Disability Inclusive Drone Industry Hurdles

Updated: Jan 26

An update on the drone industry's nonprofit advocate Drone Forward Incorporated (DFI) and their project to secure American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant accommodations on all unmanned aerial vehicle/unmanned aerial systems (UAV/UAS) testing, starting with the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Part 107 exam.



In October of 2021, Drone Forward met with FAA officials to begin work on getting ADA compliant accommodations for Part 107 testing. The Part 107 exam is required by the FAA for all drone pilots to utilize airspace legally and charge for services. The meeting was very promising, with FAA officials taking note of all the most pressing issues required to accommodate testing for individuals with disabilities. When the meeting ended, DFI staff members were shocked that this meeting had been secured by simply writing a blog article about the FAA not documenting any accommodations for the Part 107 exam on their website.



In the coming months, that first blog article, entitled, “Fighting for Disabled Peoples Part 107 Exam Accessibility,” has been found by many disabled people seeking help. DFI inclusive education team members have received numerous emails inquiring about how to secure accommodations and DFI has had to admit that there still is no definitive answer.


Extreme talents for the drone industry grounded by current testing infrastructure.


What DFI staff have found is that many of the people who’ve reached out for advice on securing accommodations for the exam have found major success in other professional and academic areas where testing accommodations meet ADA compliance. These are individuals who would add immense value to the foundation of a UAV/UAS industry already hindered by inequalities in basic representation measures such as gender. One such example who reached out to DFI was a recent University of California, Berkeley graduate with a documented learning disability who simply wanted to earn a Part 107 license to take on extra responsibilities for their employer which specializes in LiDAR hardware and software.


The question many DFI team members have found themselves asking one another over the past few months is, “How much talent has the (drone) industry lost because some (disabled people) have given up on passing the Part 107 exam over the years?”


Drone Forward decided to write this follow up piece to extend a hand to all folks seeking accommodations for the Part 107 exam and other UAV/UAS tests. The more individuals DFI adds to the list of people seeking accommodations on FAA testing furthers this advocacy effort and its validity when meeting with FAA officials. Furthermore, the stories we collect about individuals' unique needs are used as case examples for how the FAA can further develop accommodations that may be overlooked otherwise. If you are struggling to pass the Part 107 exam because of a disability, or know someone who is or has in the past, please reach out to the DFI team via email as soon as possible.


Email jpacheco@droneforwardinc.com or rcorbett@droneforwardinc.com with any inquiries on this DFI advocacy project. Any donations made to DFI help subsidize these advocacy efforts and are greatly appreciated.


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