAA regulations.

What about item 7? Enter “The Recreational UAS Safety Test,” or TRUST (gotta love those FAA acronyms!), which was released June 22. You can now go to one of the approved online testing providers to take the course and test. It is free and takes around 30 or so minutes. It is also fully correctable to 100% so as one of our members put it, it was the first test he ever got 100% on!

Here’s what the folks at FAA Safety sent out to their representatives regarding TRUST:


Today, the FAA announced the selection of 16 organizations as FAA-approved Test Administrators (TAs) of The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST). 

TRUST meets the congressional requirement under FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 (49 U.S.C. 44809) for recreational flyers to take and pass an aeronautical knowledge and safety test. It was developed with input from various segments of the drone community including manufacturers, educational institutions, organizations, and individuals. 

A list of FAA-approved TAs can be found on our website

Please pass along this information to your community. To assist you, here are key talking points when discussing the TRUST: 

TRUST stands for “The Recreational UAS Safety Test” 

  • Mandated by 49 USC 44809(a)(7)  
  • All recreational flyers (including children) operating under “The Exception” (49 USC 44809) must take and pass the test 
  • Part 107 remote pilots who choose to operate under “The Exception” (49 USC 44809) must take and pass the test 
  • The FAA will not recommend which Test Administrator a recreational flyer should use 
  • Look at the TAs listed on our website and decide which entity suits their needs 

Upon completion, TAs will issue a TRUST completion certificate to the applicant 

  • Will have the name of the applicant, a unique token number and the TA’s name 
  • Can be used as evidence that the requirements of 49 USC 44809(a)(7) have  been met
  • May be in paper or electronic format  

TRUST is available online and free for anyone to take  

Test Administrators (TAs) are FAA-approved organizations that administer the TRUST 

  • TAs selected have successfully completed the FAA’s application process and represent a broad cross-section of the recreational drone community 

There you have it. You can go to any of the providers, take the course and pass the test and received the required documentation to keep with you as you fly for fun.

We recommend the great folks at PilotInstitute.com for their version of the course and exam.

The knowledge gained by taking the course and exam is beneficial for pilots to understand how to operate safely, so from that standpoint it’s a good thing. It remains to be seen what level of compliance will be seen, particularly among the remote control aircraft community.

Taylor Albrecht

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