Amazon’s drone project is experiencing turbulence

Amazon’s UK-based drone unit is seeing layoffs and the project is broadly struggling to take off.


August 5, 2021

Ah, delivery drones — simultaneously terrifying and potentially quite helpful.

Amazon, long a promoter of its own efforts in the space, now appears to have committed a cardinal sin of business: overpromise and under-deliver.

After years talking up drones, Amazon’s are nowhere to be found

In 2015, Amazon launched a PR campaign with this cool video.

  • It also offered tours of its secret drone lab, and its executives promised delivery drones just months away.

But a new report from Wired found that 100+ Amazonians in the company’s UK-based drone unit have lost their jobs, and the project is broadly struggling to take off.

Anonymous Amazonians described the program as “collapsing inwards,” “dysfunctional,” “organised chaos,” and “detached from reality.” (Ouch.)

The root of the problem: Management

Leaders appointed to the project were reportedly logistics and warehouse ops folks, and not experts in scalable machine-learning drone delivery networks.

  • A UK team member said the unit reported to a US-based Amazon exec who would occasionally visit, buy them pizza, and then ask them to 2x their output at work.

That whole situation sounds rough. But hey, at least there was pizza.

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