1. Introduction

Poland is a country with particular potential for the development of smart agriculture, i.e. the use of digital technologies to multiply crop yields. The broad functionality of drones influences their various applications in agro-culture. With the ability of drones to perform crop monitoring, inspection and management tasks, as well as the ability to reach even the hardest-to-reach places combined with precision operations, UAVs bring great benefits to the agricultural sector, especially for large-scale crops. Drones can monitor crop growth, are helpful in damage assessment, and in emergency situations – such as fires or flooding, in which case they enable a much faster response and mitigation of losses. As announced, following the inaugural demonstration session of the new ABZ Innovation L10 spraying drone, Poland will be one of the first countries in Europe to implement drone spraying technology on a large scale. It is worth taking a look at how broadly drones can be used in agriculture.

Drones are equipped with sensors that provide real-time data on the status of crops or the movement of breeding stock, enabling efficient and accurate farm management decisions. Unmanned aerial vehicles can be controlled by wireless communication, but are increasingly equipped with artificial intelligence algorithms, allowing them to move along a predetermined path independently avoiding obstacles by analysing the environment.  To control models capable of automatic flight, accurate satellite positioning technology – RTK GPS – is used, which makes it possible to determine the position of the device with an accuracy of a few centimetres.

Initially, drones were mainly associated with military operations. For agricultural purposes, they began to be widely used in the early 2000s, although as early as 1983, the Japanese Yamaha Motor Company received an order from the Japanese Department of Agriculture for a remote-controlled aircraft that would allow spraying. After several years of work on prototypes, the R-50 was developed – the world’s first unmanned crop-dusting multi-rotor aircraft with a payload capacity of 20 kg. However, the first unmanned aircraft for spraying capable of automatic flight was the RMAX, developed in 1997. Unmanned helicopters are now used on a large scale, especially in South Asia. It is estimated that around 30 per cent of crops in South Korea and around 40 per cent of rice crops in Japan (i.e. an area of more than 1.05 million hectares per year) are sprayed using drones [1].

2. Legal regulations for field spraying in Poland and the European Union

Significant restrictions on spraying by drone result from Polish and EU regulations. The carrying out of spraying by unmanned aerial vehicles has been restricted by Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides, which allows aerial spraying only by way of derogation. In Polish legislation, the aforementioned directive was implemented through the Act of 8 March 2013 on plant protection products. In the national and EU legislation, drones have not been singled out from the category of agro-aircraft equipment. Pursuant to Article 38 of this Act, two cases are foreseen in which plant protection products may be used with agro-technical equipment, namely if:

  • pest control is not possible with ground-based equipment


  • the application of plant protection products using agro-technical equipment poses less risk to human health, animal health or the environment than with ground-based equipment.

In addition, a catalogue of measures is provided for which use with agro-technical equipment is prohibited, among which are:

  • herbicides,
  • desiccants,
  • plant protection products without the addition of a loading agent
  • plant protection products classified in the classes and categories of danger most relevant to life and health.

The law also stipulates certain requirements for the spraying process. The carrying out of a drone spraying treatment must be included in a treatment plan, which is approved by the provincial plant protection and seed inspector with jurisdiction over the location of the crop. Notification of this treatment must take place no later than 40 days before it is due to begin. In addition, the aircraft used for aerial spraying must be suitable for such operations. In certain situations, it is also possible to carry out spraying with a drone that is not included in the treatment plan if there is an unforeseen risk from pests and the carrying out of such treatment does not pose a risk to human health, animal health or the environment. Information on planned treatments notified to the plan is made available on the website of the provincial plant protection and seed inspectorate. This ensures transparency and availability of data for interested parties. Be sure to follow these requirements and procedures to ensure safety when carrying out the treatment.

3. Spraying of agricultural crops

In the case of drones, as in the case of manned aircraft used for spraying, a distinction is made based on the criterion of construction:

  • airframes – resembling aircraft in appearance


  • rotorcraft, which are predominant among drones used for spraying due to their high mobility and manoeuvrability, irrespective of their speed.

Drones are smaller in size and weight compared to manned agro-aircraft, leading to much lower costs for their use. The low costs are mainly due to the lack of the need to prepare an airport with full infrastructure and staff, lower fuel consumption and much lower costs for the equipment itself. Currently, there are drones available on the market for spraying, both manually controlled and moving automatically according to a pre-determined route. There are a number of advantages to using drones for spraying agricultural fields: first and foremost, there is the time saving, the possibility of spraying crops in hard-to-reach areas and the increased precision in spraying, as well as the fact that farmers can be at a distance when spraying, so they are not in direct contact with harmful substances, which eliminates the risk of poisoning themselves.  The small size of the drones is also important, allowing greater room for manoeuvre and reaching even hard-to-reach areas or moving between obstacles. For example, the Agras T16 drone is capable of spraying an area of 10 hectares per hour.

