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A new Voice of America (VOA) Russia Service video features the University of Maryland’s transplant organ flight, which was recently named Invention of the Year at the 2019 Baltimore Technical.ly Awards.

The April 19 flight, which successfully delivered a kidney for transplant to a waiting recipient, came about through a partnership among the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS), the Living Legacy Foundation, the UMD Department of Aerospace Engineering, and the UMD Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site.

“It’s a demonstration of how a group of dedicated, mission-focused partners can collaborate to advance human and societal good,” said Matt Scassero, director of the UAS Test Site.

UMD alumnus Luan Duong (’13), project engineer at the Test Site, led the design and construction of customized drone to transport the organ. The idea was the brainchild of Dr. Joseph Scalea, a multi-organ transplant surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS). Having long witnessed the troubles plaguing conventional delivery methods—including delays that can render a transplant organ non-viable—he became convinced that unmanned aircraft could, in the future, provide a better alternative.

Dr. Norman Wereley, chair of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering, agreed—and set to work fleshing out the concept. A 2018 paper by Wereley demonstrated the feasibility of organ delivery by drone; it was now up to the UMD UAS Test Site to make it happen. Months of design, construction, and rigorous testing ultimately resulted in a vehicle and operational plan capable of transporting its life-saving cargo safely, swiftly, and reliably. The plans came to fruition on the successful inaugural flight.

Alexey Gorbachev of VOA Russia Service came to the Maryland Robotics Center’s Do Good Robotics Symposium Oct. 3–4 to film interviews with Scassero and others. Video of the life-saving flight was provided to the VOA by the A. James Clark School of Engineering.

The video originally appeared on the VOA’s Russian Service channel for a segment of its technology-oriented “Details” show. It was subsequently translated to English and now also appears on VOA’s Central News Service page.



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November 8, 2019


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