A seminar held by an international organization shows that participants share many of the same concerns as NAAA when it comes to using UAVs to make pesticide applications. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) held a joint meeting of the Chemicals Committee and the Working Party on Chemicals, Pesticides, and Biotechnology where they discussed reducing the risks associated with evolving digital and mechanical technologies used for pesticides and pest management. OECD is an intergovernmental organization that represents 36 countries in North America, South America, Europe and Asia.
The EPA identified several items it feels need to be resolved before UAVs can be safely used, including questions associated with labels, UAV drift analysis, and data in order to make accurate risk assessments similar to those done for aerial and ground applications.
The seminar took place last year in France, with the final report published in January 2020. The purpose of the seminar was to provide an opportunity for OECD governments and stakeholders to share knowledge and experience about emerging technologies and identify benefits, risks and impacts on current regulatory systems. Several of the presentations were about using UAVs for pesticide applications.
Three representatives from FMC spoke about their experiences using UAV application technology in the U.S. and China. They noted, among other observations, that “the same effort dedicated to creating pesticide product label guidance for drift reduction for manned fixed-wing aircraft needs to be undertaken for multi-rotor drone use” and that “minimal attention has been made to optimizing how the spray system mounted and integrated to various drone models can deliver a quality spray.”
These concerns are the same ones NAAA has expressed in recent years, culminating in a letter sent to EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in January 2020, requesting the EPA verify the precision, safety and efficacy of UAV applications. The EPA also presented at the OECD seminar on UAV pesticide applications. The agency’s message discussed updating federal regulations to account for UAV use and how it is engaging stakeholders to accomplish this goal. The EPA identified several items it feels need to be resolved before UAVs can be safely used, including questions associated with labels, UAV drift analysis, data in order to make accurate risk assessments similar to those done for aerial and ground applications, and user and bystander safety.
The seminar concluded by recommending that risk assessment models and assumptions for UAV pesticide applications be validated and compared to conventional application equipment, and a mechanism be developed to share this information among regulators. NAAA supports a thorough and data-based assessment of the accuracy of UAVs and will continue to advocate for this need, as well as provide expertise to the EPA and state lead agencies on manned aerial applications.