Amazon is sacking dozens of staff in its drone delivery unit and the retailer is still “years away” from bringing autonomous drone deliveries to the masses.
According to a new report from the Financial Times, Amazon’s highly anticipated Prime Air unit could be much further away than the company makes out.
The ecommerce giant has laid off dozens of research and development and manufacturing staff working on its drone delivery project, according to sources close to the matter.
Instead it is turning to third party companies including Austrian firm FACC Aerospace and Spain’s Aernnove Aerospace to drive development forward.
It is understood that Amazon is finalising deals with these two companies, while even more could be onboarded after the retailer issued a “request for proposal” to a number of companies.
Drone delivery has been touted as the next major step in last mile rapid delivery and Amazon has invested heavily to ensure it is a front-runner in the developing field.
Its head of worldwide consumer Jeff Wilke said last year that Amazon’s drone delivery programme would be ready to roll out the “within months”, however sources suggested a mainstream roll out could be “years away”.
Amazon spokeswoman Kristen Kish told the Financial Times it was “reorganising one small team within our larger Prime Air organisation to allow us to best align with the needs of our customers and the business”.
“For affected employees, we are working to find roles in the areas where we are hiring that best match their experience and needs,” she added.
In September Amazon was granted federal approval to begin testing commercial drone flights capable of delivering packages in under 30 minutes.
It is now one of just three companies to receive such approval from the FAA, which technically designates Amazon as an “air carrier”.
Amazon’s vice president David Carbon said at the time: “This certification is an important step forward for Prime Air and indicates the FAA’s confidence in Amazon’s operating and safety procedures for an autonomous drone delivery service that will one day deliver packages to our customers around the world”.