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Eileen McClelland

Store Completes One of Country’s First Jewelry Drone Deliveries

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Ever since Tony D’Ortenzio, co-owner of Distinctive Gold in Frankfort, IL, learned about the possibility of drone home delivery, he’s 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?’ It was always in the back of my mind,” Ortenzio says.

Amazon and the Federal Aviation Administration are still ironing out the details involved in a full-scale commercial delivery endeavor, 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.

Ortenzio forged ahead in September with his own plans for local delivery.

Veteran 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.”

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D’Ortenzio had been working with David Ho of Aerial Photo of Illinois to arrange for aerial photography 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 on the anniversary delivery.

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, and keep it away from high-tension wires. 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, assuming his insurance wouldn’t cover a drone delivery, agreed to assume the financial risk of the 18K white gold Concord watch detaching prematurely. Ho assumed responsibility for the drone itself.

The results were even better than expected, D’Ortenzio says. “We had an incredible, non-windy day. Everything that could have fallen into place, did. It was meant to be, I guess.”

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. “Her reaction was priceless. 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.

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D’Ortenzio hopes to try it again soon, both for a secret Santa promotion, and for the ultimate ring delivery as part of a proposal.

Read more about the drone delivery at the Distinctive Gold Jewelry blog.

Eileen McClelland is the Managing Editor of INSTORE. She believes that every jewelry store has the power of cool within them.

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