Being a mainstay for Amazon for the foreseeable future, the company’s drone delivery service could be at risk – at least in its UK operations. A report published by Wired showed that the British division of the company is characterized by chaos and mismanagement, which is slowly destroying plans for the flying devices.
According to the report, at least 100 Amazon Prime Air employees have lost their jobs and dozens are being transferred to other projects within the company. The operation was launched in 2016 as a pioneering drone delivery initiative, and the operation set up in the country has an uncertain future, say sources heard by the site.
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Officials involved in the project, who were heard anonymously by Wired, claimed that it was being “destroyed from within” and that it was running “out of touch with reality”. Among the problems identified were managers who could barely answer basic questions about the initiative, employees who drank beer in their offices in the morning, and the fact that part of the team had to travel to Costa Rica to train their replacements.
A spokesperson for the company said Prime Air would continue to have a presence in the UK after the layoffs, but did not say how that would happen. The company also wouldn’t confirm whether it would conduct new test flights, nor how it would compete with names like Wing and UPS, which have carved a niche in the delivery race, especially when it comes to receiving regulatory approvals for flying in the United States. States.
The problems go back to 2019
According to the report, the first cracks in Prime Air’s operations began to appear at the end of 2019. The time was marked by the relocation of teams and managers, which affected the performance and morale of teams primarily dedicated to analyzing potential obstacles that could affect the flight of drones: people, animals, things and animals.
The local team has also been working on 3D mapping systems that help devices navigate the environment and distinguish between lawns, pools, and other objects and surfaces. “There was a point where they brought in four or five new managers at once,” said one former employee. “And a lot of managers were leaving quickly, often just a year after joining Prime Air.”
Changes in personnel have been accompanied by continuous changes in guidelines. In one typical case, the engineering team was instructed not to identify the objects that were behind the windows – and shortly thereafter, they were instructed to do the exact opposite. Also made difficult by the team’s work was the fact that the only staff contact with the center in the United States was an executive who was on site only once or twice a year.
In 2020, the animal and human data analysis department was completely shut down in the UK, leading to the dismissal and transfer of dozens of employees. Three months later, it reopened and another three months passed before it was fully restored, in a move many considered disconcerting.
“There were a lot of decisions made at the time without a lot of long-term thinking behind them. It was like throwing shit at the wall and waiting for something,” said one former employee. For many team members, the feeling was that Prime Air was working at A continuous environment of “organized chaos”.
Team morale took another hit when management admitted that it could not deliver on promises of permanent jobs for data analysts hired on a temporary basis. This led to some employees starting to drink during working hours, while others began to automatically approve all analyzed photos, whether or not they were of dangerous objects.
Everything started to fall apart from the inside because they piled up too many things, put in charge who didn’t know anything about the project, and sold too many promises. Another respondent said: It was all a massively overrated promise – too many promises that can’t be kept.
According to Andreas Raptopoulos, CEO of drone company Matternet, Amazon’s promises that delivery by flying devices takes months are false. “Can we cross the next bridge for massive e-commerce delivery? I see that happening in the second half of the decade — 2027 or 2028,” he told Wired. When people say five years or so, they mean ‘I’m not sure, but not now.’
The report states that during 2020 and 2021, many Amazon Prime Air employees in the UK had their contracts terminated or laid off by the airline. While the organization still claims to be dedicated to making drone delivery a reality – which includes recently obtaining a license for testing in the US – many are beginning to doubt it will be able to do so.
The view shares many of the former employees the report consulted, who say the service was still years away from becoming a thing when they were fired. With the recent layoffs and restructuring announced by the company, the feeling remains that the initiative may never end with leaving Earth, no matter how excited the initial one may be.
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