University of Maryland Medical Center made history by being the first to employ an unmanned air system to successfully deliver a kidney for transplantation into a patient with kidney failure.

One of the newest investigated applications of unmanned air systems is the transportation of organs for transplant procedures. Even in the urban air mobility industry, Beta Technologies has already partnered with United Technologies to ultimately carry organs from manufacturing facilities to hospitals with the help of their Ava eVTOL.

This application of UAS technologies has recently received increased attention due to the complex logistics involved in the organ transplant process. The viability of the organ for safe and effective transplant into a patient is extremely time-sensitive, so chartered or commercial flights are often used for transportation. However, the reliability – due to potential delays – as well as lack of point-to-point capabilities of these methods are major flaws for the strict requirements of the organ transplant process. Instead, unmanned air systems are being fitted to preserve organs and carry them directly to their intended destination. The vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) configurations of the vehicles are allowing greater access directly to hospitals and even rural areas which are may currently require longer flights to deliver the organs.

The University of Maryland recently became the first to ever demonstrate the delivery of an organ using UAS technology, after a successful 3-mile flight to University of Maryland Medical Center, where a woman awaited the replacement kidney. The woman had been on dialysis for the past eight years and was released from the hospital on Tuesday, April 26 after a successful procedure. Check out the footage of the flight and delivery below:

After the successful demonstration, Dr. Joseph Scalea stated that “this new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation. Delivering an organ from a donor to a patient is a sacred duty with many moving parts. It is critical that we find ways of doing this better.” Dr. Scalea is the assistant professor of surgery at UMSOM, project lead, and one of the surgeons who performed the transplant at UMMC.

Why it’s important: As Dr. Scalea and the University of Maryland Medical Center recently demonstrated, there are widespread applications for unmanned air systems, especially in urban aviation where point-to-point delivery capabilities have the potential to supersede slower, traditional air transportation methods. Additionally, the effort marked a new level of approval from the FAA, as it and Baltimore police also had to sign off on the flight. This could pave the way for similar proof-of-concept demonstrations in the near future.


// This article was first published by AAAS and EurekAlert! //

Posted by Naish Gaubatz

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