Giant crop spraying drone from Brazil

It has been six years now since aircraft systems manufacturer Volocopter teased the VoloDrone as its 200kg-capacity solution for large scale autonomous crop spraying at an agricultural exhibition show in Hannover in 2019.

But with the company taking its sweet time to make the drone available on the market, a Brazilian company has moved in to fill the gap by introducing its own models of giant drone crop sprayers.

The Agrobee series of drones are giant crop spraying machines that have the capacity of carry up to 900kg of pesticides or spray chemicals; a new development that, at least according to the manufacturer, “is a revolutionary innovation in the agricultural scenario, representing a significant advance in the efficiency and precision of agricultural practices.”

If the Volodrone proved in 2019 that autonomous crop spraying is possible with giant drones, then Agrobee has gone a step further and proved that it can also be done at a scale; the company received 50 orders for its solution as it sat on display at the Agrishow 2024, the flagship event on agricultural technology in Brazil.

“This aerial vehicle, designed with cutting-edge technology, has the ability to take off and land vertically, fly at low speed and with substantial autonomy, providing exceptional flexibility in agricultural operations,” the manufacturer says.

“Equipped with state-of-the-art spraying systems, the Agrobee applies agricultural pesticides with precision and efficiency, optimising the use of inputs and minimising environmental impacts.

“Furthermore, its innovative functionality also extends to seed distribution, enabling precise planting in the desired areas.”

The drone also seems to have solved the longevity conundrum, as it can stay in the air for as long as 80 minutes, running on biodiesel, petrol or ethanol (which then feeds a battery).

By contrast, DJI’s popular Agras drones can only stay in the air for an average of 30 minutes.

Reports from Brazil say the drone was developed in just four months by veteran aerospace engineers Alberto Pereira Filho, (who is the CEO of Agrobee Aircraft), and Marco Minerbo, managing partner of the company.

And it looks like they modelled their crop spraying drone after the Tupan, a cargo and military defence drone with they built for a previous employer.

And that particular drone had issues with aerodynamics, which the engineers spent almost six years working on.

They worked on the propulsion technology to overcome the technical dilemma between strength and weight.

“We have overcome this technological barrier as we have been working on this for six years,” said Pereira Filho.

“Our system will allow a smooth vertical take-off and cruise flight with a high level of safety, even beyond what is required by law.”

While the Agrobee 100 and Agrobee 900 are still in the works, the Agrobee 200 is already on the market and, among other capabilities, has the following features:

  • High precision spraying: Spraying system that allows uniform and precise spray distribution, avoiding waste and contamination.
  • Autonomous navigation: Autonomous navigation system that allows it to operate without human intervention. The system uses GPS sensors, cameras and ultrasound to map the terrain and plan the flight route.
  • Security sensors: Equipped with safety sensors that help you avoid obstacles and people. This makes Agrobee safer to operate.

That is besides the drone being a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) machine that can also fly at low speeds (with the maximum speed reaching 120km per hour). The drone can fly at altitude as low as four metres above the crop and can be programmed to fly autonomously.

As explained by Minerbo; “The (autonomous) tasks are performed after mapping the area which receives the application of the product. After that, the route is uploaded to the Agrobee via wireless communication, and the equipment will be ready for flight.”

The spraying system was recommended by cooperatives and partner rural producers to guarantee more precision and efficiency, optimising the use of inputs and minimising environmental impacts.

The system also uses GPS sensors, cameras and ultrasound to map the terrain and plan the flight route, along with the equipment has safety sensors that help it avoid obstacles and people.


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