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
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.