Even if Jeff Bezos hits the ground after his recent space flight, Amazon’s drone delivery efforts in the British Isles could go on their own.
Wired reports that Amazon Prime Air, the retail giant’s drone delivery arm, is laying off more than 100 employees in the UK and filling dozens of jobs.
“Insiders claim the future of the UK operation, which was launched in 2016 to help Amazon’s global drone delivery drive, is now uncertain,” the report said.
Anonymous sources within Prime Air’s UK office told Wired that the operation there “collapsed inward”, was “dysfunctional” and was “organized chaos” with managers in the department described as “detached from reality” .
While Amazon claims the UK office is still functioning, it refused to release the number of current employees on the drone delivery project.
Insiders tell Wired that Amazon Prime Air’s UK office has navigated troubled skies for the past few years:
“In the Prime Air project, cracks appeared for the first time at the end of 2019 [with] Managers were hired who knew so little about the project that they could not answer basic work questions, an employee who drank beer at his desk in the morning and some employees were forced to train their representatives in Costa Rica. “
Fight against overcrowded airspace for drone deliveries
Once considered the heir to the throne in drone delivery, Amazon has faced stiff competition for the past five years as big hitters like Walmart, Google’s Wing, and UPS have launched high-profile attempts at drone delivery.
In 2015, the FAA Amazon issued the company’s logistics department an experimental certificate of airworthiness. The certificate enabled Amazon to fly drones for crew development and training. The retailer first applied in July of that year after announcing its plans to enter the UAV delivery business in 2013.
In 2019 UPS received the first full “Part 135 Standard” certification from the FAA – the Alphabet spin-off Wing Aviation LLC (Wing) received a Part 135 Single Pilot Air Carrier Certificate for drone operations in April 2019. Wing and UPS Flight Forward received certification as part of the FH Integration Pilot Program (IPP). Also in 2019, Prime Air received approval to fly R&D missions in authorized flight areas.
Unsafe US skies?
It is unclear how Amazon’s UK redeployment will affect drone delivery efforts in the U.S. Last year, the FAA gave the OK for Amazon to operate its fleet of Prime Air delivery drones.
“This certification is an important step for Prime Air and shows the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world,” said David Carbon. VP of Amazon Prime Air at the time. “We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace and work closely with the FAA and other regulatory agencies around the world to achieve our vision of 30-minute delivery.”
Jason is a longtime DroneLife employee with a passionate interest in anything technology related. He focuses on anti-drone technologies and the public safety sector; Police, fire brigade, search and rescue services.
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