Few technologies are as versatile as drones. These small flying objects, remotely controlled or automated, are broadly employed by various industries, such as home-building, cinema, oil and gas, and also help mapping for agribusiness and in rescue efforts in regions struck by tragedies. Recently, retail giants such as Amazon tested product delivery systems by using drones, and even pizza shops resorted to this technology for delivery.
In April 2019, a brand-new use was assigned to drones: organ transportation for a transplant. According to the MIT Technology Review, a publication of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this took place in Baltimore, in Maryland, northeast region of the United States. The organ, a kidney, flew 4.8 km boarding an eight-rotor device that took off from a regional hospital to the University of Maryland Medical Center, a state reference in transplants.
Everything was set up so as to preserve the tissue for as long as possible. A proprietary container was built by university specialists to protect the organ against vibrations and jolts of a typical flight, and to keep proper temperature and pressure inside. The organ recipient, a 44-year-old woman, underwent surgery, was discharged, and today she lives with the airborne kidney.
Although this is the first time that a transplant organ flew by drone, it’s not the first time the health and medical sector resorts to such technology. Ghana, an East African country, has the world’s largest medical drone delivery network. According to news agency EFE, since early 2019, 120 devices from the company Zipline have been serving about 12 million people who live in remote or inaccessible regions.
Vaccines, medicines and blood bags for transfusion are some of the items delivered by the flying fleet, which serves two thousand facilities scattered across the country of about 25 million inhabitants. In Rwanda, also in Africa, a similar system has been in place since 2016, and it totals over 13 thousand deliveries, one third of them for patients in emergency situations.
Content published in May 27, 2019