Drone Successfully Delivers Kidney for Transplant

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The organ was donated to a 44-year old female patient who spent eight years on dialysis.

Several companies have started to use drones to deliver products, but for the first, a donated kidney was delivery via drone, in Maryland, the U.S. The donated organ was carried from Baltimore’s St. Agnes Hospital to the University of Maryland (UMD) medical center, a distance of 2.7 miles or 10-minute route. The organ was successfully transplanted a few hours after its delivery to a 44-year old female patient. The kidney was kept in a sealed cargo compartment called Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel (HOMAL). The box that contained the organ mentioned its own internal temperature, amount of vibration, barometric pressure, altitude, and GPS coordinates.

All the data was transmitted to the surgical team’s smartphones to track the organ’s traveling activity. The drone that delivered the box has eight motors and propellers that are separated in pairs on four arms. The setup was so designed that even if one motor fails, it will keep flying. Apart from that, it included a backup distribution board, dual battery packs, and a parachute if the drone is unable to remain airborne. Moreover, it had onboard camera streams for real-time video to two ground-based operators. “This major advance in human medicine and transplantation exemplifies two key components of our mission: innovation and collaboration,” said Executive Vice President of Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore E. Albert Reece.

The team’s leader Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, an assistant professor of surgery at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine said persuaded the project due to constant frustration over organs taking too long to reach the patients. Such drone deliveries would be crucial in the future as organs become less healthy when they are removed from a donor with each passing seconds. “Had I put that in, at nine hours, the patient would probably have another several years of life. Why can’t we get that right?” said Dr. Scalea.

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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.