For patients needing an organ transplant, time is of the essence—yet traditional methods of delivery, whether using ground or air transportation, have often suffered from inefficiencies and delays. Now, aviation and engineering experts at the A. James Clark School of Engineering’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site have demonstrated that organ deliveries can be conducted safely using unmanned aerial systems, popularly known as “drones.”
On April 19, 2019, UAS Test Site pilots used a specially designed unmanned aerial vehicle to deliver a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore for a successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. The historic 2.8-mile flight heralds the potential to improve the speed, reliability, safety, and accessibility of transplant organ deliveries by using UAS systems.
The flight was a collaboration between the Department of Aerospace Engineering and the UAS Test Site; transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore; and collaborators at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland.
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