The Malaysian team turns pineapple waste into single-use drone parts

Malaysian researchers have developed a method of converting the fibers contained in normally discarded pineapple leaves into a strong material that can be used to make the frames for unmanned aircraft or drones.

The project, led by Professor Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan at Putra University in Malaysia, sought to find sustainable uses for pineapple waste produced by farmers in Hulu Langat, an area about 65 km from Kuala Lumpur.

“We’re turning the leaf of the pineapple into a fiber that can be used for aerospace applications and we’re basically inventing a drone,” he told Reuters in a workshop.

According to Mohamed Thariq, drones made from the biocomposite material had a higher strength-to-weight ratio than those made from synthetic fibers and were also cheaper, lighter and easier to dispose of.

malaysia pineapple fibers drone reuter pineapple fibers

A student holds pineapple leaf fibers in a workshop at Putra Malaysia University in Serdang, Malaysia

If the drone were damaged, the frame could get buried in the ground and deteriorate within two weeks, he said.

The prototype drones could fly up to a height of about 1,000 meters and stay in the air for about 20 minutes, he added.

Ultimately, the research team hopes to develop a larger drone for larger payloads, including image sensors, for agricultural purposes and aerial inspections.

“Our job here is to help industry and farmers increase their yields and make their jobs easier,” said William Robert Alvisse of the Malaysian Unmanned Drones Activist Society, a non-governmental group that helps develop the drone and them advises the project.

Before the project started in 2017, pineapple stalks were thrown away once a year after harvest time. However, farmers hope the drone project will encourage more innovation to find uses for the waste and increase incomes.

“With the health problem, the economic problem due to COVID-19, society is desperate and there is no alternative to increasing income,” said pineapple farmer Irwan Ismail.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


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