The long-awaited commercial drone rules for the U.S. are out from the FAA and the written exam was made available as of August 31. This is a big deal. It means you can now legally teach and do research using drones under this license.
The test consists of a written exam only (no flight tests) with a $150 test fee. What these rules will facilitate is the wide-spread adoption of drone technology throughout ecology in the coming years. If you want more information on the process, the folks over at 3D Robotics have posted a recap of the webinar they did. It’s free on Youtube and is a useful resource.
Note that students taking an organized course fall under the ‘hobbyist rules’. This was announced by the FAA back in May. If you want more info on these rules, check out the FAA ‘Know Before You Fly‘ campaign, as well as websites like Airmap for airspace restrictions around your university or field site.
Students do not need the license to fly as part of an organized class (e.g. field ecology). Only the faculty or TAs need licenses because they are getting paid, thus qualifying as commercial operators. Similarly, researchers using drones also need the license. Consult with your university on liability insurance requirements (may fall under your standard insurance).
Make sure you check out the Parrot edu page if you are interested in hardware for drone education.