October 19, 2021

Drone Makes History with Organ Transplant Delivery

A humble aerial drone recently made history by transporting donor lungs from one Canadian medical centre to another – and all within six minutes.

The flight took place in the early hours of Saturday, 25 September, starting at Toronto Western Hospital and landing at Toronto General Hospital, where the elderly Alain Hodak awaited the critical organs.

Coincidentally, the latter institution was the site of two significant operations: the first lung transplant in 1983, and the first double lung transplant in 1986.

Dr Shaf Keshavjee, the surgeon-in-chief who awaited the precious cargo for the 63-year-old engineer, said: “To see it come over the tall buildings was a very exciting moment. I certainly did breathe a sigh of relief, when it landed and I was able to … see that everything was okay.”

The delivery marked a major step forward in organ transportation, especially in built-up city areas where traffic congestion can mean life or death. Drone deliveries are quickly becoming a popular and efficient means of getting urgent medical supplies to where they are needed.

In May 2019, an unmanned drone delivered crucial blood transfusion supplies to a rural area in Rwanda, making the 50-kilometre journey from Muhanga to Kinzani. What would have taken an hour, was delivered in less than 14 minutes.