Aerially applying pesticides

Pilots and remote pilots applying pesticides from a plane, helicopter or remotely piloted aircraft 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.

Licences need to be renewed every five years, which requires licence holders to show that their required qualifications are current. All 'perpetual' licences previously issued without an expiry date will lapse on 31 December 2020, so licence holders wishing to continue to aerially apply pesticides in NSW will need to renew by that date - see more information below in renewing an aerial applicator licence.

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 a manned or piloted 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 are available on the 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 with an aerial application endorsement
  • hold a current 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 or Class 2 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 or agricultural 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,
  • to qualify for an RPA applicator pilot licence, undertake the training
    • unit code AHCCHM303 Prepare and apply chemicals or
    • unit code AHCCHM307 prepare and apply chemicals to control pest, weeds and diseases, and
    • unit code AHCCHM304 Transport and store chemicals and
  • on obtaining the appropriate CASA certification, apply to the EPA for a RPA applicator pilot licence and a RPA applicator business licence, or be employed by a person holding a RPA applicator business licence – for more details contact chemicals.regulation@epa.nsw.gov.au
  • Apply for aerial applicator pilot licence and aerial applicator business licence use eConnect EPA
  • To apply for a RPA applicator pilot licence or a RPA applicator business licence, use eConnect EPA

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

Since 2015 all licences have a fixed duration of five years. This means that at the end of 2020 most former ‘perpetual’ aerial applicator pilot licences and aerial applicator business licences issued before September 2015 will be due for renewal for the first time.

The EPA will send out licence renewal reminders before the due date, with information on how to renew licences on-line or by completing a form. Renewal will require licence holders to show that their required qualifications are current.

Aerial applicator pilot licence

A pilot wishing to renew 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 rating or aerial application rating with an aerial application endorsement
  • hold a current certificate of approval issued under the SpraySafe Accreditation Program conducted by the Aerial Application Association of Australiaor provide evidence of having passed an exam required by another state or territory for the purpose of obtaining a licence equivalent to an aerial applicator pilot licence
  • have a Class 1 or Class 2 Medical Certificate

Aerial applicator business licence

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

A licence may be issued with conditions.

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

The holder of an aerial or RPA applicator licence (pilot and business) must also notify the EPA when

  • there are changes to information provided in their application for a licence
  • they cease to hold a qualification that is required to be held for that 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 or an RPA applicator business licence, who may also be the pilot or remote pilot, must make 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 or remotely piloted the aircraft
  • the product name and active constituents of every pesticide used
  • the date and time of the application, including start and finish times
  • the registration mark of the aircraft or serial number of the RPA unit
  • 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 details on a temperature inversion if it happened during the time of application
  • a description of the land to which the pesticide was applied, including the address, particular paddock or part of a paddock and the order in which application of the pesticide was done for each area
  • 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 that may be specified, in the conditions of their EPA applicator licence, prescribed under a relevant pesticide control order, or required by the label of the pesticide being used. 

Records may be made and kept in any format. Some record-keeping systems have been developed within the aerial application industry. For more details, contact the Aerial Application Association of Australia.

Records must be made available to an EPA authorised officer upon request. Penalties apply if the records have not been made and kept in accordance with the requirements of the Pesticides Regulation 2017.

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