Combating invasive plants with the eBee X drone and PIX4D Magic Tool

A targeted management approach enhances productivity, saves costs, and protects the environment


Share | 04/23/2024

Musk thistle, an invasive plant found across North America, Europe, Asia, and North Africa, grows rapidly, posing threats to ecosystems, livestock, and crop productivity. It can reach heights of up to 7 ft (2 m).

Bobby Valentine, an experienced drone expert and the founder of Valentine Brand, was recently approached by a farmer in the United States to remove musk thistle from its land.

Musk thistle is an invasive plant that harms ecosystems, livestock, and crop productivity.

Instead of using traditional methods like spraying the entire area, Valentine proposed a comprehensive drone workflow for targeted spraying utilizing aerial imagery.

This method he employs helps farmers save chemicals, prevent land degradation caused by vehicles, and optimize crop yield by eradicating the invasive plant, particularly in areas inaccessible to farmers.

This is the complete workflow for precision agriculture with the eBee X that he implemented:

Flying the eBee X – 1 hour

Valentine conducted an aerial survey using the eBee X drone, equipped with the dual-camera Duet M, to capture high-resolution RGB and multispectral imagery simultaneously in a single flight.

It took him 1 hour to gather data for the 100-acre land (40 hectares), following the flight plan he had previously set up on eMotion, the eBee software.

Valentine flew the fixed-wing drone at 180 ft / 55 m altitude for this mission, as lower altitudes provide more detailed results. The data collection went smoothly, confirming the reliability of the eBee X for Valentine’s projects.

Processing with PIX4Dfields – 2 hours

Valentine spent a couple of hours processing the data collected with the eBee X using PIX4Dfields.

He created multispectral and orthomosaic 2D maps, which offered detailed representations of the surveyed areas. In this case, the orthomosaic proved most beneficial, allowing him to easily identify the locations of the musk thistle.

Using the PIX4D Magic Tool – 4 hours

Next, he employed the PIX4Dfields Magic Tool to accurately locate the invasive plant. The tool segmented the orthomosaic of the surveyed land into grids.

After, he manually identified the cells containing musk thistle infestations. Those encircled in blue indicate the presence of the invasive plant, while those encircled in yellow signify unaffected areas.

Powered by a machine learning algorithm, the PIX4D Magic Tool learned from the selected cells and automatically detected and marked (in square blue) cells with invasive plant presence, accelerating Valentine’s identification of problem areas.

He then verified the accuracy of the areas automatically marked by the Magic Tool, making corrections using the delete brush tool where necessary.

Furthermore, he delineated boundaries (in pink) for the land and, if applicable, for trees or other obstacles, to guide herbicide application. This ensured that only affected areas received treatment, with the boundaries serving as geofences for the sprayer drone.

The entire process consumed approximately 4 hours.

Providing data to the sprayer drone – 10 minutes

Following Bobby’s manual and automated process with the PIX4Dfields Magic Tool, the software generated a highly accurate and customized spray plan for the land based on the identified infestation pattern. He then exported this compatible file and integrated it into the DJI Agras drone flight software.

The areas shaded in purple-gray indicate where spraying will occur. Additionally, the tool specifies the number of acres represented by these areas, allowing him to prepare the necessary amount of pesticide for the mission.

After finalizing the spot-spray map, Bobby exported the data to a compatible file format supported by the DJI Agras sprayer drone.

Accurate spraying – 2.5 hours

The integration between PIX4D and the DJI Agras drone sprayer enables the smooth implementation of the treatment plan, with the sprayer drone autonomously applying herbicides precisely to the identified areas.

Depending on factors such as weather conditions, the type of chemical used, and the application rate, spraying 100 acres typically takes around 2.5 hours, achieving an average rate of approximately 40 acres per hour, especially on fairly flat topography.

In this case, precise spraying has been postponed due to weather conditions.

Nonetheless, previous clients of Valentine consistently express high satisfaction with this service, as it has enabled them to save money, time, and chemicals while minimizing land damage.


In summary, Bobby’s use of the eBee X drone equipped with the Duet M dual camera and PIX4D software showcases a data-driven approach to targeted control of invasive plants in precision agriculture.

By combining drone technology, data analytics, and targeted spraying techniques, Bobby not only demonstrates the potential to revolutionize agricultural practices but also highlights their role in enhancing environmental preservation and boosting agricultural productivity.

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