Engineers Turn Pineapple Leaves Into Biodegradable Drone Parts

The components are cheaper, lighter, and degrade within two weeks when buried in the ground.
Derya Ozdemir

Engineers all around are devising novel ways of turning one thing into another, and especially those who make use of the leftovers are picking up action due to their sustainable and eco-friendly nature.

At a time where the economy is stagnating due to COVID-19, Malaysian farmers have turned to selling the leftover pineapple leaves, which are typically burnt at the end of each farming season, for a cause that is quite odd: Building materials for drones.

Malaysian researchers have devised a method to transform the fiber found in pineapple leaves to make a sturdy enough material that can be used to build frames for drones.

Sustainable use for pineapple waste 

Professor Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan leads the project at University Putra Malaysia (UPM), and his team is trying to find help farmers in Hulu Langat, an area about 40 miles (65 km) from Kuala Lumpur.

"We are transforming the leaf of the pineapple into a fiber that can be used for aerospace application, basically inventing a drone," he told Reuters.

The idea of creating a drone from pineapple leaves was conceived during a community project in Teluk Panglima Garang, Selangor in 2017. The professor was approached by the village head who asked for the university's help to dispose of the pineapple leaves from the village pineapple plantation.

The drones made out of pineapple leaves reportedly have a higher strength-to-weight ratio. Moreover, they are cheaper, lighter, and easier to dispose of, making them an eco-friendly alternative. If the drone were to go out of use, the frame could easily be buried under the ground and would degrade within two weeks, he said.

The prototype drones that have been built since 2017 were able to fly to a height of about 3,280 ft (1,000 meters) and stay afloat for about 20 minutes, per a press release by UPM.

Helping farmers while building drones

The main goal is to create a larger drone that can carry bigger payloads for agricultural purposes and aerial inspections. Furthermore, farmers hope that this project can boost their incomes. 

"With the health issue, the economy problem due to COVID-19, the society is desperate and there is no alternative to increase income," said pineapple farmer Irwan Ismail to Reuters.

Such projects could encourage more engineers to come forward with projects to find uses for other wastes, helping farmers and the environment at the same time. 


You can watch the below video to learn more about how pineapple leaves become drone parts: