Why Amazon Is Closing Its Delivery with Drones

Unfortunately, Amazon is closing its British project for the delivery of goods by drones — the company is massively laying off and transferring employees. Everything was ruined by bad managers who knew nothing about Prime Air and did not know how to work with technicians. As a result, we were left without another promising delivery drones. This longrid contains the history of the project and the key mistakes that led to its closure. For example, the same managers, disconnected from reality, organized chaos in the team and constant layoffs.
Written on the basis of a new article from Wired.
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Layoffs and disruption in the team
More than 100 Amazon Prime Air employees have lost their jobs, and dozens of other workers are being transferred to projects abroad, because the company is closing part of its activities in the UK. The future of the British project now remains uncertain. It was launched in 2016 with the aim of helping Amazon in the field of global drone delivery.
Amazon Prime Air employees who have worked there in recent years anonymously admit that it was “collapsing from the inside”, was “dysfunctional” and even ” organized chaos — – recently it was managed by managers “disconnected from reality”.
The problems in Prime Air only grew. For example, the assigned managers knew very little about the project and could not even answer basic work questions. Amazon still has employees at Prime Air in the UK, but the corporation does not name their number.
Unfulfilled promises
Five years ago, Amazon executives said that drones would deliver packages in the next few years. The company offered local schools tours of its secret drone laboratory, opened a new large office in Cambridge and released many promotional videos about drone flights — they have collected millions of views . UK regulators have even accelerated the issuance of permits for testing drones, which has made the country an ideal test site for flying quadrocopters.
But over the years, tours have stopped, commercials have not been released, and, except for occasional promises from executives, such as that drones for delivery will be available “within a few months,” the company’s PR campaign has stopped. Despite the fact that Amazon was one of the first major companies to show interest in drones, it was overtaken by Alphabet-owned Wing and UPS . Now, half a decade after the first test flights were conducted in the UK, the entire British group is being reduced.
An Amazon spokesperson says that after the cuts, Prime Air will still operate in the UK, but does not disclose what exactly they will work on. It is not known whether new test flights will be conducted in the UK. He adds that the company has found positions in other areas of its business for some of the affected employees. It is not disclosed how many employees have received new jobs in the company.
All the work of the team is data analysis
The first cracks in Prime Air began to appear at the end of 2019 against the background of constant changes in employees and managers. Then the team was divided into three departments, which analyzed the material captured on drones for various threats: people, animals and artificial objects in the sky. Three-dimensional maps were created, with the help of which drones recognized objects.
Frequent hiring, mainly through agencies, strengthened the data analysis team, which made up a significant part at Prime Air in Cambridge. The department was tasked with manually viewing the records of test flights and identifying the corresponding threats or objects on them. Basically, they trained neural networks in drones for object recognition.
Managers left and came
More and more senior managers, such as Tom Denleg-Maxwell, who worked on the project from the very beginning, also left.
Another employee compares that managers left like rats from a sinking ship.
Former employees also say that many of the appointed employees were long-time Amazon managers who specialized in logistics or warehouse operations — they had almost no knowledge of the technical aspects of the work performed within the project. And the interviewed employees also said that they have never turned to managers for help with technical problems, because they do not know how to help them.
Engineers ‘ attempts to do something unprecedented
While all this was happening, the engineers were trying to do something unprecedented. While other drone companies drop packages from a height of several meters or even higher using parachutes, Amazon engineers were thinking about how to get drones to land outside of homes and place packages there.
Creating such a system was a complex engineering task.
Parameter changes without explanation
Soon, Prime Air faced new problems — no longer technical. The project parameters were regularly changed without any explanation. For example, the management wants to identify people standing outside the windows on drone footage, but not. Another manager from another country asked to double the workload of employees without any explanations and answers to questions.
Loss of jobs
In February 2020, the entire British data analysis group, which employed dozens of people, was closed, and its staff was transferred to other teams. Three months later, the group reopened.
At the same time, Amazon began to change its work structure and processes. Many lost their jobs because they were on unreliable contracts. This undermined the already undermined morale of the team.
An Amazon spokesperson said that safety is a top priority for the drone project and that it has strict procedures for checking the work of employees. In any cases of violation of discipline, immediate measures are taken.
The future of the project
There is a chance that Amazon will start new test flights in the United States, because some restrictions for drones have been lifted there. But it is not yet clear how the test flights in the United States will differ from the British ones.
During the remainder of 2020 and 2021, most employees were laid off or laid off. After many years of devastation, some insiders doubt whether Amazon will ever be able to realize its dreams of drone delivery.

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