Golden Hour Award for team using drone to deliver life-saving kidney

The University of team that used a drone to deliver a life-saving kidney received the Golden Hour Award from the Helicopter Association International. The organ was delivered to save the life of a 44-year-old nursing assistant, Trina Glipsy.

Golden Hour Award for team using drone to deliver life-saving kidney

The University of Maryland team used a drone to deliver a life-saving kidney from the Living Legacy Foundation to the University of Maryland Medical Center on the night of April 19, 2019.

Trina Glipsy had been in her eighth year of dialysis for kidney failure and understood that her odds were shrinking.

Normally the organ would have been delivered by car, a 4.7-mile trip that would take about 20 minutes. However, the team proposed to deliver the kidney by drone and Glipsy agreed to this novel delivery method.

The drone delivery marked a historic event as that night, Glispy became the first recipient of an organ transplant that arrived via an unmanned aircraft.

The Helicopter Association International awarded the unmanned aircraft system (UAS) team of the University of Maryland the Golden Hour Award for their efforts.

Director Matt Scassero and University of Maryland Medical Center's Dr. Joseph Scalea led the University of Maryland UAS test site team.

Golden Hour Award For Team Using Drone To Deliver Life-Saving Kidney
Dr. Joseph Scalea, left, of the University of Maryland Medical Center, and Maryland UAS Test Site Director Matt Scassero and the drone that delivered a kidney to Trina Glipsy in 2019. (Photo: Helicopter Association International)

The Golden Hour Award recognizes the efforts of an individual, group, or organization that, through a particular activity or contributions over time, has advanced the use of helicopters or UAS aircraft in the vital mission of air medical transport.

The life-saving kidney was transported by drone over 2.8 miles at an altitude of 300 feet. The drone delivery took place in 9.52 minutes.

The idea to use drones to deliver organs stemmed from earlier in 2019 when Scalea approached Scassero with the idea.

The delivery drone was built from scratch by Scassero's team and includes a number of redundancies, including a parachute system that will bring the aircraft safely to the ground in case of a malfunction.

During the drone delivery flight, the kidney is monitored by a special system that tracks temperature, pressure, and vibrations that could affect the viability of the organ. This information is made available through the cloud and also stored on an SD card to be reviewed by the medical staff.

“Nothing like this had ever been developed before,” Scassero said in a press release announcing the award. “Currently, an organ is tested after harvest and then tested again after arrival to ensure it is still viable. With our monitoring system, we discovered the kidney we flew remained well within the parameters, I'd even say better than it would have in a car or helicopter. The hope is one day this monitoring technology will replace the need for that second biopsy.”

You can read more news stories about how drone are being used for good here.

Golden Hour Award For Team Using Drone To Deliver Life-Saving Kidney 1

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Haye Kesteloo
Haye Kesteloo

Haye Kesteloo is the Editor in Chief and Founder of, where he covers all drone-related news, DJI rumors and writes drone reviews, and, for all news related to electric vehicles. He is also a co-host of the PiXL Drone Show on YouTube and other podcast platforms. Haye can be reached at haye @ or @hayekesteloo.

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