Amazon has laid off dozens of R&D and manufacturing personnel working on the long-awaited Amazon Prime Air drone parcel delivery project.
According to reports, the e-commerce giant is turning to outside help to fulfill its deeply belated ambitions.
In recent weeks, the company reached initial deals with two outside companies to manufacture component parts for its long-awaited drone, which it has billed as a future way of delivering smaller Amazon packages.
The full terms of the agreements with Austrian FACC Aerospace and Spain’s Aernnova Aerospace are still being finalized.
The Amazon Prime Air project was first unveiled by the Amazon founder in 2013, but drone deliveries are still years away for the company.
This contrasts with comments by Jeff Wilke, Head of Worldwide Consumer at Amazon, who told the Las Vegas public last year: Shipments via Amazon Prime Air are imminent.
“We expect to expand Amazon Prime Air both quickly and efficiently, and deliver packages via unmanned aircraft to customers within months.
An Amazon spokeswoman confirmed the layoffs, describing them as part of a transition for the unit, which earlier this year won US regulatory approval to start limited testing.
“As part of our regular business operations, we are reorganizing the Amazon Prime Air project team in order to allow us to better align with the needs of our customers and businesses,” said Kristen Kish, a spokeswoman for the company.
Amazon has not disclosed how many employees are now working on the drone project, and the company’s general employment site lists 57 jobs available within Amazon Prime Air, most of which are related to programs and systems.
The Amazon Prime Air project – different from Amazon Air cargo company – uses a fully electric hexagonal drone that can fly up to 15 miles and carry parcels weighing less than 2.5kg.
Amazon is lagging behind in what is now a very competitive field, as rival Walmart is set to begin experimenting with deliveries with its drone company Zipline.
Amazon aims to land its drone near a customer’s home, presenting clear safety concerns.