A kidney needed for transplantation has been delivered by a drone for the first time ever, the University of Maryland Medical Centre in the United States said. This is a development that could herald faster and safer organ transport in the near future.

The specially-designed high-tech drone was fitted with equipment to monitor the kidney along its 3 mile (4.8km) journey to its recipient: a 44-year-old woman from Baltimore who had spent eight years on dialysis before the procedure.

The drone, which required a special clearance from aviation regulators, took off at 1am on Apr 19, 2019, and flew at a height of 400ft (122m) for about ten minutes before touching down at its destination.

Dr Joseph Scalea, who was among the team of surgeons that performed the transplantation, hailed the project’s success and said drone deliveries could help overcome delays that destroy an organ’s viability.

“The next run could be over 30 miles (48km), or 100 (161km). The distance is relatively unimportant,” he said. “The most important part is that we were able to implement drone technology into the current system of transplantation and transportation.”

Current transport methods involve expensive chartered flights, or even variable commercial flights, occasionally resulting in delays and costing typically around US$5,000 (RM20,682).

According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, there were nearly 114.000 people on waiting lists for an organ transplant in the US in 2018.

About 1.5% of deceased donor organ shipments did not make it to their intended destination, while nearly 4% of organ shipments had an unanticipated delay of two or more hours.

Dr Scalea, who has founded a company that manages data for organ shipments, likened the system to an Uber-like service that would prove eventually prove less costly. – AFP Relaxnews