In recent years, there has been a growing interest in using drones for spraying pesticides in Canada. 

However, the regulatory landscape for this practice is complex, with multiple agencies responsible for different aspects of drone operation and pesticide use. 

In this blog, we will explore the current state of drone spraying regulations in Canada, what they mean for your industry,  and discuss the potential future direction of these regulations.

The Where, What, and How of Drone Spraying in Canada 

Transport Canada is responsible for regulating the operation of all drones in Canadian airspace. This includes setting rules for drone registration, pilot certification, and flight safety. 

On the other hand, Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is responsible for regulating the application of all pesticides in Canada. 

As drone spraying involves both flying the drone and applying the pesticide, and separate regulatory bodies govern these two components, there is a lack of a clear regulatory framework for drone spraying in Canada, often leading to confusion and potential errors. 

According to PMRA's website, drone spraying is not considered aerial application, and as such, all pesticide applications made from drone platforms in Canada are considered off-label and illegal. This means that using drones to spray pesticides is currently not allowed, except for research purposes. 

How to Get Approval for Drone Applications in Canada

To get approval for drone applications in Canada, chemical companies like Bayer, Corteva, and Syngenta need to conduct a research authorization. This involves completing drone applications for research purposes over a period of multiple years. The research authorization gathers data on various factors, including efficacy, operator exposure, crop residues, and drift. 

After completing the research authorization, the data is submitted to PMRA for review, and if approval is given, a separate set of label instructions is included on the product label for drone application, allowing the public to apply the products from drone platforms.

In the last five months, PMRA has approved Vectobac and Vectolex for controlling mosquitoes for drone use.

However, while the federal government regulates the use of pesticides, it is up to individual provinces to issue pesticide licenses. 

Currently, the Alberta Environment and Parks and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment are in charge of pesticide licensing within their respective provinces, but neither of them (or any other Canadian province, for that matter) have a training program or curriculum built for a specific class of pesticide applicator's license for drone applicators. Aerial application pesticide applicator certificates will not be sufficient to apply these products from drones.

At Strongfield Environmental, we’re working with federal and provincial bodies to develop a relevant training curriculum for operators looking to apply approved pesticide products from drone platforms. The goal is to have a training curriculum and applicator's certificate for drone application available to the public for the 2024 season. This initiative will help ensure that drone operators are trained to use these products safely and effectively, reducing the risk of environmental harm and operator exposure.

What Does the Future Hold for Drone Spraying in Canada?

Looking ahead, the future of drone spraying regulations in Canada is likely to be influenced by ongoing technological advancements and changing public attitudes towards pesticides. As drones become more sophisticated and capable, it’s possible that drone spraying will become a more widely accepted and regulated practice.

Strongfield Environmental Can Help!

Drone spraying is a promising technology with the potential to improve agricultural efficiency and reduce the environmental impact of pesticide use. With the development of a relevant training curriculum for drone applicators, we can ensure that this technology is used safely and effectively, paving the way for a more sustainable and environmentally friendly future for agriculture in Canada.

For more information on how drone technology can advance your current operations while still adhering to Canada’s current regulations, give us a call! We are happy to provide a no-obligation quote for the full scope of your current and future needs.

About Author

Jessica Finch

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Strongfield Environmental Solutions is also spearheading a nationwide working group to gather the required information to responsibly bring pesticide application via RPAAS technology to Canada.

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