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  • Dusty Sonnenberg

Legalities of Drone Chemical Application

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to dispense chemicals and agricultural products using your drone, the requirements fall under 14 CFR Part 137, Agricultural Aircraft Operations.

Not all substances fall under this regulation. Applicators should check if their operation meets the FAA's criteria for part 137. If the substance that is to be dispensed does meet these criteria (part 137.3), then refer to the Certification Process for Agricultural Aircraft Operators for guidance on the requirements you must meet before distributing it

In defining what an agricultural operation is, under 14 CFR Part 137, the following aircraft operations are considered agricultural by nature:

  • Dispensing any economic poison, which the FAA defines as “any substance that acts as a pesticide, plant regulator, or defoliant." Chemicals used as disinfectants for viruses are considered economic poisons – found in part 137.3.

  • Dispensing any other substance intended for plant nourishment, soil treatment, propagation of plant life, or pest control.

  • Engaging in dispensing activities directly affecting agriculture, horticulture, or forest preservation.

The dispensing of live insects is not included.

The process begins when an applicator submits a petition for exemption. If a drone weighs less than 55 pounds – this includes the weight of the substance being dispensed – it requires an exemption from §107.36 carriage of hazardous materials as well as several regulations from part 137. Drones weighing equal to or greater than 55 pounds are operated under 14 CFR part 91 and require exemption from 14 CFR parts 61, 91, and 137. Review part 11.63 and part 11.71 on how to petition for exemption.

Once that process is complete, applicators must apply for an Agricultural Aircraft Operator Certificate (AAOC). Advisory Circular (AC) 137-1B describes how to apply for an AAOC under part 137. The exemption process should start prior to applying for an AAOC. Pilots must have a current part 107 remote pilot certificate.

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