A group of researchers in Malaysia has developed a technique to take waste material from the pineapple farming industry and turn it into disposable parts for drone aircraft. The technique developed takes a fiber found in usually discarded pineapple leaves and harnesses it to make a robust material that can be used to build frames for unmanned aircraft. The project’s goal has been to find sustainable uses for pineapple waste generated by farmers in the Malaysian area of Hulu Langat.
The material the team has developed is highly biodegradable. They say if the drone is damaged, the frame can be buried in the ground and would biodegrade within two weeks. Prototype drones developed by the team can fly to a height of 3280 feet and stay in the air for about 20 minutes.
Researchers aim to create a larger drone able to accommodate bigger payloads, including imaging sensors for agricultural purposes and aerial inspections. Typically, pineapple stems are discarded after the yearly harvest of pineapples. Farmers hope the drones will encourage innovation to find a use for the waste material and add an additional revenue stream.
The researchers gave no indication of the potential demand for their biodegradable drone parts. The team does say the drones are made out of their bio-composite material have a higher strength to weight ratio than those made from synthetic fibers. The components are also cheaper, lighter, and easier to dispose of.
The team offered no details on the process for creating their drone components from the waste material or when they might commercialize the process. The use of drones is increasing in multiple industries making the team’s breakthrough potentially important.