US-based MissionGO, a provider of unmanned aviation solutions, and Nevada Donor Network, an organ procurement organization (OPO) serving the state of Nevada, have announced two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue via a UAS on 17 September.
Longest organ delivery via UAS
The second flight, which delivered a research kidney from an airport to a location outside of a small town in the Las Vegas desert, marked the longest organ delivery flight in UAS history. This flight surpassed the distance of a historic flight in April 2019 when MissionGO team members Anthony Pucciarella and Ryan Henderson, in their roles at the University of Maryland UAS Test Site and in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center, delivered the first kidney by UAS that was then successfully transplanted into a patient.
Anthony Pucciarella, MissionGO President, said: “These flights are an exciting step forward – the research conducted during last week’s test flights are another data point to illustrate that unmanned aircraft are a reliable mode of transportation for life-saving cargo, and that MissionGO’s UAS are safe for both the payload and people on the ground – even at greater distances.
“We are grateful to be testing our technology with our partners at the Nevada Donor Network and look forward to what we can achieve together with more research like this.”
Given that the majority of organs donated in Las Vegas must currently be shipped to recipients in other states due to limited transplant programs available locally, MissionGO’s second flight test underlined an exciting possibility for the future of organ transportation within the Las Vegas region specifically.
A launch into the future of organ transportation
The use of unmanned aircraft in a multimodal transportation chain will reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, reduce carbon footprints by using electric aircraft, and potentially expand organ procurement efficiency, saving more lives. The Nevada aviation research is the beginning of a series of medical and aviation research flights with OPOs in other regions.
“The success of last week’s tests launches us into the future of organ transportation and will enable us to be even more successful in the coming years,” said Joe Ferreira, CEO and President of Nevada Donor Network. “The work we’re doing now to maximize the gift of life and health can only be amplified with the services that MissionGO demonstrated. The future of organ donation and transplantation will be defined by innovation.”
MissionGO has additional flight tests planned for later this year and throughout 2021 with additional OPO innovation partners across the country. In the UK, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency is also investigating the potential for UAS to innovate the search and rescue sector.