Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Chinese company modifies drone for organ transplant deliveries

Steve Rogerson
May 17, 2017
Chinese aerial technology company EHang Holdings is modifying its 184 autonomous aerial vehicle to make it suitable for organ transplant delivery. Working with Lung Biotechnology, it plans over the next fifteen years to optimise the 184 for organ deliveries, a programme it is calling the Manufactured Organ Transport Helicopter (Moth) system.
Maryland, USA, based Lung Biotechnology intends  o purchase up to 1000 of the modified units in a bid to revolutionise the way organs are transported in the USA, with the potential to save tens of thousands of lives.
Lung Biotechnology specialises in manufacturing lungs and other organs for transplant using a variety of technologies, including pig-to-human xenotransplantation, as well as regenerating them from stem cells. It plans to station the Moth rotorcrafts outside its organ manufacturing facilities, and use pre-programmed flight plans to hospitals and re-charging pads within the Moth radius so the manufactured organs can be delivered within their post-production window of viability.
This shift in organ production and delivery has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives. Currently, organ transplants are limited by the number of brain-dead donors, which results in thousands of deaths on organ transplant waiting lists each year. In the case of lung transplants, only about 2000 lung procedures are performed annually, whereas over 200,000 people in the USA die of end-stage lung disease each year.
The prospect of manufactured lungs could eliminate this numerical limit, and delivering them autonomously via the all-electric Moth technology will save the healthcare system many millions of dollars and reduce its carbon footprint.
Moth purchases by Lung Biotechnology will be contingent upon successful development and US Federal Aviation Administration approval of the rotorcraft, as well as approval by the US Food & Drug Administration of Lung Biotechnology's xenotransplantation organ products.
"The well-known locations of transplant hospitals and future organ manufacturing facilities makes the EHang technology ideal for highway-in-the-sky and low-level IFR route programmes," said Martine Rothblatt, 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 184, which is an autonomous drone capable of carrying a passenger more than 16km through the air at speeds up to 100km per hour simply by entering a destination into its accompanying smartphone app, is suitable for a variety of medical emergency transport applications. After several years of development, EHang unveiled the 184 autonomous aerial vehicle at January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
"This is exactly the kind of global impact we envisioned when building the 184," said 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 revolutionise the organ delivery system in the US. 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."
Lung Biotechnology is a public benefit corporation focused on the development and commercialisation of products to enhance organ transplantation. The company is advancing regenerative medicine, xenogenetic and 3D printing technologies for organ manufacturing, as well as operating the first centre in the USA for enabling unusable human donor lungs to be rendered transplantable. The company generates $700m a year from the sales of pharmaceuticals for pulmonary arterial hypertension, a frequent cause of lung transplantation.
EHang is headquartered in Guangzhou, with branch offices in California, Dusseldorf, Beijing and Shanghai. The company makes the Ghostdrone 2.0, which uses proprietary tilt control and the EHang Play app to make drone flight fun and accessible for the masses.
In January 2016, the company set its ambitions one step further and launched the EHang 184 autonomous aerial vehicle, claimed to be the first to offer autonomous human flight over short-to-medium distances.