It seems that drones will not only be taking photos and videos and delivering parcels in the near future ; in a very recent article published by The Engineer, the University of Maryland (UMD) together with the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), developed and custom-built a drone fitted to maintain and monitor a viable human organ.
The drone is prepared as well for any contingencies and is equipped as well with 'back up propellers and motors, dual batteries, a backup power distribution board, and a parachute recovery system. Besides all these, Anthony Pucciarella, director of operations at the UMD UAS Test Site stated that they 'built in several redundancies' since given what they'd be carrying, they wanted to do everything possible to protect it.
The drone, known also as HOMAL which stands for Human Organ Monitoring and Quality Assurance Apparatus for Long-Distance Travel, measures and maintains everything (i.e. GPS location, altitude, barometric pressure, temperature, and vibration) during transport. All of which are transmitted via a wireless mesh network to smartphones of transplant personnel.
In a statement by Matthew Scassero, director of UMD's UAS Test Site, he said "We had to create a new system that was still within the regulatory structure of the FAA, but also capable of carrying the additional weight of the organ, cameras, and organ tracking, communications and safety systems over an urban, densely populated area - for a longer distance and with more endurance. There's a tremendous amount of pressure knowing there's a person waiting for that organ, but it's also a special privilege to be a part of this critical mission."
The group reported that last April 19th, after several test flights, HOMAL flew around one mile to deliver a viable human kidney to a 44-year-old. The patient has been in dialysis for over 8 years; and after a successful transplant, the man was discharged from hospital on April 23rd.
According to project lead and a UMSOM surgeon Joseph Scalea, this is a major breakthrough in the organ donor industry. Dr. Scalea stated that there is still a big difference between the total number of transplantable organs to the number of people who're waiting on the organ transplant list.
With the development of HOMAL, the viability of donated organs will increase by several degrees which could, in turn, make transplants available to a wider pool of people and increase percentages of successful transplant operations.