A study on Amazon's drone delivery effort in the UK says the initiative is "one huge oversell"

According to a new Wired article, Amazon's drone delivery program in the UK has lost over 100 staff members, with sources claiming that the project is "collapsing inwards." Wired outlines a culture of leadership dysfunction and overwork based on evidence from former employees. Amazon reportedly shut down a team of dozens in the UK dedicated to studying drone video to identify persons and animals in February 2020, only to reopen the section months later.

Other incidents in the study include senior staff turnover, a morning employee sipping beer at their desk, and another “pinning down the ‘approve' button on their computer so that all the frames of film were being approved regardless of whether there were threats in them or not.” “Everything started imploding inwards because they [Amazon] heaped too much on, they placed individuals in charge who didn't know anything about the project, and they oversold,” one former employee told Wired. "It's all a big oversell, with a lot of promises that can't be kept.”

Amazon confirmed to Wired that the business will keep a Prime Air presence in the UK, but did not specify the present or future headcount. It's unclear whether the problems mentioned in Wired's article apply to Amazon's whole drone delivery program, which was initially announced in 2013. Clearly, the firm exaggerated the simplicity with which it might implement the technology, saying in June 2019 that it would begin a delivery service in "the next months." Amazon received FAA clearance to transport goods in the US in August of last year, which it identified as a major stumbling block, but has yet to provide a timeframe for when this will happen.

In 2016, Amazon said that it completed its first actual drone delivery in Cambridge, England, establishing the UK as a major market for its technology. However, this was a publicity stunt involving a pre-arranged order, and Amazon has never offered commercial delivery in the United Kingdom.

Although Wired's article focuses on Amazon's UK operation, several of the issues raised in the piece appear to have ramifications for Amazon's broader drone aspirations. Among them is the company's ambition to land its drones to carry items, a procedure that necessitates extra caution. Rivals like Google-owned Wing, on the other hand, deliver items without ever touching the ground. Amazon is just one of the many companies trying to make delivery through drones happen such as UPS, DHL, and the above-mentioned Google-owned Wing. This particular concept gained momentum in 2013 however none of the above companies have been yet able to make the concept into a fully working thing that's ready for real life use.

When approached by The Verge for a response, an Amazon spokeswoman stated the firm "recently implemented organizational changes in our Prime Air business" and that the company was able to "find employment for affected workers in other areas where we were hiring." “Prime Air continues to have workers in the UK and will continue to expand its footprint in the region,” the spokesman said.