drone liceneses

Smoky Mountain High School senior Joey Crowe (left) and junior Damien Hebenstreit are two of the first high school students in North Carolina to earn the FAA Small Unmanned Aircraft pilot’s license for commercial drone flight.

Smoky Mountain High School senior Joey Crowe and junior Damien Hebenstreit have accomplished something very few high school students in North Carolina have so far. They passed the exam for the Federal Aviation Administration Small Unmanned Aircraft (Part 107) pilot’s license. This license permits them to legally fly non-hobbyist drones.

The two-hour, 60-question test was given at the Asheville Regional Airport. Passing the exam means that the students are now officially part of the Homeland Security Database and demonstrates their ability to read Meteorological Terminal Aviation Routine weather reports and sectional charts.

They also successfully calculated load factor and density altitude and demonstrated their understanding of radio and weather communications, as well as laws and rules regarding drone flying.

The license covers a wide range of commercial uses for drones weighing less than 55 pounds. The fee for the exam is $160. Applicants must be 16-years-old or older. 

The students are enrolled in the Honors Drone Technology course taught by Mary Henson, who also has her license.

“Since this is a new course and only 20 high schools in the state are offering the course, they are among the first high school students to earn this license,” Henson said. “They have worked really hard, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for this accomplishment.”

Once they receive their licenses in approximately two weeks, they will be permitted to fly drones solo for commercial purposes. Students in the class have been able to fly drones only with Henson in attendance.

“The course really interested me because it was about aircraft and flying in general,” Crowe said. “The class was fun all around, and you really learn so much about aviation and flight as well as getting to work with drones.”

Both students hope to do more with drone flying once they have their licenses in hand.

“This will mean that we can earn money taking aerial shots for real estate agents, for weddings and other events,” Hebenstreit said. 

He is also involved with drone racing.