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Required Licensing Information

Historically, the Part 137 Certification process has been the most time-consuming regulatory hurdle for people seeking to operate spray drones within the US, sometimes taking 12+ months from start to finish. Fortunately, in May 2023, the FAA implemented significant changes to the 137 application procedure which will make the process much easier and faster. The FAA has established the following as the new Part 137 certification process:

Step One: Obtain 44807 Exemption

‍As is the case now, spray drone operators still need to obtain a 44807 exemption from the FAA. As a complimentary service, AeroStar helps all of its customers apply for and obtain necessary 44807 exemption(s). On average, we have seen that this process typically takes 2-3 months if starting from scratch. Furthermore, the FAA is now implementing a blanket 44807 exemption system for a pre-approved list of spray drones (see PDF list below). Essentially, this means that once you obtain an exemption for any of the listed aircraft, you can then legally operate any of the other drones on the approved list. Previously, the applicant had to receive a separate exemption for each model of aircraft. Note that this means that if you already have a valid 44807 exemption for any drone on this list, then you do not have to repeat that process if you’re now seeking to obtain your Part 137; you already have the prerequisite 44807 exemption.

Step Two: Form 8710-3

‍After the FAA grants the above 44807 exemption, the applicant sends an FAA Form 8710-3 to an FAA email address ( This is a relatively straight-forward, 2-page form that AeroStar will provide guidance in filing. Previously, the applicant would apply to their local FSDO (Flight Standards District Office) and would need to pass an in-person inspection/skills test administered by the FSDO; this process could be very lengthy due to the variability in FSDO speed, resources, and knowledge. Now, the applicant self-certifies what the FSDO previously would through that inspection. The self-certification and application of Form 8710-3 to the FAA directly, bypassing the FSDO altogether, is a massive efficiency improvement to the process.

Step Three: Part 137 Approval

‍After a review, the FAA will then respond to the applicant confirming whether or not their Part 137 Certification is approved. After this, as long as you have the other requirements (see below), the applicant is now authorized to fly and apply with their spray drone.


‍The above describes the Part 137 Certification process, however, please note that the following are also still requirements to legally operate your spray drone within the US:

• FAA Part 107 SUAS Pilot Certificate (see section below)
• Pesticide Applicator License (see section below)
• 3rd class Airman Medical Certificate

Licenses: You will need to obtain all three.

This is a UAS pilot license that is required in the United States to fly any UAS for commercial purposes; this covers the commercial operation of spray drones, but also camera drones, survey drones, and more. To clarify, even spraying your own crops on your own land is viewed as “commercial activity” by the FAA and thus you must obtain this Part 107 license whether you’re servicing your own crops or others’.

You need to obtain this license in order to legally conduct commercial spray drone operations. In order to obtain the license, you must take a 60 question, multiple-choice test at an FAA-approved Knowledge Testing Center (typically an airport where one could take flying lessons). You can find an FAA-approved site near you on this website by clicking the “Find a Test Center” button. The test covers topics such as airspace regulations, emergency procedures, maintenance, and more. The FAA website has study materials that you can review and there are also plenty of affordable online study courses that can prepare you well.

By law, any pilot that is commanding UAS in your operation must have a valid Part 107 SUAS Pilot Certificate. This license must be renewed every 2 years. The FAA has now moved this 2-year renewal online (you used to have to go physically retake an exam).

AeroStar Dynamics cannot directly help you obtain this license since this is a certificate that you have to test for and obtain yourself, by definition. However, we are more than happy to advise you on the process as best as we can based on our experiences with it. You can realistically study for and pass this exam within 1 week and upon passing the test, you immediately receive your Part 107 SUAS Pilot Certificate.

AeroStar assists with Part 137 onboarding as a complimentary service along with your purchase of any of our UAS. Essentially, we provide thorough guides as well as blank/example documents for every step of the process. You simply need to fill out similar turn in the application documents to your local Flights Standards District Office (FSDO) and eventually FAA officials will visit you for an interview/test to finalize your application. The entire process from start to final approval can take several months. Historically, we have seen the process take as little as 2 months and as long as 12 months. Thanks to some changes in 2023, we are seeing these processing times get faster. Generally speaking, the sooner you start this, the better!

