Drone technology has been advancing quickly in recent years, but advocates are still figuring out how to make the best use of unmanned aircraft when it comes to delivering cargo.
That picture got a little bit clearer last month when an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) developer in Minnesota successfully used a drone to transport a human pancreas, generating real-time location data on the precious cargo throughout its journey.
The test flight was conducted by Minneapolis-based UAS developer MissionGO in collaboration with LifeSource, an organ procurement organization serving the Upper Midwest, and Mercy Hospital, a health-care facility located in the Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids. MissionGO tracked the delivery with its MediGO hardware and software platform, as the aircraft took off from the hospital, flew a 10-mile circuit over the Mississippi River, then returned to its starting point. Biopsies performed by LifeSource on the pancreas before and after the flight showed the UAS journey had no negative effects on the organ, the partners said.
The flight followed similar tests in which MissionGO’s UAS vehicles carried a kidney for transplant and corneas for research, demonstrating that swift air transport can help transplant groups deliver organs in time to save lives, the company says.
As for what’s next, MissionGO reports that recent regulatory changes have positioned it to begin practicing organ delivery in more real-world cases, both from donor to transplant hospital and from donor to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for transport to other parts of the country.