First Time Ever – Kidney For Transplant Delivered By Drone

The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) told the USA Today that a kidney which was scheduled for a transplant was delivered by a drone on April 19, 2019. This was the first time ever that a drone was used to deliver an organ for transplant. The UMMC says this action could set precedent for safer and more affordable organ deliveries in the future.

In a statement released on Friday, April 26, 2019, the UMMC said the drone was specifically built and designed to monitor the organ in the air so that input data could be processed within milliseconds and be made available immediately to personnel handling the transplant.

A 44 year-old woman from Baltimore who had been on dialysis for eight years before receiving the transplant was the recipient of the drone delivered kidney.

Joseph Scalea, who is the project lead and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant at UMMC, said it took an outstanding collaboration of a lot of people to make it happen. He said those involved in this pioneering breakthrough of organ delivery by drone for the transplantation involved the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), pilots,engineers,organ procurement specialists, surgeons, nurses,and the patient.

Researchers made initial tests prior to the first delivery of an organ by drone with deliveries of medical supplies such as saline, blood tubes and a non-viable but healthy human kidney.

Using drones to make organ deliveries are believed by healthcare professionals to be the answer to providing a wider selection of delivery service available in addition to the usual traditional methods of transporting organs for transplant. 

Traditional methods of transporting organs for transplant from one hospital or health facility to another has included ground vehicles, helicopters and small business aircrafts. Transplant deliveries have been made world-wide too.

The stakes are high in the area of organ transplantation and so trade-offs have to be made as to the most convenient and speediest mode of medical deliveries

When opting for the best mode of delivery, considerations have to be made as to time-sensitivity, operational requirements and the location of the departure and arrival bases involved in the transplantation needs and the given mission.

Scalea says that there is a disparing lack between the number of people needing transplants and the total umber of organs that are available for transplantation and the use of drones could widen the donor availability pool for recipients to have access to.

Drones are being used more and more by businesses and have been approved by the FAA such as Googles’s wing service and Amazon’s successful drone delivery service since 2016.