When it comes to organ transplants, every second counts. But donated organs aren't always immediately accessible where the patient is, and must be delivered from other locations. That's where drones come in.
A new study by the University of Maryland Medical System shows that a drone can be used to successfully deliver human organs in a pinch. The study was published in the November issue of the IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine.
The study's authors got their hands on a human kidney that was unfit to be used in a transplant, and was thus designated for research. They put the kidney in a special container and included a device that would monitor temperature, altitude, barometric pressure, vibration and location. This container was attached to a DJI Matrice 600 Pro, a commercially available drone that anyone can buy (for $5,000).
Once set up, researchers put the drone-kidney combo through several test flights. The drone reached a peak velocity of 42 mph and the longest trip was 3 miles.
The researchers would take biopsies of the the kidney before and after to see how it fared. Throughout its travels the kidney maintained a safe temperature and showed no signs of structural changes. Researchers concluded that drone flight didn't affect biopsy results. The study even showed that the kidney experienced less vibrations than it would have if it traveled via fixed-wing aircraft.
This was just a study and the kidney didn't end up being used in a transplant. But the results were positive, showing that transporting human organs via drone could be a viable option in future.