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Drone Delivery

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THE IDEA

Drone Delivery

Ever since Tony D’Ortenzio, co-owner of Distinctive Gold Jewelry in Frankfort, IL, learned about the possibility of drone home delivery, he dreamed of sending a piece of jewelry skyward from his store en route to the home of a special customer. “As soon as I heard that Amazon wanted to do this, I thought, ‘Why not jewelry?’” D’Ortenzio says.Amazon and the Federal Aviation Administration are still ironing out the details involved in commercial delivery, but in July, the first legal drone delivery on U.S. soil allowed an unmanned aircraft to deliver medical supplies to a free clinic during research flights in West Virginia.
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THE EXECUTION

When Time Flies

D’Ortenzio forged ahead in September 2015 with his own plans for local delivery. Sales associate Lisa Karlstedt suggested trying it out for Rob Jonker, a special tech-friendly customer celebrating an important anniversary. He wanted to surprise his wife, Paula, with a gold watch. The project then became known in the store as “Time Flies.” D’Ortenzio had been working with David Ho of Aerial Photo of Illinois to arrange for aerial photos of his store. Ho has a drone certification issued by the FAA and although he hadn’t tried a delivery before, he agreed to work with D’Ortenzio. There was a lot to consider. D’Ortenzio wanted the watch delivered from the store, and not from a block or two away from the Jonkers’ house. Because they were not using remote GPS delivery, they had to closely follow the drone by car. The drone had only 15 minutes of battery life and a journey of approximately seven minutes. And of course, they had to securely attach the box containing the watch to the drone. D’Ortenzio, figuring his insurance wouldn’t cover a drone delivery, assumed the financial risk of the 18K white gold Concord watch.

THE REWARDS

“It Was Meant to Be!”

Paula, the gift recipient, was amazed and delighted as her neighbors — drawn outside by the distinctive drone hum — gathered around and began filming the event. As Paula looked skyward, the drone began to lower the package to her. When she reached for it, though, Ho added to the drama by lifting the drone and pulling the package just out of reach, making her reach a second time. “We were giggling and laughing and trying to film it,” D’Ortenzio says. “Paula told her husband, ‘This is the craziest thing you’ve ever done.’ We laughed for days afterward.” Before they posted the video on their website, Ho obscured the couple’s house address as well as the route the drone took, for security reasons. D’Ortenzio hopes to try it again soon, for the ultimate ring delivery as part of a proposal.

Do It Yourself: Stay up to Date with FAA Rules

  • Be prepared to assume liability for the merchandise delivered, in case your insurer thinks it’s a stretch.
  • Work with an FAA certified operator and check on current law, which may change this year.
  • According to a December 2015 article on MarketWatch.com, the average drone can hold up to about 2.2- pound packages and transport them about 10 miles, traveling up to 40 mph, based on current technology.
  • When editing the video, if you intend to post it, be sure to obscure the recipient’s home address.
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