Organ transplants

When Drones Deliver Human Organs

Imagine skies filled with drones carrying kidneys and livers, on their way to save the lives of people awaiting transplants. The future is here!


Drones aren't just good for speedy package delivery and aerial photography anymore. Last week, the unmanned aviation company MissionGO and an organ procurement group, the Nevada Donor Network, announced the completion of two organ and tissue delivery test flights. The achievement might make organ delivery to U.S. hospitals faster and easier.

The first MissionGO drone transported corneas from Southern Hills Hospital in Las Vegas to San Martin Hospital (also in Las Vegas). The second transported a kidney from an airport to a small Nevada desert town, the longest organ delivery drone flight ever.

This technology will be a boon to transplant patients, especially during the pandemic. In the past, donor organs have been transported mostly via commercial flights; now that these flights have been cut back due to plummeting demand, there's a risk that some organs will take too long to reach their destination. (Organs are generally only good for 36 to 48 hours after harvesting.)

Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, an August 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that the U.S. discards more than 3,000 kidney donations annually. Drones could play a major part in reducing such waste by reducing the travel time between donor and ultimate destination. The technology has already played a major role in getting personal protective equipment and other medical supplies to hospitals that urgently need them during the pandemic.

Another way to solve shortages—other than by reducing waste of viable organs—would be to compensate organ donors the same way we do with plasma (and surrogate wombs, semen, and eggs). But in the absence of the political will to take that up, reducing waste of already-scarce organs via more efficient delivery technology is surely a step in the right direction.

Maybe someday the skies will be full of lifesaving kidneys, livers, hearts, and corneas traveling cheaply by drone. A libertarian can dream.

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  1. >>CNN: Libertarians advocate harvesting organs from poor, undocumented Americans!

    1. For a mutually agreed upon price.

      1. 2 year student visa = 10 gallons of blood
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    3. Why? I already payed top prices for my collection of tissue matched orphans.

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    1. I’ve got your kidney. Have you seen my HelloFresh meal delivery?

      1. Stolen off your porch by a poor, undocumented immigrant.

        1. Look up. The sky is literally blacked out with all the drones delivering new sex organs, livers, kidneys, and brains.

  2. This is how it starts. Next we have autonomous drones, randomly stealing kidneys from unsuspecting life forms without their consent.

  3. How far are we away from the drones removing human organs?

    “I went to sleep with my sex-bot and woke up in a tub full of ice”

    1. We’ve already got surgical robots. Once they develop sentience, they’ll realize they can do things on their own, turn on their surgeon masters, and bill the patient directly.

      1. Robo-billing Medicare is already a thing, but robo-billing the patient? Ouch!

  4. Libertarians dream about flying organs. Sheesh you guys have lost it.

    1. I dream of flying drones delivering functional brains both to Der TrumpfenFuhrer AND to Der BidenFuhrer! Only Jo has a functioning brain, but brainless voters refuse to “waste their votes” because of all the OTHER voters who refuse to “waste their votes”!!!

      Giant herds of sheeple run amok!

    2. And flying burritos, brother.

      And donor organs are already delivered by aircraft, genius.

      1. >> flying burritos, brother

        I was at a Crowes show maybe 2008 and they covered Hot Burrito #2 it was fucking beautiful.

        1. They don’t write stuff like they used to.

      2. with autopilot, no doubt

          1. Julie Hagerty nsfw?

    3. Suck it, luddite.

  5. I don’t want no imported organ. Buy local!

    1. Oh, I don’t know. Free-range, organic kidney sounds kind of nice, delivered farm-to-(operating) table.

      1. I’d want mine GMO certified, so I’d develop super powers.

  6. Imagine kidney-drone piracy.

    1. Be on the watch for Somalian drones.

  7. I saw a really interesting documentary about this, I think it was called Terminator: Salvation.

  8. All snark aside, this actually makes more sense than drone-delivering your Amazon order.

  9. When Drones Deliver Human Organs

    Sounds like a Chinese police state wet dream.

  10. One interesting innovation is drones to move casualties in battlefield situations. Israel has developed and tested one.

    1. At some point, we’re just talking about pilot-less aircraft. Helicopters have been instrumental and were a major innovation in getting wounded soldiers out of the battlefield. Before helicopters, the only way to get a wounded soldier out was to carry him out. A drone large enough to carry a wounded soldier is… going to be far more limited than a helicopter.

      To wit, from your article:

      It then delivered that cargo load to a ground team. That team then loaded on a medical training manikin to simulate a casualty (rather than a wounded or injured patient).

      Other than the unloading of cargo and loading one of the training manikin, the entire simulated mission was performed autonomously.

      Patients who use the Cormorant to be transported to safety would be linked to a remote monitoring system. This would give ground medical teams the ability to see vital signs and talk to patients over two-way monitoring.

      There’s something to loading a wounded soldier into a medivac helicopter with trained EMT personnel… inside the helicopter. They can monitor the patient and even work on him or her in real time. Imagine a battlefield situation where the patient may not be conscious, or may need further stabilization after being loaded aboard. You’re going to to hook what up to the patient to have him or her monitored ‘remotely’? What if you’re under fire and you don’t have time to hook all the gear up to the patient? What if the patient has wounds which preclude or make the monitoring equipment impossible to utilize?

      Sure, maybe this technology can take lightly wounded people out of the field who are medically stable and the LZ is safe where trained personnel can carefully load the lone patient, hook them up to the gear etc. It should certainly be an option, but it’s not going to revolutionize anything about battlefield recovery of wounded people.

      1. Helicopters medevac had a high casualty rate in Vietnam. Don’t know what it is these days. Also there are situations where you just could not get a dust off in there. It does not take much to take one out. There are also only so many of them.

        A drone has the potential to respond more quickly with a better chance of survival. If the casualty could be stabilized on the ground and get to the evac area in minutes it could be helpful in certain circumstances. The “golden hour” right?

        It is only theoretical at this point but an interesting idea.

        My dad was a medevac and combat surgeon in Vietnam. He talked about it sometimes.

        1. plus no risk to the helicopter evac crew.
          look up “Roy Benavidez” for a real Medal of Honor story. volunteered to rescue a squad of Green Berets, got shot down on the first attempt. held off the enemy until the second copter arrived. jwounded 37 times. had to spit blood at the coroner so they knew he was still alive.

  11. All I want is a burrito delivered by drone. No need to up the ante just yet.

    1. A big plus is that drones don’t sample the nacho chip side orders before delivery.

      1. I don’t understand the broad adoption of DoorDash. I wouldn’t trust any self-employed schlub to deliver my food. I’ll wait for the robots.

        1. I mean, it’s no different from your local pizza delivery kid really. The kid at the local fast food joint is just as likely to spit in your liter of cola.

  12. And when the drones start harvesting the fresh organs just in time for the transplant operations, things will be even more efficient!

  13. Practice social distance and stay home
    According to the American Transplant Foundation, there are 114,000 people in need of organ transplants in the U.S., and only 30% will receive their life-saving surgery this year. Unfortunately, 20 people will die each day as their time passes by, making the number of annual deaths greater than 40,000. This is not from a lack of available donated organs, but mainly from cumbersome and complex transportation systems. Supporting research has been building from the transplant world itself.

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  15. “In the past, donor organs have been transported mostly via commercial flights; now that these flights have been cut back due to plummeting demand, there’s a risk that some organs will take too long to reach their destination. (Organs are generally only good for 36 to 48 hours after harvesting.)”

    But to do this, you’d need a drone that flies at pretty much the same speed as an airliner. Not sure a drone that can fly 500+ MPH and still have VTOL capability is in the cards right now, at least not at affordable prices.

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