Sure, drones are great for photography, surveillance and maybe even pizza delivery one of these days. Now there’s a life-saving possibility for the unmanned flying vehicles: delivering organs for transplants.
EHang Holdings Limited, a leading aerial technology company based in Guangzhou, China, recently announced that it’s working with Lung Biotechnology of Silver Spring, Maryland, to develop a fleet of drones to automate organ transplant delivery.
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The two companies said they will collaborate for the next 15 years to retool EHang’s 184 model, touted as the world’s first drone for humans, for delivery of manufactured organs for transplant.
Plans call for the development and purchase of up to 1,000 units of an evolved version of the 184, a 5-foot-tall, 500-pound vehicle that EHang debuted at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year in Las Vegas.
Drones that deliver organs could save lives
In a program they’re calling the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system, company officials said the collaboration stands to revolutionize the way organs are transported in the United States.
“We anticipate delivering hundreds of organs a day, which means that the MOTH system will help save not only tens of thousands of lives, but also many millions of gallons of aviation transport gasoline annually,” Martine Rothblatt, Ph.D., chairman and CEO of Lung Biotechnology, said in a press release.
Lung Biotechnology specializes in manufacturing lungs and other organs for transplant using a variety of technologies, including pig-to-human xenotransplantation, as well as regenerating them from stem cells.
It plans to station the MOTH drones outside its organ manufacturing facilities and use preprogrammed flight plans to hospitals so that the organs can be delivered while the tissue remains viable.
Model has a 10-mile range at 65 mph
The 184 is capable of carrying a single passenger approximately 10 miles at speeds up to 65 miles per hour simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app. EHang executives said it’s ideal for a variety of medical emergency transport.
“This is exactly the kind of global impact we envisioned when building the 184,” said Huazhi Hu, CEO of EHang. “Partnering with Martine and Lung Biotechnology is an incredible opportunity to bring the 184 to the emergency medical space, and specifically help to revolutionize the organ delivery system in the U.S.”
Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. MOTH purchases by Lung Biotechnology will be contingent upon Federal Aviation Administration approval of the MOTH drone, as well as approval by the Food and Drug Administration of Lung Biotechnology’s xenotransplantation organ products.