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Amazon’s drone delivery program yet to take off for multiple reasons

Drone delivery sounds like a brilliant idea because of its potential to save time and human resources. However, as Amazon is finding out, the idea is excellent on pitch decks but hard to materialize.

How do you feel about a drone dropping off your next Amazon order? If you are excited to live in such a world, a Bloomberg report is here to throw cold water on your dreams. The publication reports Amazon is struggling to get the service started.

The drone delivery service, which should bring your order to your doorstep in 30 minutes, was announced by Jeff Bezos, the former CEO of Amazon, in 2013. About 10 years later, online shoppers have not yet started benefiting from it.

Amazon unveiled a newly designed drone in 2019 that could fly vertically and hinted the service could take off the following year, which never happened. However, in 2020, the online retail giant announced it had obtained FAA’s approval to run a drone airline.

One of Amazon’s problems is an unusually high employee turnover rate and safety risks.

Bloomberg report reveals Amazon recorded five crashes in just a four-month period at its testing facility in Pendleton, Oregon. One of the crashes in May, occurred after a drone lost its propeller. However, according to Bloomberg, Amazon disposed of the carcass of the drone before the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could investigate. A spokesperson for Amazon, Av Zammit, does not agree with Bloomberg’s reporting, claiming his company conscientiously followed orders from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to document the accident.

A month after, another drone crashed after switching from an upward flight to flying straight. The drone suffered the failure of two safety features, causing it to drop from a height of 160 ft. The crash caused a brush fire that spread over 25 acres and required the intervention of the local fire department.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s drone delivery program has not been fairing better, even though it made a publicized drone delivery around Cambridge in 2016. Wired reported that the UK effort faced the same issues reported in the US. The unit also experienced staffing issues. One worker reportedly drank beer while working, while another one did not pay attention to whether the footage showed hazards or not.

However, Zammit said to The Verge that the NTSB had not classified any of the incidents as an accident because they didn’t cause injuries or put any structure at risk. “Safety is our top priority. We use a closed, private facility to test our systems up to their limits and beyond. With rigorous testing like this, we expect these types of events to occur, and we apply the learnings from each flight towards improving safety. No one has ever been injured or harmed as a result of these flights, and each test is done in compliance with all applicable regulations.”

Amazon’s employees, both current and former, accused the company of rushing the test program and ignoring safety. A former staffer said he was fired after discussing his safety concerns with his manager last month. He said he was worried about testing a drone that crashed five days previously.

Zammit again denied the accusations. “We take safety reporting seriously — we have a safety reporting system that’s well-known by all our team members, and we encourage them to raise any safety suggestions and concerns. In addition to using this system, we encourage employees to provide any other feedback they may have through their manager, HR, or our leadership team.”

Another former employee alleged a lack of adequate testing equipment and loading down employees with multiple roles. Zammit also denied the allegations.

Written by HackerVibes

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