MissionGO and Nevada Donor Network announced two successful test flights carrying a human organ and tissue via an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) on Sept. 17.
The first flight transported research corneas from Southern Hills Hospital and Medical Center to Dignity Health - St. Rose Dominican, San Martín Campus. This flight successfully demonstrates the viability, value, efficiency gains, and delivery speed of lifesaving medical supplies and organs via UAS within an urban environment.
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.
“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,” said Anthony Pucciarella, MissionGO President. “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. The use of unmanned aircraft in a multimodal transportation chain will reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, reduce the carbon footprint 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.”
In addition to proving the capabilities of UAS, these tests emphasized the feasibility of a touchless solution, reducing the number of handoffs by transporting the human organ directly between hospitals through the air, in lieu of ground-based couriers.
While MissionGO is focused on unmanned aircraft operations, its sister company MediGO is focused on improving organ transplant logistics across all modes of transportation. MediGO’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Scalea will analyze the kidney and corneas to study the transplant tissue architecture and cell viability before and after these flights. This analysis aims to clarify the effects that unmanned aircraft may have on human tissue and to confirm that organ transportation via UAS can be performed safely.
MissionGO has additional flight tests planned for later this year and throughout 2021 with additional OPO innovation partners across the country.