Aerially applying pesticides

Pilots applying pesticides from a plane or helicopter onto any land in NSW, and people or companies employing such pilots, must have specific qualifications, hold EPA licences and meet certain legislative requirements under the Pesticides Act 1999 and Pesticides Regulation 2017.

Pesticides can only be applied from aircraft endorsed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as suitable for agricultural operations.  The Pesticides Act 1999 prohibits the attachment of pesticide spray equipment to any aircraft not endorsed for agricultural operations.

Both the pilot and their employer must hold EPA licences before using an aircraft to aerially apply pesticides onto any land. The pilot must have

  • an aerial applicator pilot licence  
  • an aerial applicator business licence, or be engaged or employed by a holder of an aerial applicator business licence

A person or business employing or engaging a pilot to aerially apply a pesticide onto any land must

  • hold an aerial applicator business licence
  • ensure that the pilot holds an aerial applicator pilot licence

Both types of licence are valid for 5 years unless they are cancelled, revoked or suspended.

The EPA will send out licence renewal reminders.

Details of all licences will soon be available on the new EPA public register.

Aerial applicator pilot licence

A pilot wishing to apply for an aerial applicator pilot licence must

  • hold a current commercial pilot (aeroplane) licence or commercial pilot (helicopter) licence issued under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 with an agricultural or aerial application rating
  • hold a certificate of approval issued under the SpraySafe Accreditation Program conducted by the Aerial Application Association of Australia, or pass an exam in accordance with the requirements of another state or territory to obtain an equivalent licence
  • have a Class 1 Medical Certificate

Aerial applicator business licence

A person or company wishing to engage or employ a pilot to aerially apply pesticides must hold an Air Operator’s Certificate endorsed for aerial application operations under the Civil Aviation Act 1988.

If you wish to use what CASA has determined to be an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or remotely piloted aircraft (RPA), or what are commonly referred to as drones to aerially apply pesticides, you must

  • obtain the appropriate certification from CASA – for more details, contact Jan Johnston on 1800 687 342, and
  • on obtaining the appropriate CASA certification, apply to the EPA for a UAV applicator controller licence and a UAV applicator business licence, or be employed by a person holding a UAV applicator business licence – for more details contact  Roger de Keyzer on 9995 5791 

For assistance, contact the EPA on 131 555 or email hazardous.materials@epa.nsw.gov.au.

A licence may be issued with conditions.

The holder of an aerial applicator business licence, who may be the pilot, must notify the EPA when a crash or forced landing of an aircraft, or any other circumstances, results in pesticide leakage or a spill.

The holder of any licence must also notify the EPA when

  • there are changes to information provided in the licence application
  • they cease to hold a qualification that is required to hold the licence

Required distances from occupied areas

Pesticide control order Air-1 (PDF 8KB) specifies that a pilot is not allowed to discharge pesticide from an aircraft within 150 metres of a dwelling, school, factory or any other public place without the prior written permission of the occupier of the premises.

Roads, travelling stock reserves and State Rail land are excluded from the definition of public places.

The owner of the land on which the pesticide will aerially be applied must get the written permission of the occupier of the dwelling, school, factory or other public place that is within 150 metres of the application area.

The pilot must ensure written permission has been granted before aerially applying the pesticides.

Notifying others

Other parties must be notified of aerial application of a pesticide when

  • a product label specifies that neighbours or other parties must be notified of the use of that product
  • a public authority’s pesticide use notification plan requires notification of a pesticide application
  • the pesticide is being applied within 150 metres of a dwelling, school, factory or any other public place as per pesticide control order Air-1 (PDF 8KB)

Even if you are not required to notify neighbours, it is good practice and can help avoid complaints or disputes.

The holder of an aerial applicator business licence, who may also be the pilot, must produce and keep a record every time an aircraft is used to apply a pesticide. This record must be made as soon as practicable, but not more than 48 hours after the application, and must be kept for 3 years. A copy of the record must also be provided to the land owner or occupier if they request it.

The record must contain

  • the name and address of the person who piloted the aircraft
  • the product name and active constituents of the pesticide
  • the date and time of the application, including start and finish times
  • the registration mark of the aircraft
  • a description of the manner in which the pesticide was applied, including the equipment used, and the weather conditions such as wind speed and direction, and temperature inversion
  • a description of the land to which the pesticide was applied, including the address, particular paddock or part of a paddock
  • a description of the crop to which the pesticide was applied or the situation in which the pesticide was used, i.e. fallow land
  • the rate of application of the pesticide and the total quantity applied
  • the name, address and other contact details of the landowner or occupier
  • any other record-keeping details specified in the conditions in the EPA aerial licence or as prescribed under a specific pesticide control order. A copy of the record must be provided to the landowner or occupier as soon as practicable after the pesticide has been applied.
  • Records may be made and kept in any format as long as they can be made available to an EPA authorised officer who may check them at any reasonable time. Penalties may apply if the records have not been kept in accordance with the Pesticides Act and Regulation.
  • Some record-keeping systems have been developed within the aerial application industry. For more details, contact the Aerial Application Association of Australia.
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