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San Diego Company Looks To Use Drones To Deliver Medication

USOG founder and CEO Pharns Genece, left, talks with SortPak CEO Raymond Shir...

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: USOG founder and CEO Pharns Genece, left, talks with SortPak CEO Raymond Shirvanyan, Jan. 15, 2020.

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Unmanned Systems Operations Group was created by a MiraCosta College student and aims to use drones to deliver medication right to customers' front doors.

Aired: February 12, 2020 | Transcript

A San Diego based company is looking to deliver medication faster and cheaper using drones.

Unmanned Systems Operations Group (USOG) wants to use drones to bring prescriptions right to a customer's front door.

"We’re at the implementation phase," said USOG founder and CEO Pharns Genece. "We have a pilot program starting with SortPak, our first of hopefully many pharmacies in delivering with their patients."

Genece spent 18 years flying medical evacuations in the U.S. Air Force. He knows how important it is to get people their medications quickly, but it was not until a year ago when he took a class at MiraCosta College in Oceanside that the idea came to him.

"During the course of that class they showed us a video of a delivery service of RC (remote control) planes parachuting medication in Africa," Genece said. "I’m like, 'Bingo, game over, we can do that.'"

RELATED: Commercial Drone Testing Coming To San Diego

Reported by Matt Hoffman , Video by Roland Lizarondo

So Genece partnered with two of his instructors and launched the company.

The delivery system works like this: Customers use an app to select a drop off location. A courier then takes their medication and secures it under the drone. Then the drone takes off and is automatically guided to the drop off location, where the package is dropped. Customers will then get a notification on their phone and can view video of the aerial delivery.

The drones the company is using now can carry up to 12 pounds, and fly all sorts of medication.

"We can go from Tylenol to some medications (that) run up to $40,000," Genece said. "We have ability and we have climate-controlled containers for insulin which has to be refrigerated... Take antivenom from one hospital to another hospital instead of transferring the patient and it’s faster, quicker and cheaper."

The company has partnered with SortPak, a full-service pharmacy serving customers all across the country.

"We want to be at the forefront of the future and we see it could really help a lot of people out too," said SortPak CEO Raymond Shirvanyan. "We do have patients that they don’t have loved ones that can go out and pick up medication — they live in areas where it’s really hard for cars to get out there."

Soon SortPak customers will be receiving their deliveries from the drones as part of a pilot program.

"We’ve asked them, 'How do you feel about this?'" Shirvanyan said. "They were amazed. They were surprised. (They asked,)'How would a drone deliver my medications?'"

USOG co-founder Mark Cosco said there are some limitations with the drone delivery system — bad weather or rain could cancel flights.

"There’s definitely going to be conditions — there’s conditions with commercial aircraft which are pretty rugged — don’t fly through, helicopters won’t fly and there’s a level that we won’t be able to fly through if the weather gets too bad," Cosco said.

Cosco said automated technology will be a key part of the company's success. The drone can drop off packages within inches of a designated location.

"It knows where we start, knows where it’s going to go and it will plan to best route making sure that it avoids no-fly zones that the FAA has designated like schools, hospitals or stadiums," he said.

Right now the company is putting its software and drones through tests. USOG knows it has competition from larger companies in the drone delivery space. USOG test flights delivering medication will soon be happening just north of San Diego in Riverside county.

Listen to this story by Matt Hoffman.

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Matt Hoffman
General Assignment Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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