Patient’s new kidney delivered by drone

Drones could open the door for faster and more efficient deliveries

Drones could open the door for faster and more efficient deliveries

A kidney has been delivered by drone for the first time, marking a major milestone for organ transplants. It landed 2.8 miles away at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

While organs are now transplanted by commercial aircraft or charter flights, drones could open the door for faster and more efficient deliveries.

The recipient: She is a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who had spent eight years on dialysis before the procedure, the medical center said.

The flight was a collaboration between University of Maryland Medical Center, UMD School of Medicine, UMD aviation and engineering experts and Living Legacy Foundation, an organ and tissue donation nonprofit organization.

Amazingly, the delivery began at 01:00am, before the kidney was transplanted into a patient at 05:00am.

The researchers pointed out that transportation of organs is one of the most crucial parts of the transplant process.

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Current organ transportation typically uses expensive chartered flights or commercial flights, which occasionally result in an organ being left on a plane or other delays that leave the organ unusable, the researchers noted.

"There remains a woeful disparity between the number of recipients on the organ transplant waiting list and the total number of transplantable organs", project head Joseph Scalea said in a statement. "This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation", Scalea said.

Last year, almost 114,000 people were on waiting lists for organ transplants, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. That said, unmanned aircraft offer promising new possibilities for even more rapid delivery of organs, blood supplies, and other medical necessities. The university created a special apparatus able to measure and maintain temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, vibration, and location, to ensure the organ was kept in the best possible condition during the flight.

The needed unmanned aircraft and operating systems were designed by UMD UAS Test Site engineers to meet the rigid medical, technical, and regulatory demands of carrying a donor organ for human transplantation. And I think we can help a lot of people this way.

"This will have a direct impact on improving patient outcomes where time is critical", said Dr. E. Albert Reece, dean of the medical school.

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