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Drone delivers life-saving organs for transplant

Earlier, we told you how drones are already used in the mining industry and in commercial apps (e.g. Amazon’s Prime Air). Now, in the first flight of its kind, drones delivered organs for transplant using a specially designed drone.

Such delivery systems could become commonplace. The delivery to a patient in Maryland was a short test flight of a little under three miles, but longer flights should now follow, and the speed of this method could prove crucial in some cases. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, 4% of organ deliveries were delayed by two hours or more, while 1.5% didn’t make it to their destinations at all.

Dr Joseph Scalea from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), one of the surgeons performing the transplant, told the BBC: ‘Delivering an organ from a donor to a patient is a sacred duty with many moving parts. It is critical that we find ways of doing this better.

‘As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, we were able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation.’

Minutes count in delivering a healthy organs

He said that organs became less healthy after being removed from their donor, with minutes and even seconds potentially counting. He recalled one case where a kidney took 29 hours to arrive and said that the patient would probably have enjoyed another several years of life had the process been quicker.

The Maryland drone flight required a number of technological innovations. The drone itself was custom-made to ensure that it could carry the weight of the organ, as well as essential sensors and other equipment. It had a number of fail-safes built in, including back-up motors, propellers and batteries. The drone has also a parachute in case of emergency.

Two pilots on the ground monitored the flight via a wireless network. They had the options to take control if anything went wrong with the automated flight path. The drone also had a number of sensors to monitor temperature, pressure and vibrations.

Medics could track the drone’s flight with an app – described as an ‘Uber for organs’.

Original article by Tech Data Newsflash, edited by TDConnect editors

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