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Unique Partnership Could Save Lives

In May of 2021, LifeSource partnered with Mercy Hospital and MissionGO, a transportation logistics company to create an innovative solution to some of the challenges in organ transportation.

This MissionGo test flight used a MG Velos-100 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to transport a research pancreas just over 10 miles. By utilizing UAS in the organ transport chain, Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) and health systems can reduce the time between organ donation and transplantation, improve efficiencies in the health network and ultimately save more lives.

The goals of the pancreas test flight were to:

  • Test the viability of carrying a human pancreas on an unmanned aircraft system.
  • Demonstrate distance, endurance, safety and reliability of the UAS in Minnesota.
  • Prove the organs sustained viability. The team conducted an analysis and biopsy of the research pancreas before and after the flight. The analysis measured the extrinsic forces place upon the organ and determined the organ was still viable post-flight.

Why Are These Flights Significant

In transplantation, once an organ is out of the body, the clock starts. There is a race against time to get the organ transplanted as soon as possible, and as safely as possible. As a result of these test flights, we demonstrated that UAS can safely deliver organs with improved speed and efficiency in urban environments and over long distances. We believe that UAS delivery is the future of organ transportation.

UAS Delivery

Several major corporations are also currently implementing drones for delivery. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently granted Amazon permission to begin Prime drone deliveries, while Walmart is experimenting with delivering groceries and COVID-19 tests by drone. All of these initiatives will help to advance the industry and make UAS delivery a reality. MissionGo is focused on life-saving cargo. This work, in collaboration with the organ procurement organizations across the country, can make a real difference for the 110,000 people on the national transplant wait list.

Pancreas Flight Details

  • Cargo Weight: 10 pounds
  • Aircraft Weight: 54 pounds
  • Endurance: 23 minutes
  • Flight Speed: 35 MPH
  • Flight Path: Mercy Hospital, down the Mississippi River, then back to Mercy Hospital
  • Flight Distance: 10.44 miles