Amazon is expanding its development operations in Cambridge, opening another 60,000-square-foot site in addition to its facility at Castle Hill, Tech Crunch reports.
Amazon said the existing Castle Hill facility would be primarily used for drone-related research and development, after the new facility opens this fall. Meanwhile, teams working on projects related to Amazon devices — like the Kindle and Echo — will be moved to the new facility.
Although Amazon has hinted at plans to bring Prime Air to the US, its increased investment in the UK suggests otherwise. Amazon would face significant challenges in bringing its drone delivery program to the US right now. The Prime Air delivery program uses autonomous drones, conflicting with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations that require drones to be within sight of pilots. And even if regulations allowed Amazon to employ a drone program in the US — the FAA currently has a 2018 deadline to authorize commercial drone delivery — the company would face the high costs of enabling its US fulfillment centers for the tech.
Testing these drones in the UK will allow it to develop and scale an effective program that can be quickly built out in the US once the FAA allows for drone delivery, giving Amazon a huge advantage.
The parcel delivery industry — a segment of the shipping sector that deals with the transportation of packages to consumers — is booming thanks to e-commerce growth, and players outside the industry want a piece of the pie.