As with the Internet 20 years ago and smartphones a decade ago, today there is a technology that is monopolizing many projects in different fields. Drones are no longer to fire missiles from another continent, they are to play, to transport organs and medical supplies more efficiently and quickly, to make the taxis of the near future fly. And it is not surprising that companies like Amazon want to incorporate them into their fleets.
Amazon delivery drones: the Prime Air project
That instead of a postal operator, Seur, UPS or other parcel agency a drone comes and leaves you what you have asked at home, it is emerging as a direct, fast and automated method. And in fact we have been talking about Prime Air, the delivery system with drones that Amazon prepares. But based on new data, either that project will take longer to be profiled or it could directly be canceled / archived.
In 2016, in a public relations campaign about Prime Air’s operations in the UK, Amazon executives claimed that drones would deliver packages in a few years. In fact, the company itself offered tours of its secret drone lab to local schools, opened a huge new office in Cambridge, and posted a series of promotional videos of the flights that received millions of visits.
UK regulators also accelerated approval of drone tests, making the country an ideal test bed for drone flights and paving the way for Amazon to gain regulatory approval elsewhere. We are in 2021, 5 years and a pandemic later, and nothing on the horizon.
A “dysfunctional” project
The prestigious medium Wired has published a report in which he holds that mhen more than 100 Amazon Prime Air employees have lost their jobs and dozens of other roles are moving to other overseas projects, as the company closes part of its operation in the United Kingdom. Insiders say the future of the UK operation is now uncertain.
People who worked on the UK team in recent years and who have spoken to Wired on condition of anonymity describe a project that was “collapsing inward “, “dysfunctional” and that it resembled a “organized chaos”, run by managers who were “far from reality “ in the years before the mass layoffs.
Company employees told WIRED the increase in problems within Prime Air in recent years, including “the appointment of managers who knew so little about the project that they couldn’t answer basic job questions, an employee who drank beer at his desk in the morning and some employees who were forced to train their substitutes in Costa Rica ”.
Chaos in your organization
According to internal sources, the Prime Air project started having serious problems at the end of 2019, in the midst of a constant remodeling of workers and managers. At that time, the drone team was segmented into three divisions that analyzed the images in search of different threats: humans and animals, other artificial objects in the sky and 3D mapping, which helped the drones to distinguish between a lawn and, for example, a swimming pool.
According to what Wired argues, “Frequent hires, mostly through temp agencies, strengthened the data analytics team, which made up a large part of Prime Air’s UK operations in Cambridge. The department was tasked with manually reviewing the test flight footage and identifying relevant threats or objects – essentially using machine learning to train Amazon’s drones. “
In those last months of 2019, former workers affirm that there was an almost constant turnover, from entry-level employees to managers. A former employee described having three different managers in the space of a month, as staff and senior team members were reorganized or moved out of the Prime Air project.
A drone that won’t take off
At the moment it is difficult to know what will happen to a project as ambitious as Prime Air, and all this is internal sources. According to a representative of Amazon itself, Prime Air will continue to have a presence in the UK after cuts, but he refuses to reveal what kind of work will be done. The spokesperson also declined to confirm it, citing security reasons,
But experts are more negative, doubting that Amazon will realize its dreams of drone delivery. “When I was there, Prime Air was years away from being a thing”, explains one of the former employees. “But it’s never going to take off”.
It is clear that the delivery with drones will be something that will end up materializing in the medium – long term in our society, but will Amazon be the pioneer in this field?