The Part 137 is the FAA’s, “regulation for operating drones to dispense or spray substances (including disinfectants)”. This is the same legal structure that manned aviation crop-dusters (spray plane and spray helicopter pilots) need to obtain . There are relatively few Part 137 licensed organizations within the US at this time but that number is rapidly growing with the increasing popularity of spray drones. You can use this database tool to search for currently active Part 137 organizations.

Under 14 CFR Part 137, the following aircraft operations are considered agricultural by nature:

1) Dispensing any economic poison:

– The FAA defines an economic poison as any substance that acts as a pesticide, plant regulator, or defoliant.

– The FAA considers chemicals used as disinfectants for viruses to fall in the category of economic poisons as defined in part 137.3.

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

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

Note: Dispensing of live insects is not included.

This is the bulk of the paperwork that needs to be done for licensing; fortunately, AeroStar has created useful templates to assist you in this process. You, the customer, must apply for the Part 137 yourself (legal requirement, we are not permitted to directly apply for you); but we provide step-by-step instructions on how to apply and we are always available to support you if you contact us with any questions about the process. Once your organization has the Part 137, it’s yours to keep. The Part 137 is a valuable certification to have because once you obtain it, you can hire and certify operators to legally operate within your organization’s 137; this allows your business to rapidly scale up.

Each organization that has a Part 137 Certification must designate a chief pilot; this chief pilot is then permitted to certify other pilots within that organization to operate the organization’s UAS. Thus, the chief pilot does not have to physically attend every UAS operation; a pilot of the same organization that has a valid Part 107 license (see section above), has been certified by the chief pilot, and is up to date with their Airman medical certificate, is permitted to operate the organization’s UAS in the field.

Once your organization is Part 137 certified, you must maintain yearly records of your flight activities. Thankfully, AeroStar’s software streamlines the storage and export of that data into FAA-compliant report formats to make that yearly reporting simple and fast.

As mentioned previously, the wait times for Part 137 approvals can vary significantly. Wait times can vary state by state depending on your local FSDO’s level of experience with UAS applications and internal processes of the FAA at the federal level can speed up or slow down the process. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to learn more about this process.

As a final note, it is possible to legally operate under someone else’s Part 137 if they formally add you to their organization. Many Part 137 holders allow others to utilize their license for a fee.

The EPA defines federal guidelines for the use and dispersal of economic poisons (AKA pesticides) and the agricultural departments of each state handle the administration and enforcement of these pesticide applicator licenses.

The pesticide applicator licenses come in many different flavors; at a high level, they are split between commercial and non commercial licenses. If you are only servicing your own crops/property, then you only need the noncommercial pesticide applicator license. If you service crops/property that you do not own, then you must obtain the commercial pesticide applicator license.

Beyond that distinction, there are several different licensing subcategories which include specializations such as aerial application, field crop pest control, landscape maintenance, vegetation management, and more. The different states have different ways of administering their licenses, but generally speaking, you must specifically test for and obtain the aerial application certification to go along with your pesticide applicator license. Typically the licensing board of your state will require you to obtain at least one other certification besides the aerial application one (aerial application certification alone is not sufficient to obtain the pesticide applicator license). Therefore, most operators couple that aerial application license with either field crop pest management or vegetation management certifications depending on what their focus is. You are free to obtain more than two category certifications as well; some operators have 4 or 5 different category certifications under their license.

One of the advantages of acquiring the pesticide applicator license is that you are then permitted to purchase and utilize RUPs (Restricted Use Pesticides); many of the most effective pesticides are RUPs and thus require you to hold this license.

Once you have your pesticide applicator license, you must maintain yearly records of your application activities. Thankfully, AeroStar has streamlines the storage and export of that data into an EPA-compliant report formats to make that yearly reporting simple and fast. In most states, you must also accrue a minimum amount of Continuing Education Units (CEUs) by taking approved, pesticide application-related courses (both online and in-person) over time in order to maintain your license. For example, in Pennsylvania, you must accrue a minimum of 15 CEUs every 5 years in order to maintain your pesticide applicator license with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (TDA).

Like the Part 107, AeroStar cannot directly assist you with this certification because you must test for and obtain this personally, by definition. However, we are more than happy to advise you on the process as best as we can based on our experiences with it. You can realistically study for and pass the necessary exams within a few weeks. The test can vary state by state but they generally cover the same material. Many states have pesticide applicator reciprocity with one another.

Please note that the above information is based on AeroStar’s varied experiences within the agricultural UAS industry; this information was not written by a licensed and/or practicing lawyer and it should not be considered legal counsel in any way.

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