In the first-ever advancement in human medicine and aviation technology; a University of Maryland unmanned aircraft has delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC); in Baltimore for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure. This successful demonstration illustrates the potential of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for providing organ deliveries that, in many cases, could be faster, safer, and more widely available than traditional transport methods.
The kidney recipient, a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore; who spent eight years on dialysis before undergoing the transplant procedure, said, “This whole thing is amazing. Years ago; this was not something that you would think about,” she said. For more than 25 years, the University of Maryland Medical Center has provided cutting-edge care in organ transplantation.

State and the nation

Therefore the Transplant Program cares for patients who come from our local community; the state and the nation, many of whom have been turned away at other hospitals; because they have the skill, talent, and knowledge to advance even the most complex transplant cases, often times not just improving but saving lives.” Maryland faculty and researchers believe this prototype organ transport blazes a trail for the use of UAS to expand access to donated organs; improving outcomes for more people in need of organ transplants.

“As a result of the outstanding collaboration among surgeons, engineers, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), organ procurement specialists, pilots, nurses, and, ultimately, the patient, they able to make a pioneering breakthrough in transplantation. Among the many technological firsts of this effort include a specially designed, high-tech apparatus for maintaining and monitoring a viable human organ.

Rotors and multiple powertrains

A custom-built UAS with eight rotors and multiple powertrains to ensure consistently reliable performance; even in the case of a possible component failure; the use of a wireless mesh network to control the UAS, monitor aircraft status, and provide communications for the ground crew at multiple locations; and aircraft operating systems that combined best practices from both UAS and organ transport standards.
The needed unmanned aircraft and operating systems designed by UMD UAS; Test Site engineers to meet the rigid medical, technical, and regulatory demands of carrying a donor organ for human transplantation. “They built in a lot of redundancies because they want to do everything possible to protect the payload;” said Anthony Pucciarella, director of operations at the UMD UAS Test Site.
These safeguards included backup propellers and motors, dual batteries, a backup power distribution board; a parachute recovery system (in case the entire aircraft fails). “This history-making flight not only represents a breakthrough from a technological point of view but provides an exemplary demonstration of how engineering expertise and ingenuity ultimately; serve human needs in this case, the need to improve the reliability and efficiency of organ delivery to hospitals conducting transplant surgery. “As astonishing as this breakthrough is from a pure engineering point of view, there’s a larger purpose at stake. It’s ultimately not about the technology; it’s about enhancing human life.”