The Recreational UAS Safety Test, or TRUST, has the goal of increasing awareness of safety and best practices in our complex national airspace. The FAA requires that all recreational UAS pilots in the United States complete TRUST. The AMA has been a resource for model aviation hobbyists since 1936. As a Testing Administrator, we ensure hobbyists have an easy way to accomplish this training. This guide will ensure you can quickly pass the TRUST and potentially learn something new along the way.
Frequently-used terms in the FAA TRUST Test
It probably comes as no surprise that a training and certification called The Recreational UAS Safety Test (TRUST) is full of acronyms and official terminology. Here are some of the terms and their abbreviations that you should be familiar with.
FAA (Federal Aviation Administration): The United States government agency under the Department of Transportation responsible for the safety of civil aviation.
Recreational flier: A person flying purely for fun, not in support of any business operation (whether paid or unpaid). If you’re doing work with your aircraft, even if it’s fun, you are required to obtain your Part 107 license.
TFR (Temporary Flight Restriction): Airspace that is temporarily off-limits due to VIP travel, large events, natural disasters, and more. The amount of warning prior to implementation, length of time the restrictions take place, and the area included will be defined in each TFR. Remember, unauthorized flying in a restricted airspace is a federal crime.
LAANC (Low Altitude Authorization and Notification Capability): an FAA program run in collaboration with approved UAS Service Suppliers (USS) that automates the application and approval process for airspace authorizations. It provides pilots with access to controlled airspace at or below 400 feet and air traffic professionals with visibility into where and when model aircraft are operating.
USS (UAS Service Suppliers): Companies approved by the FAA to provide LAANC services to users via mobile apps or desktop applications. The AMA recommends UASidekick, but there are a lot of other great options out there: Listing of FAA-approved USS.
VLOS (Visual Line of Sight): Recreational fliers must be able to see their aircraft in flight at all times. If flying FPV, this requirement may be satisfied by an additional spotter/visual observer who is standing physically next to the pilot.
FPV (First Person View): FPV flight involves flying a radio-controlled aircraft while viewing the flight through a set of VR goggles or other screen that simulates the pilot’s view as if he or she were sitting in the cockpit of the aircraft. The pilot looks at the screen to fly instead of at the physical aircraft, which is why the assistance of a spotter/visual observer is necessary to maintain VLOS.
Spotter/Visual observer: A person other than the pilot who also maintains visual contact with the aircraft in flight. The VLOS requirement can be satisfied by using a spotter in cases of FPV flight, however, the spotter must be physically next to the remote pilot and must maintain VLOS contact with the model aircraft at all times.
CBO (Community-based Organization): Recreational flyers are required to follow the safety guidelines of a CBO that is officially recognized by the FAA, such as AMA. The FAA has recognized the AMA’s safety code as a resource in ensuing model aviation pilots are prepared to safely operate in the national airspace.
To ensure you are flying your model aircraft legally, follow these three steps: choose the right place to fly, have the correct documentation, and practice safety.
Choosing the right place to fly: controlled vs. uncontrolled airspace
The United States National Airspace System is large and complex, designed and regulated to help make the skies safe for everyone. How can you be sure you choose the right place to fly?
You don’t need any special permissions from the FAA to safely operate your model aircraft in uncontrolled airspace. Uncontrolled airspace is typically found close to the ground away from airports.
Generally, you must fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace to stay legal. The AMA has been able to work alongside the FAA to get waivers allowing specific AMA chartered clubs to fly higher than 400 feet Above Ground Level. Contact AMA’s government advocacy department to learn more about this process!
Before taking to the skies with your model aircraft, you should check with your FAA-approved UAS Service Supplier (USS), such as UASidekick, to confirm that you are flying in uncontrolled airspace.
Controlled airspace is typically found in proximity to populated areas and airports. You can use the USS of your choice to be sure.
