TRUST: The FAA’s required knowledge test

As part of the FAA’s reauthorization bill in 2018, recreational pilots are required to pass a knowledge test to be authorized to fly. Since this test did not exist, pilots could continue to fly without taking it. Today, the FAA not only announced who the test provider will be—but also made the test live. To continue flying recreationally in the United States, you must take and pass the knowledge test.

To fill the requirement, the FAA brings us the The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST).

Here’s what you need to know.

The test is required, immediately.

The FAA’s 2018 Reauthorization Bill (PDF) added requirements for recreational pilots (see Section 349 (PDF) – exception for limited recreational operations of unmanned aircraft). These requirements already went into effect, but no test existed until June 22, 2021. Now that the test exists, all recreational pilots in the United States are already covered by the regulation and must take the test before flying.

It’s free.

Unlike registration, there’s no fee for taking the test. The certificate you get upon completion does not expire. While your certificate can be revoked, you may simply take the test over again to gain a new certificate.

It’s entirely online.

Visit any of the test providers to take the test. You can complete the test at any time.

You must keep proof with you when you fly.

Similar to your registration card, you must keep the certificate with you when you fly. You may be asked by law enforcement or FAA personnel to produce your registration and proof of completing the test. Fortunately, you’re allowed to produce that proof electronically. If you save the certificate to your phone, that will meet the requirement. (You can also save your registration card in the same way.)

You may need a desktop computer.

Each version of the test is presented slightly differently, as it was technically implemented by each test provider. Many of these learning management systems are built for—and expect—older technologies. Sadly, many of the test providers used methods that are not accessible for the disabled. If you need to use a screen reader or the keyboard for navigation, you may wish to find someone to help you navigate and read the test.

A few of the providers don’t seem to be entirely ready yet and the test will not load. If this happens, try taking the test with a different provider.

It’s not difficult.

You don’t need to study beforehand. In fact, all of the material you will answer questions about is presented within the test itself. If you’ve been paying attention to the regulations already, all of the material on the test will be review. The test content mostly covers the regulations that already exist. There are no in-depth technical questions.

You can’t fail.

The test isn’t graded; you won’t get a score at the end. All the questions are multiple choice. If you get one wrong, the test will tell you why it’s the wrong answer. After that, you’ll be instantly returned to the same question to choose a different answer. It doesn’t matter how many you get wrong, or how often. Even a very new hobbyist should have no problems passing.

The test doesn’t infringe your privacy.

The FAA requires that you have taken the test, but does not keep a database of who has done so. The only proof that will ever exist that you have taken it is the electronic certificate you download after completion—or any copies you make of it afterward. You decide who sees those copies and how you store them.

This also means that if you lose your certificate, you’ll have to take the test over again to get a new one.

However, most test providers have put the test behind a registration, and these providers may collect information about you. Not everyone will want to register with a 3rd party just to access the test.

You don’t need to register to access it.

Many of the test administration sites require you to log in to their system in order to access the test. This isn’t necessary! Since the FAA doesn’t keep records of who has taken or passed the test, registration to a test site provides no benefit to you. Any registration you complete only provides your information to the test administrator and not to the FAA. At least one test provider specifically says not to use Incognito mode, but there’s no technical reason for this for the test itself. It’s even been reported that the FAA specifically disallows registration or collecting data on test takers.

If you don’t want the hassle—or the privacy concerns—of registration, the Chippewa Valley Technical College does not require any personal information before taking the test, nor does it require a login. (And yes, it works fine in Incognito mode.) You can simply access the test directly on the CVTC server and get started. You’ll fill in your name for the certificate at the end once you have completed the test.

Conclusion

While having any test at all will certainly prove unpopular with some pilots who have been flying safely for decades, there isn’t much to get upset about. It’s a simple measure to make sure pilots have a basic understanding of the rules, and it’s a one-time requirement that never expires. Unlike other regulations, this test keeps the barrier to entry very low and does not impose new restrictions. It’s unfortunate that the test is often not accessible to users with disabilities, and it’s disappointing that the test providers are using the test as an opportunity to collect some of your personal data. But for the vast majority of hobbyists it will take only a few minutes to complete, and at least one provider (CVTC) does not require registration at this time.

Spend a few minutes to refresh your knowledge of the regulations, promote the safety of our hobby, and fly legally by taking the The Recreational UAS Safety Test.

For more information, visit the TRUST page on the FAA’s website.

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