Amazon has reportedly laid off dozens of employees working on its drone delivery programme as it looks to third-party firms to help kickstart its eagerly-awaited project.
Staff in research and development and manufacturing have been made redundant after Amazon reached preliminary deals with two external companies to build component parts of its drones.
Final terms of the agreements with Austria’s FACC Aerospace and Spain’s Aernnova Aerospace are still being finalised, while additional deals could be reached soon, the Financial Times reported.
“As part of our regular business operations, we are reorganizing one small team within our larger Prime Air organization to allow us to best align with the needs of our customers and the business,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
“For affected employees, we are working to find roles in the areas where we are hiring that best match their experience and needs.”
Amazon’s drone programme, first unveiled by boss Jeff Bezos in 2013, has been slated as the future of the ecommerce giant’s delivery method for smaller packages.
Last year Jeff Wilke, the company’s worldwide consumer chief, said the service would launch “within months”, but it is still yet to materialise.
Over the last year Amazon has invited proposals from a number of drone companies as it looks to accelerate its highly-anticipated project.
Both FACC and Aernnova specialise in the design and development of aircraft components, and count Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier among their clients.
According to plans unveiled last year, Amazon’s Prime Air service will offer fully electric drones that can fly up to 15 miles per hour and deliver packages weighing less that five pounds (2.3kg) in under half an hour.
The service has been trumpeted as an efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional delivery methods, but it faces a number of challenges, including navigating telephone and electrical wires at low altitude.