4. Crop monitoring

Traditional methods of monitoring agricultural fields, assessing yields and identifying agricultural problems often involve considerable time and effort. The huge areas of farmland and the low efficiency of the methods used so far have been a significant problem in modern agriculture. Drones offer a new perspective, enabling farmers to collect data from the air remotely and much faster compared to previous methods. The multispectral camera technology currently in use makes it possible to record microwaves, infrared and ultraviolet in addition to visible light, which, taking advantage of the fact that plants absorb and reflect sunlight in different ways, makes it possible, among other things, to estimate crop yields, estimate agricultural damage, analyse information about soil fertility, and identify vegetation diseases. This allows access to data that is invisible to the human eye and makes it possible to compare plant health data at different times. Thermal imaging cameras are also being used to easily identify wetlands in agricultural fields. Unlike satellite imagery – which has been used to date for crop monitoring – drones are characterised by their high precision and ability to work even in cloudy weather. The data provided by the drone’s maps allows farmers to make more informed decisions and thus make it possible to reduce the amount of water or fertiliser used, which significantly reduces the costs incurred. In addition, thanks to the UAV, it is possible to detect bacterial diseases, viruses or parasites spreading on crops, which often, especially in high intensity, cause yield reductions. The early detection of undesirable agents brings many advantages and saves crops from crop failure.

5. Crop irrigation

Another area where drones play an important role is the irrigation of agricultural fields. With the high temperatures experienced in Poland during the summer and the frequent lack of precipitation, especially for large crops, field irrigation becomes an extremely labour-intensive activity. The use of drones for this purpose is an economical solution in terms of time and resources used. Drones are equipped with the right sensors, capable of identifying the parts of the field that need more water. It is also an environmentally friendly method, as 90% of the water used can be saved in this way compared to traditional spraying methods, using very low-volume spray technology. Such a solution is widely used in China, where, according to data published by XAG, a Chinese agricultural drone manufacturer, relying on advanced precision drone spraying technology, XAG saved more than 15 million tonnes of agricultural water by the end of 2020 [2]. Also for crop irrigation, thermal camera technology is useful to detect water shortages in specific areas.

6. Damage assessment

Damage to farmland is an unavoidable problem for farmers. Running one’s own farm involves many risks, often difficult to assess and implement adequate preventive measures. Damage can be caused by, among other things, weather conditions, the actions of third parties or the intrusion of wild animals into cultivated areas. The rapid identification of the affected area makes it possible to reduce losses or obtain the data needed for compensation. Unlike human monitoring of crops on its own, which can be imprecise and requires much more time than using modern technology for this purpose, the use of drones greatly simplifies the way crop damage is dealt with. One method of identifying damaged crop areas is to analyse changes in the value of the vegetation index, obtained through remote sensing surveys. On the other hand, maps with detailed data on the area of crops affected by damage can be generated from images taken with multispectral cameras, which are useful when applying for compensation.

7. Advantages of using drones for agricultural operations

The use of drones in agriculture brings a number of significant advantages that have the potential to revolutionise the way work is carried out in agricultural fields. One of the main benefits associated with the use of drones in agriculture is their efficiency and accuracy[2]. Thanks to the technologies used, drones collect data that is not visible to the human eye. Once the data has been collected and properly analysed, a strategy adapted to the current state of the crop can be implemented, saving time and resources. A significant advantage is the ability to control the drone automatically, so that the drones can be programmed to follow a set track. Also, the sensors the drones are equipped with make it possible to adjust the amount of fertiliser or water applied, which has a beneficial effect on plant development. The drones also have the advantage that they do not require additional infrastructure to monitor a specific area and have a relatively short take-off preparation time.

Traditional methods of caring for crops are in many cases less advantageous, as they absorb considerably more time and energy. When carried out manually or using less developed machinery to do so, which requires constant supervision and guidance, it can result in uneven coverage of the crop with protection products and can also cause damage to the soil and plants due to its size and weight. Another advantage is the reduced health exposure from working with hazardous chemicals. It is also better for the environment, for example, when cultivating a vineyard the drone can fly between rows and has the ability to reduce the spray area, so less water is wasted.

