Drones are quickly reshaping the way we think about the world. From delivering packages to recording video, drones have uses across many industries. That puts the tech in high demand. Many manufacturers are hard-pressed to keep up. Meanwhile, the relatively fragile nature of most drones means that they create a lot of waste when they break.
Researchers from Malaysia have reportedly come up with a solution to address both problems. A team from Putra University tells Reuters that they built drone frames with recycled pineapple leaves. The resulting material is cheaper, lighter, and stronger than many synthetic materials.
While it certainly won’t replace plastic entirely, it could help make drone manufacturing cheaper and more eco-friendly.
Garbage to Gold
Each year, millions and millions of pineapples are harvested and processed to be sent around the world. While the sweet golden interior is cherished, the tough leaves of the pineapple plant are discarded. However, the material that makes up the leaves is highly durable.
It turns out that it is perfect for building drone frames.
The upcycling project was led by professor Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan. He told Reuters, “We are transforming the leaf of the pineapple into a fiber that can be used for aerospace application, basically inventing a drone.”
The team has already created several prototype drones using the natural material. One unit reached a height of 3,280 feet and was able to stay in the air for 20 minutes. It was a small drone with four rotors that looks very similar to many offerings from companies like DJI.
However, the team hopes to build bigger, stronger drones in the future. If they could carry heavy payloads or additional equipment, the drones could be useful for things like package delivery. Given the fact that the air delivery space is on the verge of a boom, this could be the perfect way to introduce pineapple leaf frames.
Aside from the benefits noted above, the natural material has another key advantage. If the drone is damaged beyond repair, the frame can be disposed of by burying it in the ground. The pineapple leaf degrades in just two weeks.
Waste in any industry is a bad thing. If there is a way to make something out of materials that would otherwise be discarded, then every opportunity to do so should be taken. That’s exactly what the Malaysian researchers are doing.
William Robert Alvisse of the Malaysian Unmanned Drones Activist Society, told Reuters, “Our role here is to help the industry, the farmers, to increase their yield and make their jobs much easier.”
So, while the drone industry obviously benefits from a cheap, strong, and light frame material, the pineapple farmers also win. Rather than throwing away the leaves from their pineapple harvest, they can sell them to drone manufacturers to boost their profits.
Considering that both parties stand to gain something, the pineapple leaf material could take off quickly (no pun intended). For the future of the planet and the drone industry, creative solutions like this one are a good thing.