Drone delivers lifesaving kidney for transplant patient in world first

Drone technology is increasingly proving itself across a variety of industries, including the medical field where the machine’s ability to be quickly deployed and move at speed across urban areas for vital deliveries can be a literal lifesaver.

In what’s believed to be a world first, researchers at the University of Maryland this week announced the successful transportation of a kidney for a woman needing a transplant.

“This whole thing is amazing,” the unnamed patient said. “Years ago, this was not something that you would think about.” Following the successful operation, the 44-year-old Baltimore resident was discharged from hospital on Tuesday.

A video (above) shows the kidney-carrying drone on its journey, which covered a distance of almost three miles.

Faster and safer

Researchers at the University of Maryland Medical Center, where the operation took place, said the demonstration shows the potential of unmanned aircraft systems for providing organ deliveries that, in many cases, can be “faster, safer, and more widely available than traditional transport methods.”

The groundbreaking flight was the result of a collaboration between transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, aviation and engineering experts at the University of Maryland, the University of Maryland Medical Center, and collaborators at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland. Digital Trends reported on the team’s preparation work toward the end of last year.

The setup consists of a custom-built eight-rotor copter with backup propellers and motors and a parachute recovery system in case the aircraft fails mid-flight. It also incorporates a specially designed apparatus capable of maintaining and monitoring a viable human organ during flight.

Highly complex process

The researchers point out how the transportation of delicate human organs is a highly complex process. Using current methods, transporting such a payload usually involves expensive chartered planes or a reliance on commercial flights that can sometimes be delayed, ruining the viability of the organ. And, significantly, existing systems fail to reach “rural or geographically remote areas, which limits access in these areas to both organ donations and organ transplants,” suggesting drone technology has the potential to transform organ transportation on multiple levels once the machines are able to cover greater distances individually or via a delivery network.

Indeed, one of the researchers comments in the video about how the team hopes to build a fixed-wing drone with the same organ-protecting features that’s capable of covering far greater distances, perhaps similar to this machine that’s been delivering blood supplies in Rwanda.

Enhancing human life

“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,” Darryll J. Pines of the A. James Clark School of Engineering and Nariman Farvardin, a professor of aerospace engineering, said in a release.

“As astonishing as this breakthrough is from a purely engineering point of view, there’s a larger purpose at stake. It’s ultimately not about the technology; it’s about enhancing human life.”

Emerging Tech

The rise and reign of Starship, the world’s first robotic delivery provider

Excited about the impending delivery robot revolution? If so, you need to get familiar with Starship Technologies, the company which pioneered the whole thing. Here's what you need to know.
Cars

Cover your risky riding with Voom’s A.I.-driven insurance for e-rides and drones

Voom wants to protect your assets. An outgrowth of drone insurance provider Skywatch, Voom covers user risks for short-term mobility platforms. Without insurance, an hour riding an e-scooter or piloting a drone could end in financial ruin.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Google and Huawei, Alphabet’s meatball drones, and more

On Monday's episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing battle between Google and Huawei, Alphabet’s meatball-delivering drones, Facebook’s secret robot division, deepfake Joe Rogan, and more.
Emerging Tech

Meatballs and pastries offered by Wing’s first European drone delivery service

Alphabet's Wing is getting ready to begin testing its drone delivery technology in Helsinki, Finland. At the start, customers will be able to order a variety of food and drinks, with delivery promised within about 10 minutes.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Huawei updates, Starlink launch, and Pac-Man’s birthday

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss the ongoing Huawei saga, Amazon’s social games for workers, Ford's partnership with a robotics company, the Starlink satellite launch, Pac-Man’s birthday, and more.
Emerging Tech

Las Vegas officials bet big on Elon Musk’s Boring Company

Elon Musk’s Boring Company has just been awarded a $48.6 million contract by Las Vegas to build a high-speed transportation system beneath the city’s enormous convention center, and it could be ready by early 2020.
Emerging Tech

I mainlined a bag of liquid vitamins — for science

Healthy people are signing up for treatments that are typically saved for patients stuck in hospital beds. Known as nutrient IV therapy, the treatment entails pumping vitamins, minerals, and fluids directly into the bloodstream, bypassing…
Emerging Tech

Airbus shows off the futuristic interior of its autonomous flying taxi

Airbus has given us the first look inside its single-seat flying taxi. The absence of controls in the Vahana electric aircraft is a reflection of its autonomous capabilities, so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Emerging Tech

Future smart clothes promise to keep you the perfect temperature at all times

Regulating your body temperature can sometimes be tough. Engineers from UC San Diego have developed heating and cooling wearable tech which could be embedded into future smart clothing.
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 aborts marker drop mission

The Hayabusa 2 spacecraft's mission to drop a reflective marker on the surface of asteroid Ryugu has been aborted. The Japanese team was considering a second touchdown on the asteroid to collect more materials, but this now seems unlikely.
Emerging Tech

Whose name should we etch on the Mars 2020 rover? NASA wants a vote

Dream of making it to Mars? NASA has opened up a new public outreach program to let people send their names to the Red Planet, as an engraving on a silicon chip launched with the Mars 2020 rover.
Emerging Tech

Watch live as SpaceX tries, for the third time, to launch 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX is having another go at launching the first 60 satellites for its ultra-ambitious Starlink internet constellation. Here's how you can tune in live to watch it all go down today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX joins internet-from-space race with launch of 60 Starlink satellites

SpaceX has launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying its first batch of Starlink satellites for its ambitious internet-from-space project. The payload, SpaceX's heaviest to date, successfully deployed an hour after liftoff.
Emerging Tech

What would it take to build a Matrix-level simulation of reality?

What would it take, technologically speaking, to build a real version of the Matrix? We definitely don't have the technical abilities to do that now, but we're rapidly approaching the point that we will. In this article, MIT computer…