World’s First-ever Lung Transplant Delivered by Drone – Why it Matters

A Peek into the Future of Drone Delivery in Healthcare!

Posted by: Nicky Verd Comments: 0

A Canadian hospital recently carried out the world’s first-ever lung transplant where the organ was delivered by a drone. A drone carried a pair of lungs from Toronto Western Hospital to Toronto General Hospital.

This was the first time lungs were transported by drone delivery anywhere in the world. This is the essence of science and technology to mankind. A medical miracle made possible by tech – tech for good!

This is a welcome development. Scientists are working day in and day out to solve some of humanity’s problems. We’re living in interesting time. This is a medical milestone achieved and a peek into the future of drone delivery in healthcare.

Science and technology are moving into a higher dimension whether it’s real-time diagnostics from your smartwatch, digital twins of hospitals and clinics where doctors and clinicians can connect directly to patients or personalised medicine, created for your DNA profile. The future of healthcare is digital and it’s here.

This innovation was created by a team of researchers from Toronto General Hospital Research Institute, Unither Bioelectronics Inc, and Techna, University Health Network, which has demonstrated the feasibility of using drones to carry human organs for transplantation.

Why this Matters.

Once an organ is removed from the human body, it is a race against time. Doctors only have a few hours to transplant it into a new body. If time runs out, the organ could be discarded. 

Although organs have been transported by drone before, lungs and hearts are considered particularly fragile and challenging to transport. 

That’s why this is a critical step towards the future of the way organ transplants take place across the world. This operation demonstrates drones are a practical method for transporting fragile organs from hospital to hospital. 

This is opening the door to increasing the number of organs that can be transplanted successfully and efficiently. 

According to medical practitioners, lung cells start to die within 20 minutes, meaning preservation of the organ for transplant is critical.

Once an organ is ready for transplant, hospitals have to make decisions on a series of transportation options: car or flight to get the organ to the recipient.

Every minute spent transporting the organ increases the chances of transplant complications. Lungs are the most fragile and the most challenging of the major organs.

Delivery by car or plane is a time-consuming and costly process. Without the availability of drones, a private jet must then transport them by air and then by road to a hospital. This is a lengthy process that can be easily delayed by traffic and other logistical issues.

A traffic jam or delayed flight could mean the difference between life and death. But with a drone, this logistical nightmare can disappear in a matter of minutes.

Possible Logistics Issues with Drone Delivery. 

According to experts:

  • Wind can be unpredictable in mountainous areas and around tall buildings.
  • GPS interference along the way is also a possibility.
  • A strong wind can blow the drone off course.
  • The drone can fail mid-flight and crashes to the ground in the middle of a busy city, potentially hurting pedestrians. 

These are possible logistics issues that are taken into consideration with drone delivery. And with that in mind, the developers are keen to build a special navigation system that can’t be easily interfered with. Delivery drones are equipped with a ballistic parachute so that if something goes wrong or an engine failed, the parachute can be remotely deployed, and the organ saved. 

“For example, If the drone dropped too fast, tilted suddenly or loses power, it will cut all the engines and the parachute will fire and the drone will come down to the ground safely.” says Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, the director of the Toronto Lung Transplant Program at University Health Network (UHN)

Hundreds of people around the world are on waiting lists for donor organs, and some may die before they can receive the help they need. A shortage of donors is only part of the problem – many organs go to waste because they can’t be delivered to a compatible recipient in time.

Traffic is one of the many obstacles to getting every healthy organ to a person who will benefit from it. Even with wailing sirens, and flashing lights, ambulances can lose precious time getting between hospitals in a major city. This may soon be a thing of the past thanks to innovations in drone technology.

A New Wave of Drone Delivery in Hospitals 

The efficiency of drone transportation is the reason for a new wave of drone delivery in hospitals. More hospitals are looking to drones for organ delivery. 

I personally experience the delivery of medical supplies by a drone in Rwanda. It was a sight to behold. Drones are transforming blood delivery in Rwanda.

A few years ago, hospitals in Rwanda had a blood delivery problem and the government had to come up with a solution fast. That’s when Zipline came into the picture and it’d been a game changer ever since. 

Today, Zipline has two hubs in Rwanda. Each hub can make up to 500 deliveries per day. Rwanda has a reputation for leaning into high-tech innovations. They have one of the most fully complete electronic data systems in Africa.

As more countries and more hospitals embrace this method of delivery, I believe they’ll slowly extend the distances per delivery, and regulations will be put in place to address any problems that may arise.

Currently, drones are restricted from flying in certain areas and heights. If the established restrictions limit organ delivery, then perhaps new regulations will need to be drafted.  

Eventually, drone delivery will become routine once regulations are in place.

Of course, there are options to use planes, helicopters and cars and vans, but oftentimes there are logistic challenges in using these modes of transport for medical emergencies. Also, it’s costly to use a whole plane or helicopter to transport something that weighs only about two kilograms.

So, using a drone isn’t only cheaper and more efficient but it’s also faster. A drone gets the job done in the faction time and cost. 

I hope more African countries will join the 21st-century gold-like innovations like this one to aid mankind in improving healthcare in Africa, longevity and standard of living.

The tides of technology are turning. Disrupt Yourself Or Be Disrupted otherwise you will be living in a world that no longer exist.

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