(Courtesy of Guest Blogger Joseph Powell, HGR’s graphic designer)
It was time. I stood patiently waiting for the flight instructor to direct me to the testing room where Zone Aviation at the Lorain County Regional Airport administers the Computer Assisted Testing Service (CATS) test. In my head I replayed the countless hours of YouTube videos that I watched and websites that I read on FAA regulations and airport procedures, including my favorites from Who is Matt Johnson, Remote Pilot 101 and Drone Attorney Johnathan Rupprecht. I pictured the cloud types and their impact on UAS (Unmanned Aircraft Systems) and reminded myself of the differences between stable and unstable air. METARs (weather reports) were scrolling across my mental screen until the flight instructor directed me to my seat, and I began.
It had been months in the making. I was studying to take my Remote Pilot Certificate, which would allow me to fly a drone commercially for photography and videography purposes. The task was daunting, to say the least. For anyone interested in obtaining this certificate, heed my words: study, study, study. The FAA provides you with study materials in the form of giant manuals of procedures and regulations. Don’t discount the value of the knowledge inside. You will be shocked by the amount of information you are required to know. The same supplement that they use for the test is available online. There are no questions in there, but all of the charts and figures are the same ones used on the test. It will help you a great deal to make yourself familiar with them. There are unlimited resources online, and I recommend you use as many as you can. I also was interested to learn about the applications for commercial drones beyond military use for “spying.” They are used in fire, mountain, hiker and crash search-and-rescue missions and in the inspection of towers and railroad ties for maintenance and repair.
The test has a time limit of two hours and gives you 60 random questions. The test pulls questions from the recreational pilot’s database; so, the mix of regulations and airport procedures could be higher than those aimed at remote pilot operations. I flew through the first few questions. My study habits prepared me for this until I hit questions on material I hadn’t covered. I stopped and stared at the screen. There was more material out there that I had missed. On the matter of UAS I was confident, but airport traffic and identifying the plane position if they are midfield downwind RNWY13 was new to me. I didn’t panic, used the supplemental guide and was able to finish the test in a little more than an hour.
I looked over my answers on the computer screen, and I clicked on “complete test.: Another screen popped up saying, “Are you sure?” I clicked “yes” again and waited for my result, only to be greeted by one last chance to go over my answers before completing the test. On the last click, the bar moved back and forth symbolizing the calculating of the test score. I waited anxiously for what seemed to be five minutes, but was more like 30 seconds. I only needed to read the first line to know what the result was: “Congratulations on passing your Part 107 Remote Pilot Certificate.”