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Sun, Nov 20, 2022

Pioneering Human Organ Transport Via UAS

The Speed of Life

A group of three organ procurement organizations—San Antonio’s Texas Organ Sharing Alliance (TOSA), Houston’s LifeGift, and Oklahoma City’s LifeShare—have teamed with the Matador Unmanned Aerial System Consortium to test the viability of transporting human organs and blood between Lubbock, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio via unmanned aerial system (UAS).

The test took place on 15 November 2022, with the UAS flight departing Lubbock’s Texas Tech University Reese Technology Center, proceeding a distance of 304-nautical-miles to Oklahoma City, then traveling 409-nautical-miles to San Antonio. The exercise occasioned the first instance in which donated organs were transported such a distance by an autonomous aerial system.

The Optionally Piloted Aircraft (OPA) transported a donated human liver, kidney, and pancreas between the three cities. Notwithstanding the FAA mandated presence of a human pilot aboard the aircraft, the mission was flown exclusively by a suite of onboard technologies. The organs, donated for clinical research, were not transplanted following the flight demonstration.

TOSA, LifeGift, and LifeShare collectively posit that autonomous UAS technology stands to better serve patients by improving the transport of donated organs and tissues in rural areas. To that end, the three organizations’ share the following objectives:

  • Address transportation challenges, thereby minimizing the time between organ recovery and transplantation.
  • Test the efficacy of transporting organs and biological materials from hospitals in rural areas to transplant programs via Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS).
  • Increase the efficiency of the logistics by which blood and biological materials are tested prior to the recovery and allocation of donated organs.
  • Drive innovation and technology.

Texas Organ Sharing Alliance president and CEO Joseph Nespral states: “Uncrewed Aerial System transportation is a technological breakthrough that could improve organ recovery, allocation, and transportation to ensure patients, especially in rural areas of South Texas, receive the precious Gift of life. Our partnership with LifeGift, LifeShare, and the Matador UAS Consortium aligns with our mission and core values to use research and innovation to drive performance improvements in the donation system and save more lives through organ transplantation.”

Texas Organ Sharing Alliance, LifeGift, and LifeShare are nonprofit organ procurement organizations (OPOs) committed to saving lives by providing organ donation and recovery services and caring for families touched by donation.



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