Inside Amazon’s Prime photo op: A secret bus ride, a spectacular Seattle view — but alas, no drones

We received picked up in a van that regarded prefer it needs to be taking us to a bachelor occasion. We received dropped off at a venue with a Seattle view that will make the last word marriage ceremony backdrop. With a gaggle of fellow journalists alongside for the trip Wednesday, I stated “I do” to a different journey aboard the Amazon hype machine.

The aim of the tour was the revealing of a new wrinkle in the delivery of Amazon packages, during which the tech large is empowering entrepreneurs to construct small supply corporations.

After gathering on the firm’s company headquarters in downtown Seattle, greater than a dozen reporters and photographers have been to be ushered to an undisclosed website for what was described forward of time as a newsworthy announcement. GeekWire was joined by of us from The New York Instances, CNN, CNBC, Quick Firm, Reuters, The Related Press, The Seattle Instances and extra. Some flew throughout the nation to attend.

“Is it drones? We’re going to see package-dropping drones, proper?”

The nervous power of getting no concept what was in retailer crammed our group as we took seats behind tinted home windows in a black, unmarked occasion bus.

At GeekWire, within the days forward of the occasion, sensible cash stated we would find yourself down at Boeing Subject, or someplace that drones may very well be demonstrated safely. But because the van left HQ and headed north as an alternative of south, the airport concept slipped away. Seated close to the entrance of the bus, my colleague Taylor Soper might see a navigation map on the motive force’s cellphone. Our vacation spot was solely eight minutes away.

We turned west down Denny Approach and headed towards the waterfront, earlier than heading north once more on Elliott Avenue. Chatter between the motive force and an Amazon handler indicated we have been headed towards a complicated space close to the Magnolia neighborhood, the place there are warehouses and huge parking heaps related to the cruise ship terminal close by. Was Amazon about to unveil cruise ship supply? Prime Seas!

We heard somebody say “The Admiral’s Home,” and Taylor quickly Googled the time period to seek out out what that was all about: a landmark property in Magnolia with views overlooking the Seattle skyline, Elliott Bay and Mount Rainier. Seemed like a nice backdrop for a drone touchdown.

The driving force missed a flip for the Magnolia Bridge and took a detour down into an space which was decidedly much less photogenic. A couple U-turns later, and the corporate which was out to promote its newest logistics mastery was again on observe. The bus pulled by means of a gate and up a leafy driveway earlier than parking subsequent to the white mansion on the high of the hill.

“Drones might land right here. That’s completely a backdrop for drones. Look, a drone might drop a package deal proper there.”

All of us hopped off the occasion bus and have been ushered into the stately home, which through the years had served because the residence for greater than 30 U.S. Naval admirals and their households. In my 22 years in Seattle, I’d seen loads of views of the town, but had by no means been to this place.

Chairs have been arrange in a semi-circle on a giant synthetic garden out entrance. A U.S. flag didn’t do a lot flapping atop a pole positioned on the fringe of the garden. Past the waterfront, marina and industrial expanse under, the Seattle skyline — full with cranes constructing extra of it — rose to the proper of Queen Anne. The House Needle, Columbia Tower, Smith Tower and the arcing roofline of CenturyLink Subject all stood out. Amazon even managed to in some way get Mount Rainier to indicate her dramatic presence and full the quintessential photo op for nationwide media.

After mild snacks and extra guessing about what was about to current itself to us on that garden, we have been advised to take a seat outdoors.

“Right here come the drones. They’ll take off from that platform within the water, proper? Ought to there be a goal on the garden for a package deal drop?”

After which a gray Mercedes panel van was slowly pushed onto the grass and parked in entrance of the cameras — and that view. A giant, blue Amazon smile emblem was painted on the facet together with “prime.”

A girl sporting a blue and black uniform embellished with extra smile logos stepped out of the van and introduced a small Amazon Prime package deal over to the group. Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice chairman of worldwide operations, then stood in entrance of the van and spoke — not about drones swooping in from the skies overhead, carrying packages stuffed with cellphone chargers or DVDs or toothpaste. He talked about logistics.

As I regarded for photographic angles that will present the van and Clark and the motive force and the skyline and the mountain, I stored my semi-confused cohorts. I attempted to think about flying all day, from New York or elsewhere, to return hear about this, slightly than simply grabbing an Uber from Fremont to downtown like I did.

I shared the information in Slack with colleagues again on the workplace. There was a collective, drone-free shrug.

The van was ultimately opened in order that we might get footage of extra empty Prime containers positioned within the again. The Amazon employee posing as a supply driver dutifully posed in entrance of the van and the town in her new uniform. I stated the Nike swoosh on her sneakers needs to be an Amazon smile emblem as an alternative. She smiled.

All of us ultimately loaded again into the occasion bus for the brief journey again to Amazon HQ. It was quieter this time, as journalists scrolled their telephones or contemplated how they have been going to package deal the knowledge they have been simply fed. I whispered at Taylor.

“What occurred to the drones?”

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