Amazon has reportedly gutted a huge chunk of its secretive drone delivery project

Amazon drone delivery team jeff bezos 4x3
Amazon chair Jeff Bezos. Amazon; Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • Amazon laid off more than 100 employees at its drone delivery team in the UK, Wired reports.
  • Amazon’s Prime Air team has been working on drone deliveries since 2016.
  • Former Prime Air employees told Wired the division began to fall apart in 2019.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Amazon appears to have decimated its UK-based Prime Air drone delivery team, according to a new report from Wired.

Amazon has laid off more than 100 employees in the Prime Air division, Wired reported. The division’s goal was to make drone deliveries a reality for the tech giant, and Amazon has been testing its Prime Air drones in the UK since 2016.

Wired spoke to former Prime Air employees who said the project was chaotic. Managers who had no technical knowledge about drones were brought in from other parts of Amazon’s business, they said.

Former Prime Air employees told Wired the division began to fall apart in 2019. Staff were constantly leaving, they said. One former employee told Wired they had three different managers over the course of a month.

Amazon told Wired there were still staff working on Prime Air in the UK, but did not provide a headcount.

Insider’s Eugene Kim reported last month that staff were leaving Prime Air at a faster rate than any other division in Amazon.

The Financial Times reported in November 2020 that Prime Air was laying off dozens of R&D and manufacturing staff.

Former employees also told Wired that the company was constantly changing what it wanted from them, and that every few months an unnamed American executive would arrive from Amazon’s head office, buy pizza for the team, then double their workload.

“Everything started collapsing inwards because they [Amazon] piled too much on, they put people in charge who didn’t know anything about the project and they oversold,” one former employee told Wired. “It’s all one gigantic oversell – just so many promises that can’t be kept.”

One employee told Wired they saw a co-worker drinking a can of beer on a Monday morning during a period of low morale.

Staff also told Wired that as the division gradually shrank through short-term contracts and redundancies, employees were told to train their replacements in Costa Rica.

Amazon did not immediately respond when contacted by Insider for comment.

Amazon won approval from the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) to start flying its drones in August 2020. At the time, Amazon Prime Air Vice President David Carbon told Insider this was an important step towards Amazon’s goal of 30-minute drone delivery.

Amazon founder and chair Jeff Bezos said in an interview with CBS in 2013 he thought the company’s drones would be making deliveries by 2018.