Drone successfully completes longest organ delivery via unmanned aircraft

From creating breathtaking light shows to helping restore degrading ecosystems to delivering books to kids, drones can do an awful lot of things these days — including the life-saving task of transporting human organs for transplant.

That is what a team of researchers from MissionGO, a provider of unmanned aviation solutions, and the Nevada Donor Network, an organ procurement organization, recently proved by performing two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue over the Nevada desert.

On the first flight, a drone transported corneas for research from one hospital to another about 2.5 miles away. The second flight delivered research kidneys 10 miles, from an airport to a location outside a small town in the Las Vegas desert.

The second trip broke the record for the longest organ delivery flight in drone history, surpassing the distance of a historic April 2019 flight, when a drone transported a kidney in Maryland.

Although the Las Vegas kidney was for research purposes only, the scientists who analyzed the organ before and after the flight concluded there were no changes to the tissue architecture and cell viability — meaning that the results open a new exciting chapter for the future of organ transportation.

Organs are typically transported via commercial aircraft, but if no flights are available before they become nonviable — typically 36 to 48 hours for kidneys — the organs are discarded. The viability of the organ can also be compromised during transport. According to a study from August 2019, the United States discards about 3,500 kidneys a year.

By shortening transportation time, drones can decrease the time an organ is outside the body, improving the chances of function after transplant, thus saving lives in the process.

“You can think about (drones) being pretty revolutionary in breaking down one of the obstacles to increasing the number of organs utilized and decreasing discards,” says Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

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Drone successfully completes longest organ delivery via unmanned aircraft

From creating breathtaking light shows to helping restore degrading ecosystems to delivering books to kids, drones can do an awful lot of things these days — including the life-saving task of transporting human organs for transplant.

That is what a team of researchers from MissionGO, a provider of unmanned aviation solutions, and the Nevada Donor Network, an organ procurement organization, recently proved by performing two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue over the Nevada desert.

On the first flight, a drone transported corneas for research from one hospital to another about 2.5 miles away. The second flight delivered research kidneys 10 miles, from an airport to a location outside a small town in the Las Vegas desert.

The second trip broke the record for the longest organ delivery flight in drone history, surpassing the distance of a historic April 2019 flight, when a drone transported a kidney in Maryland.

Although the Las Vegas kidney was for research purposes only, the scientists who analyzed the organ before and after the flight concluded there were no changes to the tissue architecture and cell viability — meaning that the results open a new exciting chapter for the future of organ transportation.

Organs are typically transported via commercial aircraft, but if no flights are available before they become nonviable — typically 36 to 48 hours for kidneys — the organs are discarded. The viability of the organ can also be compromised during transport. According to a study from August 2019, the United States discards about 3,500 kidneys a year.

By shortening transportation time, drones can decrease the time an organ is outside the body, improving the chances of function after transplant, thus saving lives in the process.

“You can think about (drones) being pretty revolutionary in breaking down one of the obstacles to increasing the number of organs utilized and decreasing discards,” says Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of kidney and pancreas transplantation at Medstar Georgetown Transplant Institute.

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