A team of Malaysian researchers have figured out one of the ways to make the future of technology sustainable—with pineapples. They have found that the fibre found in discarded pineapple leaves can be used to build parts of drones.
“We are transforming the leaf of the pineapple into a fibre that can be used for aerospace application, basically inventing a drone,” said Professor Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan at Universiti Putra—who headed the project.
According to Mohamed Thariq, drones made out of the bio-composite material had “a higher strength-to-weight ratio” than those made from synthetic fibres. They were also were also cheaper, lighter and easier to dispose of.
“If the drone was damaged, the frame could be buried in the ground and would degrade within two weeks,” he continued.
Mohamed Thariq also said that he had been trying to find sustainable uses for pineapple waste generated by farmers in Hulu Langat. Before the project launched in 2017, pineapple stems were discarded after the once-in-a-year harvest period.
However, farmers hope the drones project will encourage more innovation to find uses for pineapple waste and boost incomes. According to pineapple farmer Irwan Ismail, three acres of land could produce 5 – 10 tonnes of waste.
“Imagine, for example the price is RM5 or RM6 per kilogram, and if you multiply that by 5 or 10 tonnes, it will have a big financial impact on the community especially for smaller farming groups,” said Irwan Ismail.
The prototype drones have been able to fly to a height of about 1,000 metres and stay in the air for about 20 minutes. The research team hopes to eventually create a larger drone with imagery sensors, for agricultural purposes and aerial inspections.