First drone delivery of transplant organ in Baltimore

ByAli Gorman, R.N. KGO logo
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
First drone delivery of transplant organ in Baltimore
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First drone delivery of transplant organ in Baltimore - Ali Gorman reports during Action News at 5pm on April 29, 2019.

BALTIMORE, Md. -- History was made in Baltimore. For the first time, a donor organ was delivered for transplant by a drone.

The kidney was flown a few miles from a site in West Baltimore to the University of Maryland Medical Center across town.

The specially designed drone was able to monitor the organ in flight.

The project was a collaboration between the medical center and the university's medical and engineering schools.

There were dozens of test flights, with deliveries of blood, saline, and a NON-viable kidney, before this actual delivery.

The recipient was a 44-year-old woman who'd been on dialysis for 8 years. She called the feat "amazing."

The team said it took a lot of planning, but it was worth it.

"This is a major step toward reinventing the way the current system that organs are moved. And I think we help a lot of people this way. It might take a long time, but this is the first step," says Dr. Joseph Scalea, transplant surgeon.

Many times transporting an organ is complicated. It can involve an expensive chartered flight or a commercial flight that runs the risk of being delayed, so doctors say using a drone could make a big difference.

The engineering school is already working on a larger unmanned aircraft which can fly farther and in difficult weather conditions.