A few weeks ago, I was about to buy a DJI Mini 2 drone to take some aerial shots. However, I had to postpone the purchase as I was informed that due to the new European regulations in force in 2021, operating camera drones is only allowed for registered drone pilots with the proper license. In this case, an Open A1 license is required.
In order to register myself at the RDW (the Dutch Department of Motor Vehicles) as an Open A1 drone pilot, I need to pass an online theory exam first. The exam can be taken at one of the recognized drone flight schools. As of July 2021, there are 8 of them, each offering a course costing around €100 for the Open A1/A3 categories. To the best of my knowledge, the courses and the exam are only available in Dutch at the moment.
After comparing the prices, I decided to go for the OmniDrones academy, the cheapest of them all at €50. The course is provided through a self-paced online learning environment.
The content of the course is rather minimal, yet adequate for the exam. There are many terms and abbreviations in the course materials that are not sufficiently described, but some Google searches will do just fine. I saw the demo of the more expensive courses and they seemed to be of better quality, but I personally don’t think they’re really worth the extra price.
The unlimited practice exam is a very useful feature, as most, if not all, of the real exam questions are almost identical to the practice exam questions. I took the practice exam twice before the real exam, and I estimated that I’ve seen almost 50% of the real exam questions in the practice exams already. I passed the exam with relative ease, scoring 75% and 90% during practice, and 97.5% on the real exam. (As the passing requirement is only 75%, I bet one can pass the exam by simply taking the practice exam 4-5 times and review the correct answers without studying all the materials if they’re short of time.)
I received an email soon afterwards, with a link to register myself as an unmanned aerial vehicle pilot by the RDW. After paying another €10, I received the certificate with my registration number therein, which is valid for 5 years, after which a reexamination is required.
Getting the license for free
I have since heard reports that people managed to get the license for free by taking the online course and exam provided by the Directorate of Civil Aviation of Luxembourg and EUROCONTROL. It is available in English, French, and Luxembourgish at https://trainingzone.eurocontrol.int/ilp/pages/coursedescription.jsf?courseId=9719685&catalogId=8264768. I haven’t tried it myself, but I don’t see why it should not work given that the license should be valid in the whole EU even when issued by the Luxembourg authority.