Google working on AI for Pentagon's project Maven to analyze drone footage

by Abel Hampton March 9, 2018, 4:18
Google working on AI for Pentagon's project Maven to analyze drone footage

The disclosure follows a report by Gizmodo, which said the artificial intelligence tech was being used to analyse drone footage.

A spokeswoman for Google said that the tie-up involved the provision of software tools to let the US Department of Defense (DoD) make use of its TensorFlow machine learning code. "According to a DOD news release issued last July, Project Maven aims to improve America's ability to "[win] wars with computer algorithms and artificial intelligence" by rapidly upgrading the military's ability to analyze drone footage.

Now, Google has stressed that its open-source AI program that is helping the drone AI is strictly for "non-offensive use" and that it will not help future USA drones with their long-range striking capabilities.

This explanation doesn't sit well with some Google employees, Gizmodo reported, and some staffers are "outraged" at the company's agreement to lend its technology to controversial drone operations. While the search engine giant has worked with numerous US government agencies in the past and uninhibitedly provided its technology, its decision to support Project Maven has caused a quite a stir in the firm.

Project Maven is a fast-moving Pentagon program, officially known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT).

The DoD said that Project Maven was initially focusing on identifying 38 classes of objects which were important for its analysts to detect as the coalition continues to target Islamic State forces.

Now while the drones employed by the U.S. defence department are loaded with sensors to gather a lot of information during flight, there is no effective way of analysing the data generated by these sensors and video footage.

To meet the aggressive timetable, the Defence Department partnered with AI experts in the tech industry and academia, working through Defence Information Unit Experimental, the department's tech incubation program, and the Defence Innovation Board, an advisory group created by former US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter to bridge the technological gap between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley. At a meeting in July past year, the board recommended that the Defense Department look at ways "to take the vast data that exists in the enterprise and turn it into something that is actionable".

It marks a rare example of the tech giant partnering with the United States military on a "pilot project", although the company has insisted that the project is not related to combat. Countries around the world are nevertheless pouring funding into developing artificial intelligence for military purposes, which Cukor described as "an AI arms race".

"There is no "black box" that delivers the AI system the government needs, at least not now", said Colonel Drew Cukor at the time.

This partnership will work under the Pentagon's Project Maven.

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