Everyone included in the 54,978 as of 9/1/17 (besides the Part 61 wildcard, aka data collection shortcoming) would have needed to take the recurrent knowledge test to be current. As of 9/9/19, only 14,219 RPC holders have taken the test, so 40,759 are not legally in a position to operate sUAS for commercial purposes. Down by approximately 73% +/-, and all we can assume, without emailing DJI customers, is that these folks don’t relish all of what being a billionaire entails? 

The FAA says they’ve got 150,391 individual RPC holders. However, it would appear that only 109,632 of these folks (not including the Part 61 wildcard) are ready to charge money. I’m still waiting for the Feds to figure out how much this is costing the taxpayer, and I’d even say they should consider furloughing 30 or so people in the UASIO until the business forecasted picks back up, perhaps? I’m just the idea guy.

On a side note, the total number is not designed to go down, since these certificates never expire, and your family would have to fill out paperwork and provide a copy of your death certificate to take you off of the rolls.  

Cut and paste from the FAA email 9/13/19. 

Question: The number of “current” Remote Pilot Certificates on file.

The FAA does not maintain a database that shows the number of RPC holders who are current.  RPCs holders are current if their initial knowledge test was taken within the previous 24 calendar months, or if they hold an RPC and have taken the RPC recurrent knowledge test within the previous 24 calendar months.  Further, if a person holds a pilot certificate issued under part 61 and meets their flight review requirements, they are current if they’ve passed either an initial or recurrent training course within the previous 24 calendar months.

As of 9/9/19, the airman registry indicates 150,391 individuals hold an RPC certificate.  As of 9/9/19, 14,219 individuals have taken the RPC recurrent knowledge test.  We presume these 14,219 individuals are RPC holders who passed their initial knowledge test in 2016 and 2017 and were nearing the end of their currency.  We can verify that any individual RPC has passed the recurrent knowledge test or training course, but the information is not populated on the individual airman’s record.

*Remote pilots as of 09-01-2017 ~ 54,978
*Remote pilots as of 09-01-2018 102,769

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By Patrick Egan

Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).