Google has partnered with the US Department of Defense (DoD) to develop AI algorithms to identify objects in videos taken by drones.
The company is offering its TensorFlow AI systems to the DoD for the Project Maven, which was established in July 2017 to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze footages shot by US drones. TensorFlow includes a set of APIs and other tools for AI capabilities such as machine learning and neural networks.
Project Maven is part of the US$7.4bn investment on AI and data processing by the DoD and has seen the Pentagon partner with various academics and experts in the field of AI and data processing. It has reportedly already been put into use against Islamic State.
According to a Google spokesperson “This specific project is a pilot with the Department of Defense, to provide open source TensorFlow APIs that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data. The technology flags images for human review and is for non-offensive uses only.”
The TensorFlow AI system is part of a recent Pentagon pact involving Google’s cloud unit. Former Alphabet executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, and Google executive Milo Medin are part of the Defense Innovation Board, which advises the Pentagon on cloud and data systems. At a meeting in July last 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.”
The Google spokesperson added: “The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only.” And admitted that “military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies.”
Information about Google’s pilot project with the Project Maven was shared on an internal mailing list last week. Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, cites Gizmodo. However, DoD has not disclosed whether Google is the only private industry partner on Project Maven and the clarity of its role in the project.
The DoD is eyeing to ramp up its research efforts in AI and machine learning and plans to collaborate with the tech industry and academia. Bob Work, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, previously said “As numerous studies have made clear, the department of defense must integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning more effectively across operations to maintain advantages over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors.