Legally Flying Application Drones in Michigan

The use of application drones has been on the rise in recent years, with many commercial applicators and growers finding new and innovative ways to incorporate them into their daily operations.  

While the use of drones in agriculture is not a new concept, the use of spray drones is an exciting development that has the potential to greatly improve the productivity and sustainability of farming operations. These specialized drones are equipped with tanks of liquid pesticides or fertilizers, allowing growers to tend to their crops more efficiently and effectively. With this technology, farmers can more accurately target specific areas of their fields, reducing waste and maximizing crop yields. 

As with any new technology, there are sure to be some challenges and concerns that arise. However, with proper training and responsible use, application drones have the potential to greatly benefit the agricultural community in Michigan and beyond. 

To use application drones in Michigan, requirements at both the Federal and State level will need to be obtained. 

Federal Requirements 

We at OnPoint Applications Group can help you acquire your FAA Part 137 Operating Certificate, USC 44807 Exemptions, and any additional wavers.  Contact us for a free estimate on those services.

​ ​ ​ ​OnPoint FAA Consultancy Services

  • FAA Remote Pilot Certificate
  • FAA Airman Medical Certificate 
  • FAA Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations Certificate  
    • FAA Exemption 49 U.S.C. § 44807 Special authority for certain unmanned aircraft systems  
  • FAA Drone Registration

FAA Remote Pilot Certificate 

You will need to obtain an FAA Remote Pilot certificate before operating the application drone.  The method of obtaining the certificate depends on whether you are a first-time pilot or an existing FAA Part 61 Certificate holder. Both methods will require remote pilots to remain current by completing online training courses within 24 months.  

If you are a first-time pilot, you will need to obtain a FAA Part 107 small Unmanned Aerial Systems Certificate.  The FAA Part 107 needs to be completed by each individual that will fly the drone as a RPIC.  

If you currently hold an existing FAA Part 61 Certificate you must be current and follow steps determined by the FAA to add a Remote Pilot Certificate.  

FAA Part 107 Information and Details

Existing FAA Part 61 Certificate Holders

FAA Part 107 Test Prep

FAA Part 137 Agricultural Aircraft Operations Certificate  

14 CFR Part 137 governs the use of aircraft, including drones, to dispense or spray substances (including disinfectants). 

  • FAA Exemption 49 U.S.C. § 44807 Special authority for certain unmanned aircraft systems  

The Small UAS Rule (14 CFR Part 107) is only applicable to unmanned aircraft (drones) that weigh less than 55 pounds at takeoff.  Not only is there a max weight, but there's also a limitation to what rules can be waived under Part 107.

 To fly an unmanned aircraft that exceeds the maximum weight limit of Part 107 or your mission includes a non-waiverable rule, you may apply for an exemption in accordance with 14 CFR Part 11 and the Congressional authority granted in Special Authority for Certain Unmanned Systems, 49 U.S.C. §44807. 

FAA 137 Info and Details Website

OnPoint FAA 137 Consultancy Service


FAA Drone Registration 

Registration is required for all Unmanned Aircraft (UA), except those that weigh 0.55 pounds or less and are flown exclusively under the Exception for Recreational Flyers. 

 Register your Drone Less then 55lbs

Drone Registration Details >55lbs

FAA Airman Medical Certificate  

There are three different levels of FAA medical requirements. The level (class) of medical certificate required by the FAA will be determined by the FAA often during the 137-certificate process. To obtain a medical certificate you must be examined by an FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiner (AME). 

FAA Medical Information

FAA Medical Examiner Search

FAA Medical Class Standards

State Requirements

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) regulates the aerial application of agricultural chemical products to help reduce the risks associated with application.  

  • Federal Aviation Administration Requirements
  • MDARD Flight Experience Requirements  
  • Aerial Applicator Training Program  
  • Pesticide Applicators License
  • Pesticide Applicators Business License (Commercial Only)
  • Mix/Load Pads 

Federal Aviation Administration Requirements 

It is strongly recommended you secure your FAA requirements before you begin obtaining your Pesticide Business Application License and pesticide certification credentials. Some of the FAA waivers have lengthy processing times. Visit the FAA website for additional information. 

MDARD Flight Experience Requirements 

An aerial applicator must meet at least one of the following requirements before engaging in the aerial application of pesticides: 

  • Attain at least three years of experience with no fewer than 200 hours of agricultural aerial application under the supervision of a commercial aerial applicator. 
  • Be licensed as a commercial aerial applicator before December 27, 1988. 
  • Successfully complete an Aerial Applicator Training Program recognized by director as sufficient to assure the protection of the public health, safety, and welfare and the environment. 

Aerial Applicator Training Program 

MDARD recognizes UAV pesticide applications are a newly emerging industry, until there are new regulations, we have identified a way to use this training program to get individuals piloting UAVs into compliance. 

Contact OnPoint about our Training Programs 


Pesticide Applicators License with Crop and Aerial Endorsement 

All aerial applicators who will be commercially applying pesticides in Michigan need to be certified in the commercial core, the Aerial Standard (AE), and the appropriate categories.  These may include but are not limited to 1A - Field Crops, 1B - Vegetables, 1C - Fruit Crops, 2 – Forest, 3B – Ornamental, 5 – Aquatic Pests and 7F - Mosquito. 

A private agricultural applicator or a commercial applicator authorized under Act 451, Part 8315 to make aerial application of pesticides shall do either of the following once every three years. 

  • Demonstrate to the director the applicator’s personal participation in a self-regulating application flight efficiency clinic sponsored or recognized by Michigan State University’s Pesticide Safety Education Program and approved by MDARD with an aircraft that the applicant operates. 
  • Retake the certification examinations and submit to an inspection of the applicator’s aircraft spray equipment, and spray operations by an authorized representative of the director. 

 MDARD Pesticide Applicator Certification 

Pesticide Applicators Business License (Commercial Only)

Businesses must comply with all FAA regulations for pilots and agricultural aircrafts. Commercial applicators who apply pesticides from an aircraft for compensation in Michigan must be employed by a firm holding a pesticide application business license. To obtain a license:  

  • Apply to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Corporations, Securities and Commercial Licensing Bureau.   
  • Once the firm is authorized to operate the business in Michigan, a Michigan Corporation identification number will be assigned to the aerial application firm. 
  • Next the aerial application firm must apply to MDARD for a Pesticide Application Business License (PABL).   

Licensed aerial application companies hiring an applicator to do applications for them, the pilot should be listed on the firm’s agricultural aircraft operator certificate (FAA part 137). 

Independent pilots that solicit and fulfill Michigan contracts on their own, must obtain a PABL license for themselves and meet Michigan certified applicator requirements. 

MDARD Pesticide Application Business Licenses

Mix/Load Pads 

Aerial applicators are required to have a primary location in Michigan where pesticides are loaded, mixed, or transferred from one container to another. Applicators must submit a report including the location of this mix load pad to MDARD on an annual basis.  

Refer to the MDARD website for detailed information on the regulations governing the use of aerial drones in Michigan. Pay close attention to the "Uncrewed Aerial Applications (Drones)" section.

 MDARD Aerial Pesticide Applicators

Legally Flying Application Drones in Michigan
OnPoint Applications Group LLC, Kirk Babcock February 23, 2024
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