Drone Delivery: Amazon Air Can’t Take Off

Well it looks like Amazon is able to send their founder, Jeff Bezos, to space, but when it comes to utilising the rest of the sky, it seems that they can’t quite make the rest of the sky their own. For what has been a long-held promise of innovation from the delivery goods giant, Amazon has hoped to be a contender in drone delivery with their branch of the company, Amazon Prime Air.

However, it’s since been announced that the corporation has had to axe over 100 employees from this arm of the company, relocating many job roles back into the main body of the company.

‘Insiders claim the future of the UK operation, which launched in 2016 to help pioneer Amazon’s global drone delivery efforts, is now uncertain,’ the report states.

An Amazon prime air drone in flight with a delivery. Presents the idea Amazon are failing to develop on their drone services.

Anonymous sources within the British Prime Air office have been quoted as saying that the operation [at Prime Air] was ‘collapsing inwards,’ ‘dysfunctional’ and represented ‘organized chaos’ with managers in the division described as ‘detached from reality.’

‘Cracks first began to show in the Prime Air project in late 2019 [with] managers being appointed who knew so little about the project they couldn’t answer basic work questions, an employee drinking beer at their desk in the morning and some staff being forced to train their replacements in Costa Rica.’

While Amazon states the UK office is still functioning, it refused to release the number of current employees on the drone-delivery project. Where once there was easy to access footage through the company’s Youtube channel, now all relevant videos to the project have been removed. A spokesperson also refused to confirm, citing security reasons, if any of the test flights that once filled promotional videos will still take place in the UK.

In 2015, Amazon were granted ‘experimental airworthiness certificates’ from the FAA for operations in the states, which allows Amazon to fly unmanned aircraft for crew training and development. Going on to win further approvals in 2019 for research and development, it seemed like nothing could stop Amazon from being the clear frontrunner in this new wave of product delivery.

However, other delivery giants like DHL and UPS are already making strides with functional operation methodology and aircraft, and while this might not affect how things are done here in the UK right now, we’ve seen innovation close to home from Manna with their incredibly effective food delivery system that has been up and running since the first initial outbreak of Covid throughout the Republic of Ireland.

Amazon Prime Delivery

Just like these companies though, Amazon were looking to create their own delivery method system, something that seems to have brought the company to a grinding halt. Rather than using a payload deployment method or a parachute, Amazon were hoping to invent a way where the automated aircraft could land safely and leave the package at an individual’s house, something that seemed to be a significantly challenging task both from a technological and an engineering standpoint.

While it’s unclear and hasn’t been confirmed whether all of this will result in continued redundancies and role reshuffling, it could mean that future global Prime Air projects could potentially mean further outsourcing. Obviously, this will impact any drone delivery aspirations the company have, so much so, that insiders have said ‘When I was there Prime Air was already years from being a thing,’ explains one of the former employees. ‘But it’s never going to get off the ground.’

Liarne Fox

February 01

An airborne drone during a GVC transition training course.

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