Amazon beefs up drone delivery R&D in Cambridge – TechCrunch
Amazon is expanding its R&D facilities in Cambridge, UK, withÂ a plan to move intoÂ a new 60,000 sq ft site in the city withÂ capacity for more than 400 staff.
Cambridge University, one of the UKâ€™s top tier academic institutions, has a strong focus on science â€” explaining why a raft of tech firms (not just Amazon) have chosen to siteÂ R&D efforts there.
Announcing the expansion ofÂ its Cambridge development operationsÂ yesterday, Amazon said staff at the site will includeÂ machine learning scientists, knowledge engineers, data scientists, mathematical modellers, speech scientists and software engineers, with teams set to work on programs including its drone delivery effort, Prime Air; Amazon devices; and Alexa, its AI voice assistant tech.
It said its existing development building in the city, at Castle Hill, will be used primarily for research and development related to its drone delivery efforts, once theÂ new One The Square R&D facility opens this fall. The new R&D buildingÂ is located in theÂ business district adjacent to Cambridge train station,Â putting itÂ less than an hour by rail from London.
Existing Amazon R&DÂ teams working on devices including the Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet, Fire TV Stick; itsÂ suite of voice-driven AI assistant hardware: Echo, Echo Dot and the new Echo Look;Â and the voice tech itself, Alexa, will also move to the new larger Cambridge site starting this fall â€” so it sounds like Amazon is aiming to, at very least, double down on itsÂ Cambridge R&D hub, if not concentrate most of its hardware-related research efforts in the city (although itÂ does also have R&D facilities in Edinburgh and London, and is also currentlyÂ hiring at both sites).
Job rolesÂ Amazon is recruiting for the new Cambridge R&D center at the moment include text to speech scientists, a mathematical modeller for its machine learning team, and multiple software engineering and applied science roles.
By the end of theÂ year, it saysÂ itÂ will have more than 1,500 â€œinnovation related rolesâ€ in the UK â€” ranging fromÂ machine learning and drones to streaming video and cloud computing, via its Amazon Web Services platform. While the total number of permanent new UK jobs it plans to have created by the end of this year is 5,000 â€” which will bring its total UK workforce to 24,000.
CambridgeÂ has fed plenty of expertise into Amazonâ€™s R&D efforts over the years â€”Â including beefing up its natural language processing technology, after the ecommerce giantÂ acquiredÂ local startup EviÂ in 2012, putting that tech to workÂ in its Alexa voice assistant.
The companyÂ also chose Cambridgeshire to kick off itsÂ first customer trial ofÂ Prime Air drone deliveriesÂ â€” with two beta usersÂ able to test ordering a subset of products forÂ airfreighting into their backyards within minutes.
In recent years the UKÂ has adopted aÂ favorable approach to robotics testingÂ outdoors. And Amazon was given permissionÂ toÂ operateÂ beyond line-of-sight flights last JulyÂ â€” paving the way for the Prime Air customer trial that launched last December.
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