The Amazon drone delivery program is falling apart before ever taking off. Wired refers to a report into the UK operation that says the drone delivery program is slowly collapsing inward and more than 100 employees have been fired.
Amazon drone delivery program is falling apart before ever taking off
The Amazon Prime Air drone delivery unit in the UK is labeled ‘one gigantic oversell’ according to the report. Apart from the more than 100 employees that have been fired, parts of the UK drone delivery operation are shuttered. Insiders say that the future of Amazon Prime Air in the UK, which was launched in 2016 to kickstart Amazon’s global drone delivery operations, is unclear.
“Everything started collapsing inwards because they [Amazon] piled too much on, they put people in charge who didn’t know anything about the project and they oversold. It’s all one gigantic oversell – just so many promises that can’t be kept,” one former employee says, according to Wired.
Former employees of the UK drone delivery operation who wish to remain anonymous described the unit as “collapsing inwards”, “dysfunctional” and resembled “organized chaos”, run by managers that were “detached from reality” in the years building up to the mass redundancies, Wired reports.
Apparently, things got so bad that managers who were supposed to lead the project couldn’t even answer basic questions about the drone delivery operations. One morning, an employee was seen drinking beer at their desk, and another one had locked his approval key on the keyboard so that all photos used by Amazon’s AI system to identify humans and other obstacles would be automatically approved.
“It was a Monday and it was about 11 am or 12 pm and this guy just had this open can of Stella,” explains one former employee. “He took it out of a fridge and popped it open at his desk.”
In 2016 the Amazon Prime Air operations in the UK were launched with a lot of fanfare with managers claiming that drone deliveries would take place within a few years. Approvals for drone delivery test flights were fast-tracked by UK regulators, which also helped pave the way for regulatory approval elsewhere. Last year, Amazon’s executive Jeff Wilke said that Amazon’s delivery drones would become a reality within months. However, based on this latest information of more than 100 employees having been fired and the UK data analysis team being made redundant, Wilke’s promise has failed to materialize.
Will we ever see the Amazon drone delivery program take off?
A spokesperson for Amazon said that the company will still have a Prime Air presence in the UK, but declined to explain what kind of operations would take place. Citing security reasons, the spokesperson refused to confirm if any drone delivery test flights would still take place in the UK. For a number of the employees that were made redundant, other positions within Amazon had been found, the spokesperson said, however, no specific numbers were made available.
Starting in 2019, amid a constant reshuffling of workers and managers, the first cracks in Amazon’s drone delivery operations in the UK began to show.
“There was a point when they did bring in four or five new managers [into my team] all at once,” one former employee told Wired. “And a lot of managers were leaving quite quickly, often within a year of joining Prime Air.”
Reportedly, the entire human and animals data analysis team in the UK consisting of dozens of employees was closed in February 2020 only to be reopened again three months later.
“It was definitely very dysfunctional and there was definitely a lot of disorganization,” according to a former employee. “There was a lot of decision-making made in the moment without long-term thought to it. It was almost slinging shit at the wall and hoping stuff would stick.” Another former employee says it felt like the project was in a constant state of “organized chaos”.
Last year, Amazon announced that it would start testing with drone deliveries in the US within months, but as of yet we still have not seen that happen. So, it remains unclear when we will see Jeff Bezos’ vision of routine drone deliveries to consumers become a reality. At this point, it seems years and not months away.
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.
Stay in touch!
Submit tips If you have information or tips that you would like to share with us, feel free to submit them here. Support DroneXL.co: You can support DroneXL.co by using these links when you make your next drone purchase: Adorama, Amazon, B&H, BestBuy, eBay, DJI, Parrot, and Yuneec. We make a small commission when you do so at no additional expense to you. Thank you for helping DroneXL grow! FTC: DroneXL.co uses affiliate links that generate income. * We do not sell, share, rent out or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.