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The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center (AHMEC) recognized the University of Maryland (UMD) Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Test Site with the 2020 AHMEC Achievement Award. The award recognizes a person or organization that has made a significant impact to furthering vertical flight during the past year.

AHMEC awarded the UAS Test Site and partners for their 2019 efforts in completing the First Successful Transplant Organ Delivery by Drone. The flight—a first-ever advancement in human medicine and aviation technology—delivered a donor kidney to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) in Baltimore for successful transplantation into a patient with kidney failure.

“We’re very honored to be receiving this award, together with our partners at the Living Legacy Foundation and the University of Maryland Medical System” said Matt Scassero, UMD UAS Test Site Director. “Through our combined efforts, we were able to take an important step towards safer, faster, and more efficient delivery of organs for transplant, with the potential to save many lives. It’s an example of what all of us at UMD strive for as an institution, to conduct pioneering research that has a positive impact on people's lives."

For the historic flight, engineers at the Test Site custom-built a multirotor drone with equipped with redundant systems—including a parachute—to protect the organ in case of a technical glitch. A 2018 paper co-authored by Norman Wereley, chair of the UMD aerospace engineering department, provided an initial framework and concept of operations.

“This mission could not have taken place without the work of our colleagues at the UMD aerospace engineering program, particularly Dr. Norman Wereley,” added Scassero. “His rigorous research approach and his understanding of the challenges provided us with the foundation needed to ensure success,”

It is the second time AHMEC has recognized University of Maryland efforts. In 2011, the Department of Aerospace Engineering’s human-powered helicopter, Gamera received the AHMEC Achievement Award.

The award will be presented at AHMEC’s Annual Gala on Saturday, May 2, 2020.



March 12, 2020


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