8. Summary

Unmanned aerial vehicles are a revolution in the agricultural sector. Their use covers an ever-widening range of areas of life, making it possible to mechanise and streamline many activities that were previously performed manually by humans. Drones are making a significant contribution to modern agriculture, thanks to new methods and their high functionality. The use of modern devices allows for fast and accurate surveillance of large agricultural areas, providing valuable data on crop condition, soil quality and weather conditions, enabling a more precise and responsible approach to agricultural management. With drones, farmers gain better control over their crops, enabling more effective monitoring and detection of early signs of problems. Drones equipped with advanced cameras and sensors are able to identify areas infected by disease, pest infestations or water shortages, allowing rapid intervention and minimising losses. The development of modern technology is contributing to the transformation of the agricultural sector, making it more efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. Drones are an innovative tool that provide farmers with new opportunities and perspectives to dynamise their work.

Magdalena Paź, 4th year student at the Faculty of Law and Administration of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków


[1] Ozkan, E., “Drones for Spraying Pesticides-Opportunities and Challenges”, 2023. www.ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-540

[2] XAG. (2020). XAG Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2020. www.xa.com/en/about/csr, p.26.


  1. Directive 2009/128/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 October 2009 establishing a framework for Community action to achieve the sustainable use of pesticides (OJ EU. L. 2009 No. 309, p. 71 as amended).
  2. Act of 8 March 2013 on plant protection products (i.e. Journal of Laws 2023, item 340, as amended).
  3. Berner, B., J. Chojnacki. “The use of drones in precision agriculture.” Agricultural Horticultural Forestry Technology 3 (2016).
  4. Berner, B., J. Chojnacki. “Application of unmanned aerial vehicles for spraying agricultural crops.” Technika Rolnicza Ogrodnicza Leśna 2 (2017).
  5. Veroustraete, Frank. “The rise of the drones in agriculture.” EC agriculture 2.2 (2015): 325-327.
  6. Pathak, H., et al. “Use of drones in agriculture: Potentials, Problems and Policy Needs.” ICAR-National Institute of Abiotic Stress Management (2020): 4-5.
  7. Krishna, Kowligi R. Agricultural drones: a peaceful pursuit. CRC Press, 2018.
  8. Sadiku, Matthew NO, Tolulope J. Ashaolu, and Sarhan M. Musa. “Emerging technologies in agriculture.” International Journal of Scientific Advances 1.1 (2020): 31-34.
  9. Wang, Linlin, et al. “Progress in agricultural unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) applied in China and prospects for Poland.” Agriculture 12.3 (2022): 397.
  10. Sylvester, Gerard, ed. E-agriculture in action: drones for agriculture. Food and Agriculture Organization ofn the United Nations and International Telecommunication Union, 2018.
  11. Borikar, Ganesh P., Chaitanya Gharat, and Sachin R. Deshmukh. “Application of Drone Systems for Spraying Pesticides in Advanced Agriculture: A Review.” IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. Vol. 1259. no. 1. IOP Publishing, 2022.
  12. XAG. (2020). XAG Corporate Social Responsibility Report 2020. www.xa.com/en/about/csr
  13. Ozkan, E., “Drones for Spraying Pesticides-Opportunities and Challenges”, 2023. www.ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/fabe-540
  14. www.rolnictwoprecyzyjne.eu
  15. www.farmer.pl
  16. www.dronelife.com
  17. www.sadownictwo.com.pl
  18. www.rolnictwoprecyzyjne.eu/
  19. www.portalwysokichplonow.pl

The website is operated as part of the programme of the Polish Ministry of Education and Science – Social Responsibility of Science.

The project is carried out by Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.

Project name: Law of new technologies – drones, electromobility. Innovation, development, security.

The state-funded project was accepted for funding in the context of a competition launched by the Minister of Education and Science on 8 March 2021 as part of the “Social Responsibility of Science” programme.

Value of aid: PLN 235,087,00. Total cost of the project: PLN 265.087,00

The aim of the project is to promote scientific research in the field of the law of new technologies by disseminating knowledge of the legislation on unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – in particular their operation, design, the obligations of operators and pilots, the obligations of public actors in the field of electromobility and the support mechanisms for users.

Project manager: Dr. Maciej Szmigiero


The law of new technologies – drones, electromobility. Innovation, development, safety.

Contact us: m.szmigiero@uksw.edu.pl

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