The need for speed when transporting medical supplies should never be underestimated; medical supplies need to be as fresh as possible and often need to arrive at the scene in a matter of minutes for a patient’s life to be saved. Drones are increasingly being used for delivering products not exceeding a certain weight, and there were dramatic scenes recently in the U.S. state of Maryland when a drone was used to deliver a kidney from one neighbourhood of Baltimore to another.
Drone delivers kidney to hospital:
Drones have been used to deliver organs in many cases over the years, but this delivery was particularly dramatic, as a kidney winged its way via a custom unmanned aviation system designed by physicians, researchers, aviation and engineering experts, to a nearby hospital. The kidney was transplanted into a 44-year-old lady who had been receiving dialysis treatment for the past 8 years, and who was subsequently deemed fit to leave hospital and begin leading her life, free from the constrictions of dialysis. This was, in fact, the very first drone delivery of an organ that was successfully transplanted into a patient, and there are hopes that this will be the first of many more to come.
Why have previous drone deliveries of organs failed?
The primary reason for such organ delivery missions failing in the past, is down to time constraints, with almost 3,000 kidneys having to be discarded every year in the U.S. alone because they simply don’t reach the patient in time. This is huge, and the sad impact of this failure is that those patients waiting for organs, die.
Who made this delivery happen?
Experts in the field of aviation and engineering, along with transplant physicians, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and the non-profit Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland, united to help make the historic and ground-breaking flight happen. The FAA also had to cooperate with the team and agree to allow the flight to happen, which was certainly not a given, considering the strict laws in place about flying drones over American cities. Thankfully, due to the nature of the mission, it was hard for anyone to disagree to the proposal, including the FAA.
How are organs usually delivered?
Donor organs are usually taken by airplane to their destination – a charter or commercial flight depending upon the situation – but logistically speaking, this can often prove to be a nightmare, and once the organ reaches its destination, it often gets left behind and never gets to the intended hospital in time. Research has shown that donor organs once in transit, don’t make it to their intended destination for up to 2% of the time, and 4% of shipments experience significant delays of up to 2 hours. While this may not sound like much, when it comes to organs for transplant, every minute really does count and lives depend upon the speed at which the organ can be delivered.
In comparison to these delays, the flight of the drone carrying the kidney in this case took a mere 5 minutes to reach the destination and went directly from donor to the hospital.
With the success of this organ delivery by drone, the future looks bright for patients waiting for life-saving organ transplants, and many lives could quite literally be saved.