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P41-A155 Flying human corneal tissues for transplantation – a transport network connected by drones
  1. Milos Bogovac1,
  2. Salla Sabine2,
  3. Sturm Ann-Kristin3,
  4. Holsten Johanna4,
  5. Moormann Dieter3,
  6. Walter Peter2,
  7. Follmann Andreas1
  1. 1RWTH Aachen University, Department of Anaesthesiology, Germany
  2. 2RWTH Aachen University, Department of Ophthalmology, Germany
  3. 3RWTH Aachen University, Institute of Flight System Dynamics, Germany
  4. 4flyXdrive GmbH, Germany


Purpose Transportation of human corneal tissue for transplantation always needs to be conducted in a timely manner. For this reason, even single corneal tissue samples are frequently transported by cars. This causes higher operational costs, increases the traffic load, and contributes to environmental pollution in general. Because of their small size, it is technically possible to transport corneal tissue transplants by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly referred to as drones. Such way of transportation would be faster, cheaper, environmentally friendly and would reduce the overall traffic load.

Methods We conducted an interdisciplinary workshop as part of a larger project called EULE (European UAV-based solutions for transportation of medical goods), funded by the German Ministry for Digitalization and Traffic (BMDV). Together with the Cornea Bank based at the RWTH University Hospital in Aachen, Germany and several project partners specialized in drone technology and aerial transportation, we identified the specific requirements of such a concept.

Results Typical transport routes have been identified that correspond to the range of the UAV. Initially, the payload area of the intended flight system was too small. As a result, the transport vessel for corneal tissue had to be downsized to be placed horizontally in the payload area. Also, the packaging material needed to be modified for the same reason. In addition, sensors had to be integrated to monitor the conditions during transport.

Conclusion Because of the mentioned modification in the transportation packaging and the lack of clarity on possible side effects of this novel kind of transportation on human corneal tissue, a field study needs to be conducted on corneal samples not intended for transplantation to evaluate the proposed concept. We plan on conducting 20 test flights and compare the condition of corneal tissue samples before and after each flight. Also, paired corneal samples will be transported by a car in a control group. We will begin with the first test flights after acquiring permission to fly on the designated route, expected in first quartal of 2023.

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