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Drone Delivers Kidney to a Transplant Patient for the Very First Time Ever

On April 19, for the first time ever, a drone has delivered a kidney to a transplant patient. It took around 10 minutes and the distance was 2.7 mile. It was carried away from Baltimore’s St. Agnes Hospital to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), and successfully transplanted a few hours after the delivery.

Organ transplantation is no longer uncommon to us. It is often the only treatment for end state organ failure, such as liver and heart failure. Although end stage renal disease patients can be treated through other renal replacement therapies. kidney transplantation is generally accepted as the best treatment both for quality of life and cost effectiveness. This transplantation is by far the most frequently carried out transplantation globally.

The procurement of organs for transplantation involves the removal of organs from the bodies of deceased persons. This removal must follow legal requirements, including the definition of death and consent. Kidney donation by well selected living donors with good health coverage carries negligible risks.

Transporting organs for organ transplantation is a very important step. A number of donated organs for transplantation are wasted due to the poor human organ transport system. Many of them were unusable because it took too long to transport them.

A little delay in organ arrival will make the things complicated and even can take the transplant patients life. Traffic jam is what we can not avoid in the roads and which is very much unpredictable.

Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, Md, Asst. Professor of Surgery in University of Maryland School of Medicine, Transplant Surgeon in University of Maryland Medical Center; Image Source:

The project was created by Dr. Joseph R. Scalea, who also did the transplant procedure.

This major advance in human medicine and transplantation exemplifies two key components of our mission – innovation and collaboration.

E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine, according to a report.

According to that report, It was a collaboration between transplant physicians and researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) in Baltimore; aviation and engineering experts at the University of Maryland (UMD); the University of Maryland Medical Center; and collaborators at the Living Legacy Foundation of Maryland (The LLF).

The drone after landing at University of Maryland (UMD) medical center with the transplant organ; Image source:

Drone was not an ordinary one. It a custom-built model with eight rotors to ensure stability. The university created it in a special manner so that it is able to measure and maintain temperature, barometric pressure, altitude, vibration, and location. To ensure that the organ was kept in the best possible condition during the flight, to eliminate the chances of organ damage. So flying an organ by drone also offers certain advantages, like the ability to constantly monitor critical temperatures and other criteria.

We can monitor in real time. It’s like Uber for organs.

Dr. Scalea, the founder of a private data analytics company, Transplant Logistics and Informatics

This new technology has the potential to help widen the donor organ pool and access to transplantation, he added.

The drone monitoring system; Image Source:

The patient, Trina Glispy, was a 44-year nursing assistant from Baltimore who had spent eight years on dialysis before the procedure. She was starting to lose hope that a suitable donor organ would ever be found.

This whole thing is amazing. Years ago, this was not something that you would think about.

Trina Glispy

According to a report, She had discovered her kidneys were failing back in 2011, when a patient kicked her at work and her leg swelled dramatically. She started on dialysis three times a week, for four hours each time. It became hard to do the physical labor required at her job at a Veterans Affairs hospital, which she had loved.

Kidney transplant was the last hope for her. So she was thrilled and relieved when she got the call and got to know about the organ supply via drone. The next day’s surgery went smoothly, and 11 days later, she was discharged.

The patient, Trina Glispy, who was lucky enough to survive her kidney transplantation process; Image Source:

Despite of inventing these new technologies, there is still a wide gap between the number of recipients on transplant waiting lists and the number of available organs.

In 2018 there were nearly 114,000 people on waiting lists for an organ transplant; about 1.5 percent of deceased donor organ shipments did not make it to the intended destination; and nearly four percent of organ shipments had an unanticipated delay of two or more hours. This drone delivery may at least help to minimize the waste of available organs due to traffic delay. It will also minimize the need for multiple pilots and flight time and address safety issues. 

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