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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Information for aerial applicators of pesticides

This information is for pilots and persons or companies that employ pilots for the aerial application of pesticides. It provides guidance to help you comply with the requirements of the Pesticides Act 1999 and Pesticides Regulation 2009.

Applying pesticides from an aircraft

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

Before a pesticide can be applied from an aircraft, both the employer and the pilot must hold specified qualifications (outlined below) and obtain a licence from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).

What are the licensing requirements?

Both the pilot and employer are required to hold EPA licences before an aircraft may be used to apply pesticides. The pilot must hold an aerial applicator pilot licence. The pilot must also hold an aerial applicator business licence themselves or be engaged or employed by a holder of an aerial applicator business licence.

If a person or company (business) employs or engages a pilot for the aerial application of a pesticide the employer must hold an aerial applicator business licence and must ensure that the pilot holds an aerial applicator pilot licence.

The qualifications required to apply for each licence are:

Aerial applicator pilot licence (previously known as a pilot (pesticide rating) licence) Hold current commercial pilot (aeroplane) licence or commercial pilot (helicopter) licence issued under the Civil Aviation Act 1988 with an agricultural rating or an aerial application rating.


Hold a certificate of approval issued under the Spray Safe Accreditation Program conducted by the Aerial Application Association of Australia, OR
pass an exam conducted in accordance with the requirements of another state or territory for the purpose of obtaining an equivalent licence.

Aerial applicator business licence (previously known as aircraft (pesticide applicator) licence) Hold an Air Operator’s Certificate endorsed for aerial application operations, issued under the Civil Aviation Act 1988.

How do I apply for a licence?


For assistance please contact the EPA on 131 555 or email

Details of what is required for each licence, including the supporting documentation you must provide, can be found on the specific application form.

A licence may be issued with conditions, and once issued, the licence remains in force for five years, unless it is, cancelled, revoked or suspended. 

When am I required to notify the EPA and what do I need to notify them of?

It is a condition of an aerial applicator business licence that the holder of the licence (who may be the pilot) notify the EPA of any incident where a crash or forced landing of an aircraft or any other circumstances resulted in pesticide leakage or a spill.

The holder of any licence must also notify the EPA in a number of other instances:

  • Changes to information provided in the application - Any information received by the holder that contradicts or modifies the original information.
  • Qualification no longer current - The holder must immediately inform the EPA if they cease to hold the qualifications required to hold the licence.

What records need to be kept?

The requirements for keeping records of the aerial application of pesticides are defined in both the Pesticides Act 1999 and Pesticides Regulation 2009. The holder of an aerial applicator business licence (which may also be the pilot) is required to make and keep a record of every occasion on which the aircraft is used for the application of a pesticide. This record must be made immediately after the application and kept for three years.

The record must contain details of:

  • who applied the pesticide (name and address of the person that piloted the aircraft)
  • what was applied (the product name and the active constituents)
  • date and time of the application, including start and finish times
  • registration mark of the aircraft used to apply the pesticide
  • how it was applied (a description of the manner in which the pesticide was applied, including the equipment used, and the weather conditions under which the pesticide was applied, such as wind speed and direction, temperature inversion)
  • where it was applied (a description of the land to which the pesticide was applied, including the address, particular paddock or part of a paddock)
  • what it was applied to (a description of the crop to which the pesticide was applied or the situation in which the pesticide was used, such as fallow land)
  • how much was used (rate of application and total quantity applied)
  • land owner or occupier details (name, address and other contact details)
  • any other recording details required under the conditions on the EPA aerial licence or as prescribed under a specific pesticide control order (see section on aerial baiting in schedules of 1080 order).

A copy of the record must be provided to the land owner or occupier as soon as practicable after the application.

Records may be made and kept in any format so long as they can be made available to an authorised officer of the EPA who may check these records at any reasonable time. Penalties may apply if the records have not been kept in accordance with the Act and Regulation. Some record-keeping systems have been developed within the industry. For further details contact the Aerial Application Association of Australia.

Are there any restrictions that apply to aerial applications?

Under the Pesticides Act, pesticide control orders may be made that apply to both aerial and ground applications of pesticides.

The pesticide control order Air-1 applies specifically to the aerial application of pesticides. It 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. However, regardless of where pesticides are being aerially applied, they should always be used carefully.

This restriction places responsibility on the owner of the land on which the chemical is to be applied from an aircraft to obtain the written permission of the occupier of a dwelling, school, factory or other public place that is within 150 metres of the application area. However, the obligation is on the pilot to ensure that permission has been granted before aerial application of pesticides takes place.

The APVMA has also produced information on spray-drift management including how the APVMA determines the size of no-spray zones when registering a pesticide, some standard operating principles and some standard risk scenarios.

Notifying others

There are a number of situations in which other parties must be notified of aerial application of a pesticide:

  • Product label - A product label may specify that neighbours or any other parties must be notified of the use of that product.
  • Application on behalf of a public authority -­ The public authority’s Pesticide Use Notification Plan may have certain requirements regarding notification of a pesticide application.
  • As per pesticide control order Air-1 - If the pesticide is being applied within 150m of a dwelling, school, factory or any other public place, written permission of the occupier must be obtained first.

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

UAV licence

Persons wishing to use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to aerially apply pesticides must obtain the appropriate certification from CASA under the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations 1998.  To obtain more details on the CASA requirements contact Jan Johnston on 1800 687342.

Once you have obtained the appropriate CASA certifcation you will need to 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 further details on the EPA licence requirements contact  Roger de Keyzer on 9995 5791. 

Environmental guidelines: Aerial spraying facilities

The EPA has prepared environmental guidelines in consultation with Cotton Australia Limited, Local Government NSW, SafeWork NSW and the Aerial Application Association of Australia. These guidelines are intended for

  • those seeking to construct new aerial spraying facilities
  • operators needing to upgrade and manage existing facilities

These best-practice guidelines aim to assist the aerial spraying industry achieve appropriate levels of environmental and human health protection from the operation of on-ground aerial spraying facilities in NSW.

The guidelines outline what the EPA expects from operators of aerial application facilities. They aim to promote good practice and assist operators to comply with the Pesticides Act 1999 (NSW), Pesticides Regulation 2009 (NSW) and Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (NSW) (POEO Act). The guidelines focus on practical measures to prevent and minimise environmental harm from undertaking an activity that might pollute the environment.

More information/links

Page last updated: 01 August 2017