Drone delivers kidney for transplant


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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In what is being described as a major advance in transplantation medicine, an unmanned, custom-built aircraft has delivered a donor kidney to surgeons for successful transplantation in a patient with kidney failure. 

Transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) and the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore in the United States worked with aviation and engineering experts at the Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site at the University of Maryland to bring the project to fruition. Prior to the landmark flight, the partners worked together to develop and test the UAS by first successfully transporting saline, blood tubes and a healthy, but non-viable, human kidney.

In the latest phase, the viable organ was housed in an unmanned aircraft with parameters such as temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, vibration and location measured via a custom-designed technology called Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel (HOMAL). 

While this is a new technology, those involved say the transport system could speed-up organ delivery times, expand access to more organs, enhance safety and ultimately improve patient outcomes in the future. 

The organ recipient, a 44-year-old woman, was discharged home last month.