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

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

Google's TensorFlow AI systems are being used by the US Department of Defense's (DoD) Project Maven, which was established in July previous year to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse the vast amount of footage shot by US drones.

File image of Pentagon.

According to sources who spoke on conditions of anonymity, Google's involvement in the so-called Project Maven was not public, but was discussed inside the company when information about it was shared on an internal mailing list, sparking concern among employees.

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Project Maven is a fast-moving Pentagon program, officially known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT). Computer vision is dedicated to helping a computer pick out specific objects from still photos and videos, a topic of particular interest to the Pentagon since the advent of drones for surveillance and other military applications.

Google is not only applying machine learning across its products, but also encouraging other developers to adopt it in third-party services and other use cases.

The pilot project dubbed "Maven" began last April.

. In total, the Defence Department spent $US7.4 billion ($9.5 billion) on artificial intelligence-related areas in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported. Human analysts could only do so much.

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Google supplies some technology to the USA military, but has been sensitive about how it's used, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. Since Google owns YouTube, the DoD could not have asked for a better partner.

The project's first goal is to develop artificial intelligence capable of automatically detecting "38 classes of objects" regularly seen in military drone footage, the DOD said. Gizmodo claims it now provides the military with "the ability to track individuals as they come and go from different locations". APIs are software-based rules that let computer programs communicate. Acknowledging the controversial nature of using machine learning for military purposes, the spokesperson said the company is now working "to develop polices and safeguards" around its use.

In a statement, a spokesperson told The Register that the search giant were providing "open source TensorFlow APIs that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data". The sides Gizmodo noted that the newsletter had raised an important question about the ethics of developing and using machine learning. His current role is as chairman of the Defence Innovation Board, which is an independent federal committee.

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