You find yourself in controlled airspace but want to fly recreationally. How do you accomplish this? You can do this in one of two ways:
- You can use your FAA-approved LAANC UAS service supplier like UASidekick to request a recreational flight. If approved, you should be able to receive your authorization in real-time. In areas not covered by LAANC, you should use FAADroneZone to make your request.
- Alternately, as an AMA member, you can utilize the AMA Club Locator to see clubs in the vicinity that may include preauthorized FAA-recognized Identification Areas (FRIAs). You can find out more about FRIAs by visiting www.modelaircraft.org/amainaction.
Have the correct documentation
Chances are good that you will never be asked to provide any documentation to law enforcement or FAA representatives, but if asked, you should be able to provide proof of your FAA TRUST test passage (this test) as well as proof of your FAA registration. If you received authorization via LAANC or FAADroneZone to fly in controlled airspace, you should also be prepared to show proof of that.
TRUST certification: Immediately after you complete the TRUST, you’ll receive a TRUST completion certificate that you can print and/or save electronically. Keep in mind that this is your only chance to retain proof of passing the TRUST! Due to the nature of the test and the requirements set forth by the FAA, we cannot help you prove your passage. If you lose your certificate, you will be required by the FAA to re-take the test.
FAA registration: As a recreational model aircraft pilot, you must register with the FAA to receive your FAA number. This number is required to be displayed on the exterior of any model aircraft that is heavier than .55 pounds or 250 grams. The size, typeface, and specific location of the number on the exterior is left to the pilot to determine. There is no need to register each individual aircraft as a recreational pilot. Your personal registration number can go on all of your aircraft.
You, the remote pilot in command, are ultimately responsible for the aircraft and have a duty to ensure that your aircraft operates within the airspace safely. You can do this by being knowledgeable about your aircraft, being consistent with safety checks, and being aware of the airspace.
Be knowledgeable: Before you operate any model aircraft, you must understand how that aircraft operates. Read the safety manual that comes with the model aircraft and have a firm understanding of how to safely operate it. As a part of this process, you should understand what failsafe options are at play in case of a loss of signal, as well as any contingency plans you should have in place should a failure occur. Automated features such as GPS or autopilot should be fully understood prior to real-world flight operations. If you are building the model aircraft, be sure to research and solicit feedback from qualified aeromodelers before flying. When in doubt, research, prepare, and find a qualified mentor who can help. You can utilize the AMA Club Locator to seek out other recreational fliers in your area.
Be consistent: Develop a standard operating procedure including a preflight and postflight checklist for each model aircraft. It will save you time and money, as well as ensure a safer flying experience.
Check your aircraft: Although each model aircraft may have a separate procedure, you should always check all moving parts, connections, propellers, batteries, and fuel at these inspections. If you find an issue, repair or replace before your next flight.
Check your flying site: You should also consider the conditions at your flying area. Is there potentially dangerous weather such as high wind, fog or rain that might create an unsafe flying environment? You should avoid distractions and be aware of your surroundings while flying your model aircraft.
Check yourself: Your preflight check should include things such as silencing your mobile phone and communicating your intentions to those nearby. It is important to consider whether you have taken any medications or other substances that might affect you during your flight.
Be aware: During your flight you are responsible for being aware of your altitude, seeing and avoiding other aircraft, and operating the model aircraft within the confines of a CBO’s safety guidelines.
Altitude: Remember, you must generally fly below 400 feet in uncontrolled airspace to stay legal.
Seeing and avoiding other aircraft: Manned flight operations must always take priority over recreational model aircraft flights. No matter what, when you observe a manned flight that has a chance of interfering with your model aircraft flight, you must land your aircraft as safely and as soon as possible. Using a spotter while flying your model aircraft is a good way to ensure any potential concerns are mitigated as safely and as quickly as possible.
Following a CBO’s safety guidelines: Fortunately, the AMA has a proven record of safety since 1936 and is recognized by the FAA as an official community-based organization. Flying within our safety code is the best pathway to success. You can find the most current safety code at www.modelaircraft.org/safety.