Malaysian team transforms pineapple leaves into drones

It’s not a bird.

It’s not a plane.

It’s a drone – made partly from pineapple leaves.

The design is part of a sustainability project at Malaysia’s Putra University – led by professor Mohamed Thariq Hameed Sultan.

"This current project is to transform these agricultural waste into a potential aerospace application which is a drone structure."

Thariq's team uses discarded pineapple leaves to create the skeletons of aerial drones.

"The most important thing of this particular design is we are using agricultural waste, which is we are transforming the leaf of the pineapple fiber into a fiber, and that particular fiber who has been seeing that the fiber can be used for aerospace application, basically in inventing a drone."

According to researchers, drones made from natural materials or biocomposites are tougher, lighter, cheaper and easier to dispose.

Thariq says the drones are currently able to fly up to about 1000 meters high and stay in the air for about 20 minutes.

Location: Bangi, Selangor State

The pineapple waste comes from farmers in Hulu Langat district… who would usually discard or burn the pineapple leaves after harvest. That process can cause air pollution.

But now farmers like Irwan Ismail can sell their agricultural waste to bolster their income.

"For example, three acres of this land may be able to produce five or 10 tonnes of this waste. And imagine, for example that the price is five or six ringgit Malaysia per kilogram, if you multiply by five to 10 tonnes, it means it will give a big financial impact to the community, especially the small farming groups…’’

Researchers hope the project - which was launched in 2017 - will encourage other scientists in Malaysia to make a good use of the waste.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF MALAYSIAN UNMANNED DRONES ACTIVIST SOCIETY, WILLAM ROBERT ALVISSE SAYING:

"The next step would be to develop a slightly larger drone to be able to carry some payload, which would carry some imagery sensor and even some other payloads that would benefit the typical farmer around here. So, our role here is to help the industry, help the farmers, to actually explore into the fourth IR (Industrial Revolution) where they call it, technology and innovations that would help them increase their yield and make their jobs much easier."