Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Using drones to deliver organs for transplantation

29 May 2019

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Ready to launch into the night sky over The University of Maryland, this drone is carrying living cargo – a kidney for a patient in a nearby hospital. While organ transplants often face a race against cold ischaemia time – how long chilled tissue can survive without a blood supply, complicated by courier routes and aircraft schedules – drone delivery may be the answer. The unmanned aircraft has a suite of on-board sensors known as HOMAL, Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Apparatus for Long‐Distance Travel, allowing pilots on the ground to monitor the health of the organ as well as the flying conditions. Biopsies before and after test flights of up to three miles suggest organs remain in perfect health, raising hopes that drones may one day travel much further with their special deliveries.

Written by John Ankers

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