A local newspaper in Cambridge, England reported on Friday that Amazon is now giving tours of its super secret drone program. The news team got to visit the facility, accompanied by schoolkids:
Amazon has lifted the lid on its top secret laboratory in Cambridge – which has been developing drones to deliver packages to people's homes.
In a world exclusive, the News was given a tour of their workshop today in Castle Park, just off Castle Street, along with eight children from the Year 5 class at Steeple Morden School.
We were shown around the laboratory which has been nestled just a stone's throw from the city centre unbeknown to the general public for several years.
The internet retail giant is developing its Prime Air service, where drones will safely deliver packages to people's homes in under 30 minutes.
Cambridge is home to the largest outdoor testing facility in the UK and is one of a number of testing sites in the country along with laboratories in Austria, Israel and the US.
Kristen Kish, corporate communications for Prime Air, told the News: “We're continuing to do more and more in Cambridgeshire. It's continuing to be an area of significance and importance for Amazon. We want to get the talent and want to encourage science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with students here, it's just so important we're promoting that science.
Amazon is ostensibly developing the drones for use in package delivery, but after three years of watching Amazon show off tech but no actual usable drone, I have come to realize what this program is really for:
It's a PR stunt, which one day may or may not result in a usable product.
I know that runs contrary to the accepted wisdom, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
Tell me, when does Amazon announce a new product or service? Is it shortly before the service goes live, or is it years in advance?
As we can see from Amazon history, the answer is obviously the latter.
Amazon announced the Kindle by buying the cover of Newsweek on the Sunday before the official announcement, and started selling ebooks in the Kindle Store the day of the announcement.
the retailer has followed the same pattern for just about every Amazon product or service you can name, but not the drone program. That was launched in an hour-long commercial, err, 60 Minutes episodes in late 2013.
And what has Amazon to show for their work since then? Aside from lots of press coverage, some really cool videos, and even more press coverage - not too damn much.
They didn't have a field-ready drone when the program was announced, and they still don't have one. Amazon hasn't even announced when they will start delivering by drone, and yet they are still showing off the drone program - it's really cool, after all, and a great way to get press.
Doesn't that make you think that the free press coverage is what Amazon really wanted from the drone program?
I mean, if Amazon wanted a drone then they could have developed it in secret, while also quietly lobbying for new regulations. But what they did instead was make a huge spectacle over a product which didn't work and a service which was years away from being ready.
Doesn't that tell us what their real goal was?