Amazon Prime Air drones crash: more than 100 engineers laid off in ‘dysfunctional’ project

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Amazon’s dream seems to be going awry in the UK, where the Amazon Prime Air project has a complicated future. There, there have been more than 100 layoffs and employees talk about how the project was “collapsing internally” and was “dysfunctional”.

Five years ago Amazon was talking about how it was starting trials of drone delivery of parcels in the UK. Things were looking good and Amazon was constantly innovating. It even created a curious self-destruct system to prevent a drone crash from harming civilians.

For some time now, however, news of the revolutionary package delivery message has been on ice. We learned two years ago that Amazon had developed a new version of the company’s courier drone that also relied on its artificial intelligence systems, but since then the project has barely seemed to move forward.

Unnamed employees have confirmed that Amazon has laid off more than 100 of the staff from the Amazon Prime Air project there, but in addition “dozens” of positions have been moved to other projects.

The project began to enter a dangerous phase in late 2019, when employee and management turnover became frequent. Stress and chaos seemed to take over a project that was trying to solve problems with threats in the air (birds and wires) and surface reconnaissance on the ground.

This was compounded by drones that were getting heavier and heavier (about 27 kg) and had to land (or stay very close to the ground) to deposit the package, which made things much more complicated than staying at a certain height and simply “dropping” the packages.

Technical and management problems have led to the project being described as “dysfunctional”. For these employees, the drone courier dream “will never take off”.

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