The lungs were airlifted from Toronto Western Hospital to Toronto General Hospital, where the shipment was received by Dr. Shaf Keshavjee, chief surgeon of the University of Canada Health Network, around 1 am. He needed the lungs for a transplant that he was performing earlier that day on an engineer who would soon become the first transplant patient to receive his “new” lungs by drone.
Although the circumstances of the trip were urgent, the trip itself took 18 months to complete. Organs have been shipped by drones before, but the lungs are particularly sensitive to environmental changes during transport, and most donated lungs are rendered unusable by insufficient oxygenation. To make the trip worthwhile, Unither Bioélectronique engineers had to design a lightweight carbon fiber shipping container that could withstand vibrations and in-flight changes in elevation and barometric pressure. Preparation included practice flights and drop tests using simulation lung packs. The drone and its container counterpart were equipped with a parachute and an advanced GPS system, as the drone would fly through the air without a crew.
“This innovation in organ transport has the potential to significantly increase the efficiency of transfer between donors and recipients, especially in congested urban areas,” says Unither Bioélectronique about the journey in his website. “Through this project, we have established an important springboard for organ delivery in the future that will ultimately open the door for the large-scale adoption of larger, fully autonomous, electrically powered and environmentally friendly drones. environment. . . for transplants across transcontinental distances “.
Every minute counts when it comes to organ transport. An organ must be meticulously preserved (usually on ice, in combination with other special solutions) from the moment it is removed from the donor until the moment it reaches the surgeon, who will use it for transplantation. Human lungs and hearts generally only last four to six hours in transit, while livers and kidneys can last up to a few days. This often makes ground transportation impractical, and commercial airline travel is also not preferred, given that a surprising number of human organs have disappeared. missing in transit using this method. (That’s quite disturbing – Ed) Meanwhile, drone flights like this have shown that transportation is possible in a matter of minutes. For organs with smaller windows of viability, drones can continue to rise to lifesaver status.