As of April 1 individuals seeking their student pilot certificate must wait until the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) background checks are completed before receiving the certification, whereas prior to the beginning of this month, you could go to a local aviation medical examiner and pick up a student pilot certificate that same day. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that the turnaround time for this certificate from the TSA will only be three weeks. However, in the FAA’s proposed commercial drone operator regulations from last year, the FAA stated that it “could take about 6 to 8 weeks after receipt of an application for the FAA to issue an applicant an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS rating.” Most likely the FAA’s original estimate will be closer to the real wait time.

Additionally, after the 6 to 8 weeks have passed, and you have obtained your student pilot certificate, you will still need to take the Part 107 exam for an actual drone operator certificate. The good news is that the individual’s TSA background check can be used for the drone operator certificate and speed that process along, getting the drones in the sky a bit faster than before when individual’s needed the background check conducted after taking the Part 107 exam. So if you or your company is considering drone use, start this process sooner than later.