Amazon is still struggling to get drone deliveries to work

A report from Bloomberg describes the obstacles hindering Amazon’s efforts to get its delivery drone program off the ground, citing a high employee turnover rate and potential security risks.

Corresponding Bloomberg, there were five crashes over the course of four months at the company’s Pendleton, Oregon test facility. However, in May it crashed after a drone lost its propeller Bloomberg says Amazon cleaned up the wreck before the Federal Aviation Administration could investigate. Amazon spokesman Av Zammit denied this, saying that Amazon followed instructions from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to document the event and move the drone.

The following month, a drone’s motor cut out when it switched from an upward trajectory to level flight. Two safety features – one designed to land the drone in such situations and one to stabilize the drone – both failed. As a result, the drone flipped upside down and fell into the air from 160 feet, causing a bushfire that spanned 25 acres. It was later extinguished by the local fire department.

“Instead of a controlled descent to a safe landing, [the drone] fell about 160 feet in an uncontrolled vertical fall and was consumed by fire,” the FAA said in a report on the incident obtained by Bloomberg.

Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos first announced 30-minute drone deliveries In 2013 and almost 10 years later, we still don’t have drones delivering Amazon packages to our doorstep. In 2019, the company gave a preview a redesign of its Prime Air delivery drone That has the ability to fly vertically and hinted at starting drone deliveries later this year – a promise that hasn’t been fulfilled. A year later Amazon announced FAA approval that the company is set to operate as a drone airline in 2020, which Amazon’s Prime Air vice president described as “an important step forward for Prime Air.”

Last year, a Wired report revealed that Amazon’s drone delivery operation is struggling just as much in the UKDespite In 2016, it conducted its first-ever drone delivery near Cambridge. wired The report suggests that the British outfit is being hampered by some of the same issues outlined by Bloomberg, including a high turnover rate and potential security issues. A worker at a UK-based facility that analyzes drone footage of people and animals reportedly drank beer while working Wired said another held down the “Approve” button on his computer, regardless of whether the footage contained hazards or not.

In a statement to The edgeZammit said the NTSB did not classify any of Amazon’s flight tests as accidents because they did not result in injury or compromise structures.

“Safety is our top priority,” said Zammit. “We use a closed, private facility to test our systems to their limits and beyond. With rigorous testing like this, we expect these types of events to happen, and we apply learnings from each flight to improve safety. No one has ever been injured or harmed on these flights and every test is conducted in accordance with all applicable regulations.”

Former and current employees at Amazon also spoke Bloomberg that the company is prioritizing the rushed launch of its drone program over safety. Cheddi Skeete, a former drone project manager at Amazon, said he was fired last month for speaking to his manager about his safety concerns. Skeete tells Bloomberg that he was reluctant to continue testing a drone that had crashed five days earlier, but was told the team had inspected 180 engines on 30 different drones – Skeete doubted this claim as checking engines is a cumbersome process, Bloomberg reports.

“We take safety reporting seriously — we have a safety reporting system that is well known to all of our team members, and we encourage them to raise safety suggestions and concerns,” Zammit said The edge. “In addition to using this system, we encourage employees to provide any other feedback they may have through their manager, Human Resources or our leadership team.”

David Johnson, a former drone flight assistant for Amazon, narrates Bloomberg that Amazon sometimes conducted tests “without a full flight team” and with “inadequate equipment.” Johnson also said the company often assigned multiple roles to one person, an allegation Bloomberg says is confirmed by two other former Amazon employees.

“You’re giving people multiple things to do in a very tight window of time to try and increase their numbers, and people are cutting back,” Johnson said Bloomberg. “They were more concerned about pumping out flights and didn’t want to slow down.”

Zammit denied Johnson’s claims, stating: “Crew members are only assigned one role per flight. Before each flight test, crew members are briefed on their respective roles,” explains Zammit. We do not set deadlines for completing aspects of our flight tests and our team is able to take their time to complete their duties safely.”

Correction April 11th 7:28pm ET: An earlier version of the article described a drone’s descent as “fiery” if it caught fire on landing. We regret the mistake.

Update from April 11th 7:28pm ET: Added additional context on Amazon’s response to a drone crash and added an additional statement from Av Zammit. Amazon is still struggling to get drone deliveries to work

Fry Electronics Team

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