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What You Need to Know About Getting Your Handheld Aviation Radio License

What You Need to Know About Getting Your Handheld Aviation Radio License

Drone pilots should have an aviation handheld radio to communicate with nearby aircraft, transmit blind announcements about operations near an uncontrolled airport, and most importantly, to communicate with helicopters flying above incident scenes.

I regularly communicate with news helicopters when they are on the scene to coordinate the airspace and provide an awareness I’m operating below them. You can be professional when organizing the airspace, not a power jerk. You know the type I’m talking about.

I’ve been asked on a number of occasions if a public safety UAS pilot with a handheld aviation radio, like the kind you can buy here, needs a license to use them or if their Part 107 certification covers them.

The correct answer is tough to find but here it is.


The operator of the aviation handheld radio does need a license to operate internationally but not in the U.S. The license comes from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and not the FAA.

To obtain your lifetime Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit it requires registration and a lifetime payment of $70.

There is no test to obtain the license and only one qualification question, “Has the applicant or any party to this application, or any party directly or indirectly controlling the applicant, ever been convicted of a felony by any state or federal court?”

Applicants will be assigned a license ID which will be yours for the absolute rest of your natural life.

Here Are The Application Steps

  1. Register with the FCC Universal Licensing System as a new user. You will need to first register and receive your FRN. If you already have an FCC license of some sort then you already have an assigned FRN and you should use that. To check to see if you already have an FRN, you can search here.
  2. When you click to register as a new user you will then will have to answer these two questions.

  3. After you click continue you will be met with the big registration form.

  4. After you subit your registration you will receive your FRN by email from the FCC.
  5. With your FRN in hand then you have to go to file a new license request online.

    Now, take your time, don’t rush this. Complete each step clearly.

  6. After you are logged into the FCC License Manager portal you should find the link to apply for a new license in the upper right.
  7. The next page will ask you to Select Service from a pulldown box.

  8. Select “RR – Restricted Operator” and hit continue.
  9. I doubt are exempt from FCC application fees so complete this screen and continue.

  10. Simple question. Continue.

  11. You are now met with your personal information page. Complete and continue.

  12. Next you have to answer the eligibility question and continue.

  13. The employment question. Continue.

  14. You should now be at the Summary screen to review your answers. Since I’ve previously applied and hold a RR license I didn’t want to complete the application again so this is where I’ll have to leave you on the guided tour. But the next option should be to submit or continue and complete a certification statement, pay, and voila, you now hold your Restricted Radiotelephone Operator Permit.


After reading my post above, some people have contacted me and said the application for the license does not apply to them. There is no clear statement of requirement.

While it may not say this on the online FCC application, Form 605 does have the following box.

That section contains the following statement that covers Part 107 UAS pilots. It says, I hold an aircraft pilot certificate which is valid in the United States or an FCC Radio Station License issued in my name.”

COA pilots would not be eligible for application in that category.

Additionally, Form 605 Schedule C does say that domestic users are not required to obtain a license but it also contains the checkbox for a portable license.

This is a little known and little understood process by the FCC and FAA. You will hear a thousand different opinions if you are 100 people.

About Steve Rhode

Steve is an experienced and certificated UAS pilot and aircraft instrument-rated pilot. He is also the Chief Pilot with the Wake Forest Fire Department and North Carolina Public Safety Drone Academy. He is also a member of the FAA Safety Team.


  1. Is there any crossover ability to use either a HAM or GMRS license in order to be authorized to transmit on those bands instead?

    • There are additional categories that you can apply for once you have your FRN. However, according to the FCC, HF operators have to take a test. “The General Class operator license authorizes privileges in all 27 amateur service bands. Upon accreditation by a Volunteer-Examiner Coordinator (VEC), an individual can help administer certain examinations. In addition to the above written examination, the requirement for a General Class operator license includes a 35 question written examination for which 26 correctly answered questions is the minimum passing score.”

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