Thanks to the engineering efforts of University of Maryland researchers, an unmanned aircraft has delivered a donor kidney to surgeons for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. The demonstration of rapid delivery by drone is expected to broaden access to donated organs and improve the outcomes for more people in need of organ transplants.

Organ transportation logistics present major impediments to transplantation as they rely on a An unmanned aircraft delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. Source: University of Maryland Medical Center/University of Maryland School of MedicineAn unmanned aircraft delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. Source: University of Maryland Medical Center/University of Maryland School of Medicinecomplex network of couriers, commercial aircraft and transplant personnel. Reliance on commercial aircraft schedules and couriers extends the time the organ must remain in cold storage prior to restoration of blood supply, raising the likelihood of undesirable recipient outcomes. Transporting organs by drones can reduce delivery times and costs as well as improve organ viability and access to transplantation.

The unmanned aircraft system features eight rotors and redundant powertrain and battery components to ensure reliable service. Craft control and communications are effected with a wireless mesh network. The container housing the organ — the Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel — monitors temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, vibration and location via GPS. The data are transmitted to the smartphones of transplant personnel.

The pioneering April 19, 2019, flight delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center (in Baltimore) for successful transplantation into a 44-year-old patient with kidney failure.

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