Amazon suspends Lockeford operation

We do feel for Amazon and its seemingly never-ending woes when it comes to the Prime Air side of its business, which is dedicated to package delivery by drone.

Especially at this time when Zipline has announced surpassing one million commercial deliveries by drone yesterday.

After crashing out of one misfortune and into another, we thought the company caught a break when it launched drone delivery operation in the small community of Lockeford in California last year.

But we have since learned that conventional transport deliveries will be making a return to the area, as the delivery by drone pilot will be shuttered; as of Monday, April 22 this year.

The Prime Air location in Lockeford, a rural community within San Joaquin County, was one of the two Amazon drone delivery sites in the entire world. It took about a decade to get the project up and running.

Sadly, the trillion-dollar online retail conglomerate announced that announced on Monday that it had suspended its drone delivery operations in the California Central Valley community of Lockeford.

“As we look to the future and prioritise our resources to continue growing the program, we’ve also made the decision to close our delivery site in Lockeford,” the company said in a blog post.

“We’ll offer all current employees opportunities at other sites, and will continue to serve customers in Lockeford with other delivery methods.

“We want to thank the community for all their support and feedback over the past few years. We’ll continue delivering in College Station, Texas, and will open further U.S. locations in 2025.”

The development seems to have residents and officials in the community by surprise, because they had welcomed the familiar noise in the sky as part of their daily lives.

“I would just be walking along and I’d hear this buzzing and I’d go ‘What is that, ” said Tim Haystee, who lives in Lockeford.

“I’d look off into the distance and I go, ‘There’s that drone.’”

Tim and his wife Kathy had their daughter sign up for the Prime Air service for them and they liked it. They would order all sorts of deliverables, as long as they weighed under five pounds and were not breakable.

“We were pretty proud of Lockeford being one of the first test towns to try out the drones,” Tim said.

But Amazon cited no reason for this sad development.

The company just sent an email to its Prime Air customers thanking them for their support but confirming it is closing drone delivery operations in Lockeford as of April 22.

In a statement to CBS, Patti Setson, chair of the Lockeford Municipal Advisory Council, said they were going to miss Prime Air in Lockeford

“As a local Lockeford resident, I will miss seeing the drones operated and hearing the buzz overhead,” said Setson.

“I want to thank Amazon for investing in and giving a small community like Lockeford the opportunity to play a role in this innovation and expansion of their services.

“It means so much to small communities like ours to know that there is place for us in the 21st century economy. Amazon did a great job of investing in our local community in ways big and small. We will miss them as a good neighbour in our community and hope for opportunities like this in the future.”

So it looks like it will be back to delivery trucks for Lockeford; however, the company will be persevering with drone-based operations – only they will be doing so away from Lockeford.

In its blog post, Amazon said it will continue its drone delivery operations in College Station Texas and also announced it will start Prime Air in the West Valley of the Phoenix Metro Area in Arizona later this year.

“We’re now adding a new location and entering into the next stage of the program’s evolution,” the company said.

“Later this year, drone deliveries are coming to the West Valley of the Phoenix Metro Area in Arizona.

“With this new location, we’ll be fully integrated into Amazon’s delivery network, meaning, for the first time, drones will deploy from facilities next to our Same-Day Delivery site in Tolleson.

“These smaller sites are hybrid — part fulfilment centre, part delivery station. They allow us to fulfil, sort, and deliver products all from one site so we can get packages out to our customers even quicker.

“Our Same-Day Delivery sites are situated close to the large metro areas they serve, which means customers get their orders faster. And with connections to the larger Amazon fulfilment centres nearby, we are able to offer Same-Day Delivery on millions of items.”

Amazon added that currently, it was in talks to obtain the necessary approvals from aviation authorities and local officials in Tolleson. Following that, the company will embark on a public awareness campaign to alert local residents about the imminent arrival of delivery drones in the area.

“As Amazon embarks on the national expansion of its Amazon Drone Delivery Program, we’re proud to have their innovative presence in our community,” said Juan F. Rodriguez, mayor of Tolleson.

“By bringing this service to new communities, they’re not just delivering goods; they’re delivering opportunities and economic growth for all “Amazon’s commitment to innovation exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that drives our city forward.

“This kind of delivery is the future, and it’s exciting that it will be starting in the Phoenix Metro Area,” said Kate Gallego, mayor of Phoenix. “The shift toward zero-emission package delivery will help us reduce local pollution and further cement our city as a hotbed for the innovative technology of tomorrow.”

The company also took the opportunity to update that it was still perfecting its MK30 drone, whose release was announced in October last year.

“Our team is currently conducting flight tests for our new MK30 drone. This new drone includes innovative, safety-critical features that allow it to deliver packages to customers with smaller backyards and in more densely populated suburban areas.

“The MK30 is quieter and can fly twice as far as our current drone. While our current drone flies during clear weather, the new MK30 can operate in more diverse weather conditions, including light rain.

“We’re flying the new MK30 drone and putting it through its paces at our indoor and outdoor test facilities. We’ll use the data from this process to demonstrate to regulators around the world the reliability of our system. The MK30 drone will make deliveries to customers later this year.”

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