The successful drone flight that made a lung transplant possible

For the first time, a lung transplant has been possible thanks to the collaboration of a drone. It is not the first time that one of these flying vehicles has carried an organ from its origin to its destination, speeding up the process and increasing the chances of survival. However, it is the first time that it has been done with a lung. Has happened in Toronto in a hospital that, in addition, already has experience pioneering issues related to lung transplants.

The whole process took place in the past September 25th. In solo 6 minutes, the lung traveled aboard a drone from the Hospital Occidental de Toronto, where the donor was removed, until the General Hospital from the same city. In the latter, the first lung transplant in the world took place, in 1983, and the first double transplant of the same organ, three years later.

There they waited for the doctor Shaf Keshavjee, who would carry out the operation, and the grateful Alain Hodak, a 63-year-old man whose life now has a second chance thanks to how quickly he could be intervened.

18 months for a 6 minute drone flight

This special drone flight has been possible thanks to the work of Unither Bioelectronics, a company specialized in this type of vehicle, based in Quebec.

Lung transplantation is especially complicated, because the organ needs to maintain oxygenation very well during transport

During 18 months, have been preparing everything to speed up the process of crossing the city loaded with the organ for a lung transplant. They started with the design of the container, a lightweight container of carbon fiber, capable of withstanding the changes in elevation, pressure and vibrations characteristic of this type of flight. In addition, a GPS and a parachute to facilitate the landing.

Once this part was finished, the essays; in which, logically, no organ was traveling.

Finally, when the entire process was optimized, the opportunity arose to bring a donor’s lung to the Hospital General de Toronto. Lung transplantation is one of the most complicated, as it is very important to maintain a good oxygenation in the transport. In fact, it is estimated that for this reason a 80% of those that are donated never get used. So being able to speed up the whole process thanks to a drone seemed like a great idea. And it was more than proven that it is.

The first lung transplant, but not the first transplant

This was the first lung transplant carried out after the transfer of the organ in a drone. However, it had already been done previously with other organs. The first time was in 2019, when a kidney took to the skies of Baltimore aboard one of these unmanned aerial vehicles. Shortly after, the process was repeated with corneas and a pancreas.

In a video posted by Unither Bioelectronics, they end by saying that this is just the beginning. And so it is. The transport has been such a success that they hope that in the future it can be complemented with the transfer of lungs printed in 3D by its sister company, Unither Therapeutics.


Since the first drone flights began, we saw that these vehicles had an immense range of possibilities. Now we know another especially exciting one: carry life.