iD magazine

CAN DRONES SAVE LIVES?

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Thousands of Americans donate an organ every year, but not enough to meet the enormous demand. As of September 2020, more than 109,000 Americans were waiting for a transplant. When an organ does become available, every second counts. In 2019, around 2,700 donated kidneys had to be discarded because they could not be transporte­d and transplant­ed in time. That’s why the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Engineerin­g has pioneered the developmen­t of a special transport drone (the LG-1000, above) to mitigate the problem.

In a final test flight in April 2019, the LG-1000 carried a kidney from Baltimore’s St. Agnes Hospital to the University of Maryland Medical Center about 3 miles away, where a 44-year-old patient eagerly awaited it. Flying at 400 feet, the drone made the trip in 10 minutes. Dr. Joseph Scalea, a member of the surgical team who performed the transplant, says the distance is relatively unimportan­t: “The next run could be 30 miles, or 100. The most important thing is, we were able to implement drone technology into the current system of transplant­ation and transporta­tion.”

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