Case studies

Reducing sugarcane damage costs by 39% with eBee X drone

Innovative weed control in sugarcane fields using drone technology allows a 53% decrease in water and herbicide usage.


Share | 07/03/2024

The blue dawn flower is a common weed found worldwide that causes significant damage to sugar cane. This herbaceous vine can reach up to 10 ft (3 m) in length and is extremely aggressive. It suffocates the cane, reducing productivity and complicating mechanized harvesting.

Braéro Soluções Aeroagrícolas, a Brazilian agricultural services company, utilizes drone technology for precise mapping and targeted spraying. They employ the eBee X and Duet M multispectral camera to generate high-precision georeferenced infestation maps. These maps are then imported into the remote control of the sprayer drone, allowing them to accurately spray herbicide only in the infested areas.

The company Braéro Soluções Aeroagrícolas uses the eBee X drone and a sprayer drone

By using drone technology, the company’s customers have seen significant benefits compared to spraying entire areas:

  • Weed control costs reduced by 30% to 40%
  • Herbicide use decreased by up to 70%
  • Water use reduced by up to 70%

Use case workflow

Braéro conducted a case study on a large sugarcane producer in Colina, São Paulo, Brazil, specifically on a 709 ac (287 ha) sugarcane farm.

1 – Plan the mapping drone flight

The first step was to plan the flight of the mapping drone. After several tests, it became standard to use the eBee X drone with Duet M camera and the GNSS receiver – Spectra precision SP-60 with the following settings:

  • Multispectral resolution: 4,7 in (12 cm)
  • Overlap (lat x long): 70% x 90%
  • Mapped area: 709 ac (287 ha)
  • Flight time: 2h01min
Optimized flight plan for the eBee X drone ensured accurate mapping and the generation of 2D and 3D maps.

Using the eBee X drone in Brazil offers a significant advantage: the eBee X is certified to fly Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) by the Brazilian National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), allowing flights of up to 5 km radius and 120 m height. This approval enhances its performance compared to drones restricted to Visual Line of Sight (VLOS), which are limited to a 0.5 km radius and 120 m height by law.

In a single flight with one battery, the eBee X fixed-wing drone covers large areas, unlike a quadcopter that requires multiple flights and extra time.

2 – Data processing

After the survey, PIX4mapper software generates the RGB orthomosaic and the reflectance indices from the multispectral camera from AgEagle, the Duet M.

Fernando Costa, Braéro’s Operations Director, explains that the RGB orthomosaic acts as a visual layer for quality control in weed mapping using multispectral images. The reflectance indices pinpoint areas with more weeds. He highlights the importance of the RedEdge band, which shows less saturation of tall sugar cane (around 7 ft or 2 m high) compared to the Near-Infrared, making it especially useful after 7 months of planting or regrowth.

These datasets captured with the agricultural drone eBee X display an area infested with weeds in both the RGB and multispectral images:

3 – Spraying

These maps are then imported into the remote control of the Joyance JT30/JT16 centrifugal nozzle sprayer drone in either shapefile or KML format.

The spraying map shows green polygons marking areas for targeted spraying. Depending on the infestation level, spraying may focus on small polygons within plots or cover the entire plot area.

The image below shows an area 12 days after localized drone spraying, where broadleaf weeds have been desiccated:

Results: Savings of 39% with the eBee X

Traditional methodsDrone technology
DescriptionApplication across the entire sugar cane areaLocalized application in plots with high level of infestation
Sprayed area608 ac (246 ha)282 ac (114 ha)
Herbicide738,63 liters344,04 liters
Water2215,89 liters1032,12 liters
(Inputs + Spraying service)
$ 7,155 $ 4,312
Cost reduction $ 2,842 (savings of 39,7%)

This use case demonstrated that combining localized herbicide spraying for broadleaf weeds in lightly infested plots and full-area application in heavily infested plots results in significant cost savings—specifically, a 39% reduction compared to blanket spraying across the entire property.

Depending on the infestation level, the recommended spray volume can reach up to 3.5 liters per hectare. For instance, in a highly infested area, using 3 liters per hectare would cost the producer up to $29.50 per hectare, covering both the product cost and the drone spraying service for the entire area.

Versatility of agricultural drones in modern farming

Braéro Soluções Aeroagrícolas has achieved great success through the combined use of fixed-wing drones for agriculture, such as the eBee X, and multi-rotors for spraying services. This technology supports environmental preservation, enhances agricultural sustainability, and boosts profitability for rural producers by improving crop efficiency and facilitating various agricultural tasks.

Drones in agriculture are versatile beyond weed control; they can also be employed in planting systematization projects, terracing, row restitution for harvesting, addressing planting failures and managing replanting logistics.

The eBee X agricultural drone can be easily integrated into modern farming practices.

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