It was the first time ever for a drone to transport a kidney to a patient. It happened in Baltimore, United States, when a drone just as the size of a washing machine transported a harvested human kidney to a nearby hospital where a group of surgeons used it to rescue the life of a critically ill patient.
For a journey of 2.8 miles, it took the drone about 10 minutes to deliver the kidney and it was the first ever to be recorded by man, and likely never going to be the last. This feat has now become a common phenomenon in Rwanda and other parts of Africa.
In the United States, experts are now considering designing special drones that will be specifically meant for delivering delicate medical equipment and materials.
“Organ drones have the potential to improve access to transplant, decrease costs and improve quality,” this is a statement from Joseph R. Scalea, a specialist in organ transplant at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the team lead of the group behind the proof-of-concept flight.
The first ever kidney delivered by a drone was a joint effort between researchers, aviation experts, doctors and engineers from various institutions in Baltimore. It took them about three years to prefect and execute this new feat.
The kidney that was transported by the drone was used to treat a 44 years old man named Trina Glipsy. After spending eight years on dialysis, it was a huge relieve for him and he couldn’t render enough thanks to the brains behind the breakthrough. According to him, “I feel very fortunate, especially after watching so many people pass being on dialysis,” he told New York Times. “I’m seeing a lot of people die and I’m like, ‘It’s taking so long, it might not happen for me either.”
It takes just a few seconds for this to happen
For an effective result, it is expected that organs should be transported as fast as possible from the donor to the patient needing it. Since this may involve transportation from one town to another, a very fast and reliable means is needed to achieve this. The conventional methods used for transportation have been airplanes, helicopters and vehicles, all of which have their own limitations.
“It's pretty expensive to go with charters, it takes a long time if you opt for commercial aircraft and using small aircraft at odd hours is too dangerous to transplant teams,” this is according to Scalea, who was also involved in the kidney transplant that took place at the kidney center. He continued by saying that transportation done by a drone could help reduce delivery time by up to 70 percent.
According to experts, using a drone can make a huge difference.
In a mail sent to NBC News by Robert Graboyes, a senior research fellow at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, he noted that if you have to transport a kidney across a rugged terrain, icy roads, flooded regions or high traffic cities, the quickest, safest and surest way to achieve that would be through the use of a drone.
Not your conventional drone
The kind of drone we are talking about isn’t your conventional kind of drone. Aside having different compartments for holding organs, it carries a 8-rotor sophisticated communication gears, backup batteries and power trains to ensure 99.99 percent safety even if any component fails. What makes this kind of drone stand out is that it also has a parachute. So, in case of any major malfunction, the drone and the life-saving material it’s carrying can land safely.
In a statement by Matthew Scassero, the director of the university’s unmanned aerial vehicle test site in California, Maryland, “We had to create a new system that was still within FAA regulatory standard, and also capable of transporting the additional weight of the organ, cameras and organ tracking, communications and safety systems over an urban, high traffic area.” There is always a huge pressure knowing that there is an individual waiting for that organ, but it is also a special privilege for us to be part of the findings.”
Scassero made a prediction that in a matter of 2 or 3 years from now, some locations would have already employed the use of drones for organ delivery, and within a decade from now, delivering organs by drone would be a regular routine.
But there’s need to clear some obstacles
To achieve this great feat, experts need to tackle some obstacles.
We already have a busy airspace that’s shared between helicopters and airplanes, and adding the regular use of drones to it will make it very competitive. Generally, flight regulation agencies disapprove of flight beyond operator’s line of sight. “This will cause American sky to be too crowded,” according to Graboyes, “and the last thing the drone industry needs is a serious accident.”
To achieve success in this, there must be greater efficiency in communication systems and greater reliability must be assured.
This is something that is very possible in some few years from now. But until it becomes a reality, experts need to work out some advanced strategies to help sort out any impending obstacles.
Presently, more than 113,000 patients need organ transplant. According from a just concluded study, data shows that about 18 people lose the battle every single day while hoping to get a transplant.
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