Drones might be a favorite toy among adults with significant disposable income, but they’ve also proven to be incredibly useful as tools, and sometimes life-saving ones at that. The latest example of this growing trend comes to us from the University of Maryland Medical Center, where a medical drone delivered a kidney that was subsequently successfully transplanted into a patient.
The delivery, which was documented in a brief YouTube video published by UMMC, is just a small first step in a larger effort to enhance the delivery systems used for vital items like organs and other medical materials.
The recipient, a 44-year-old Baltimore woman, reportedly spent several years undergoing dialysis treatments ahead of the procedure. The transplant was successful and she was discharged from the medical center shortly thereafter.
“For more than 25 years, the University of Maryland Medical Center has provided cutting-edge care in organ transplantation,” Mohan Suntha, UMMC President, said in a statement. “Our Transplant Program cares for patients who come from our local community, the state and the nation, many of whom have been turned away at other hospitals, because we have the skill, talent and knowledge to advance even the most complex transplant cases, often times not just improving but saving lives.”
The drone that completed the delivery is a far cry from your average consumer-level hobby aircraft. It was designed specifically with medical transport in mind, and features redundant power systems that ensures it remains airborne. It’s also equipped with sensors to monitor the condition of the organ it carries, relaying that information back to medical staff on the ground.
Organ deliveries are extremely time-sensitive, and the systems that support the delivery of such precious items have improved drastically over the past few decades. That said, unmanned aircraft offer promising new possibilities for even more rapid delivery of organs, blood supplies, and other medical necessities.