Chinese drone manufacturer Ehang, making major plays into the market with its transport drone (the Ehang 184), has come up with yet another innovative use for drones. They’ve just announced a fifteen-year agreement with Lung Biotechnology, and will be providing them with drone delivery services for organs that need to be transplanted.
The agreement involves the purchase and use of 1,000 units of the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (MOTH) system, which is basically an upgraded version of the Ehang 184, modified to make organ delivery feasible. Lung Biotechnology currently manufacturers lungs and other organs for transplant using a variety of techniques such as xeno-transplantation (inter-species transplant).
The plan is to station the MOTH units outside its organ manufacturing facilities, with charging pads within the MOTH radius so efficient delivery can be ensured. Flight plans to hospitals and said pads will be pre-programmed.
Currently, organ transplants are limited to the number of donors that are declared brain-dead, resulting in a majority of people on organ transplant lists going without ever receiving a transplant.
To put things into perspective, only about 2,000 people receive new lungs per year in the U.S., whereas over 200,000 die of end-stage lung disease. Manufacturing lungs (and other organs) could eliminate the brain-dead limit, and drone delivery would save millions of dollars, not to mention time. Drones also have an added advantage of a greatly reduced carbon footprint.
“The well-known locations of transplant hospitals and future organ manufacturing facilities makes the Ehang technology ideal for Highway-In-The-Sky (HITS) and Low-Level IFR Route (LLIR) programs,” said Martine Rothblatt (Ph.D.), Chairman and CEO of Lung Biotechnology. “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.”
The purchase of the MOTH units will have to be preceded by approvals from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (for the MOTH aircraft) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (for the manufactured organs).
The aforementioned Ehang 184 is an autonomous transport drone, capable of attaining speeds of up to 65 mph, and travelling up to 10 miles. All this by simply entering a location into the accompanying mobile app.
It was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016, and met with tremendous acclaim. With a few modifications, it is perfectly suited to carry organs for transplant.
“This is exactly the kind of global impact we envisioned when building the 184,” explained 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. It’s also representative of our broader dedication to making the Ehang 184 and its commercial drones readily available to a number of different industries today.”