Licensing arrangements for aerial distribution of agricultural chemicals

Who can distribute agricultural chemicals by air

Only a commercial pilot with an agricultural rating, issued by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot holding a pilot chemical rating licence may command an aircraft from which aerial distribution is carried out.

In addition, the licensed pilot in command may only carry out aerial distribution in the course of the business of, at the direction of, or under the authority of, an aerial distribution contractor who holds an aerial distribution contractor's licence.

Getting the right licences

If you are the pilot in command of an aircraft and you have the required authorisation from CASA to carry out aerial distribution of agricultural chemicals, you can apply for a pilot chemical rating licence. If you are the sole pilot in command, carrying out aerial distribution in your own aerial distribution business you will also need to apply for an aerial distribution contractor licence.

If you operate an aerial distribution business and employ or engage several pilots to carry out aerial distribution on behalf of your business, you will need to apply for an aerial distribution contractor licence in the name of your business. All pilots carrying out aerial distribution for the business are required to be licensed.

These licences are issued by Biosecurity Queensland.

Landholders and aerial distribution

The Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966 only applies to certain areas of the states, that is, regulated areas. If you are a landholder in a regulated area, who owns and operates your own aircraft to carry out activities on your own property, and unless you have the appropriate authorisation from CASA, you cannot obtain a pilot chemical rating licence. Therefore, you cannot conduct aerial distribution from your own aircraft.

  • Manned aircraft – for use of a manned aircraft the recognised CASA authorisation is a commercial pilot licence with an agricultural rating.
  • UAV – for use of a UAV you will need a remote pilot licence – regardless of CASA exemptions for relatively small UAVs used on privately-owned land.

Hiring a licensed contractor

Find all currently licensed aerial distribution contractors in your local area.

If you engage a licensed aerial distribution contractor to control pests or weeds on your property, you should communicate with the pilot before, during and after the distribution. This includes alerting the pilot to:

  • any sensitive crops and areas, including creeks and streams, livestock paddocks or schools, hospitals or houses in the vicinity before commencement
  • any significant changes in the weather pattern that may require them to suspend the activity.

In the case of aerial baiting operations, the Agricultural Chemicals Distribution Control Act 1966 requires that the aircraft must still be under the command of a licensed pilot.

As a landholder, there may at times be cause for you to accompany the licensed pilot in the aircraft to help disperse the aerial baits.