“It’s Like Uber For Organs!”| First Kidney Delivered Via Drone

Organ delivery Drone University of Maryland

Development in technology and health go hand in hand; one advancement in the former does wonders in the field of medicine. About a month ago, doctors were able to perform a remote operation, thanks to 5G. And now there is news that a kidney was delivered to a hospital through a drone! Imagine organs flying around to reach their recipients!

We can credit this new achievement in the name of the University of Maryland, who created the drone and said that this development could speed up the process of transplants that are time-sensitive. The team made it possible for Trina Glispy, a mother of three, to get the much-needed kidney for which she had been waiting for the past eight years.

Why was this development necessary?

The team’s leader, Dr. Joseph R. Scalea is the assistant of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He got the idea to create the drone because he was frustrated that organs take a lot of time to reach the hospital. The main reason for this frustration is that after an organ is removed from the donor, its health decreases each passing second. 

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Dr. Scalea recalls an incident when an organ took 29 hours to reach from Atlanta to his hospital. He said, “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?

How was this developed?

Dr. Scalea’s team corresponded with the aviation and the engineering team of the university and also roped in the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland. The test flight was a short one, and the drone flew for 10 minutes at a height of 400 feet on 19th April at 1:00 am. There were a lot of intricate details that went into the making of the drone.

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It had backup propellers, motors, dual batteries as well as a parachute recovery system, in case a catastrophe occurred. Two pilots were responsible for monitoring the drone using a wireless network. To keep the kidney intact, the drone has devices that were continuously measuring the temperature, vibrations as well as the barometric pressure around the kidney. 

Excited about this new progressive method, Dr. Scalea said, “We can monitor in real time. It’s like Uber for organs.” It also restored his faith in the system as he called this test flight “proof of concept that this broken system can be innovated.

However, the process was not an easy one, because, before the success of this project, the drone had already flown in 44 different test flights, amounting to more than 700 hours. Now, with the success of this test flight, the team is aiming for a “farther and faster” transportation of organs using this method.

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This new technique of delivering organs can be easily seen as a milestone, because till now, the methods that we used were fairly expensive, like chartered and commercial flights. Further development of features in these drones will help increase the distance that it will be able to cover, thereby making the method of transporting organs much safer and faster.


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