The Seattle Times reports that Amazon significantly expanded its army of warehouse robots in 2016 to 45,000 robots across its 20 fulfillment centers. That is a 50% increase from the same time in 2015, when Amazon had 30,000 robots working alongside 230,000 people.
Amazon bought a robotics company called Kiva Systems in 2012 for $775 million and Kiva's robots automate the picking and packing process at Amazons large warehouses making the company much more efficient their warehouses more productive. Kiva’s robots can run at 5 mph and haul packages weighing up to 700 pounds.
Amazon also uses other types of robots in its warehouses, including large robotic arms that can move large pallets of Amazon inventory.
The company has been adding about 15,000 robots year-on-year with the number of robots varying from warehouse to warehouse. saying that some are "fully outfitted" in robots, while others don't have "robot volume" for economic reasons.
Beyond the warehouse, Amazon is also looking at automating other aspects of its business. In December, Amazon made its first delivery by an automated drone from its secret Prime Air fulfilment center on a guarded farm just outside Cambridge in the UK.
Moments after receiving an order, an electrically powered Amazon drone makes its way down an automated track and then rises into the sky with the customer's package on board.
Amazon's autonomous drones, which are guided by GPS, can fly at speeds of up to 50mph, heights of up to 400ft and carry packages up to 5lbs.
Amazon has been testing drones in the UK much longer than previously thought and the have been endorsed by the UK government, which has given the company permission to operate drones beyond line of sight.
Sent to me from Bob Pritchard