Google Increasing Artificial Intelligence in Military Spy Drones

Google recently partnered with the U.S. Department of Defense in an effort to aid in the development of smarter drone software. The company is equipping the government agency with machine-learning software that will improve functionality and help computers to better detect objects in surveillance drone footage.

The partnership is part of an initiative called Project Maven, which the Department of Defense intends to improve America’s ability to win wars “with computer algorithms and artificial intelligence,” a feat achieved by rapidly upgrading the military’s ability to analyze drone footage. The primary goal is the development of artificial intelligence capable of detecting 38 classes of objects, which will allow data analysts to comb through millions of hours of video captured each year by drones surveilling combat zones.

According to Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor, artificial intelligence will not be selecting a target anytime soon. Rather, it will serve to aid human operators. Google is helping the department with this feat by providing TensorFlow application programming interfaces (APIs), which are typically used in building neural networks.

“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,” said a representative for Google in a recent statement. “The technology flags images for human review and is for non-offensive uses only.”

The technology will allow drones to distinguish between civilians and military fighters, schools and military bunkers, etc. It is easy to see why the company would want to lend out its technology in an effort to limit civilian casualties. It will also aid the military in detecting and warning of approaching threats.

However, a great deal of controversy surrounds the company and its move to become involved in military operations. Prior to this decision, Google had resisted working with the military in any form other than through contracts allowing access to Google Earth and search hardware. Upon acquiring Boston Dynamics in 2013, Google publicly announced that it would honor the company’s existing military contracts, but it would not be pursuing new work with the Department of Defense, nor would it become a military contractor.

Many are outraged over the move to use artificial intelligence to aid in military combat. Some Google employees have also spoken out about the company’s decision to lend its technology to controversial drone operations, particularly as it contradicts the company’s previous stance.

Despite the backlash, various countries around the world are funding and developing artificial intelligence of their own, which will be similarly used for military purposes. Cukor described this as an AI arms race. “No area will be left unaffected by the impact of this technology,” he said.

Did you miss this?

Other Popular Stories

  • Lane-Changing Algorithm Improves Driverless Vehicle Performance
  • 100,000 watt laser firing 10,000 pulses per second would "deorbit" tons of dangerous space debris
  • No immediate car tariffs after U.S. trade meeting; at stake $350 billion in autos and parts imported to the U.S.
  • Auto sales surging in North America, plunging in Russia
  • Manufacturing sales rebound in August; industry must "reinvent" itself to prosper
  • Shed a tear for science? University researchers in Ireland harvest electricity from tears
  • Scientists use lab-grown crystals to create whiter LED light
  • Canada-US trade as it should be, but diversification desirable: report
  • Robot from Oil & Gas Technology Centre may improve safety, enhance productivity and reduce costs for offshore oil and gas projects
  • January manufacturing sales best ever: Statistics Canada
  • Five defence industry technologies — right out of science fiction — that are real today
  • Beam me up, Scotty. Teleportation is small step closer: researchers transport photon 500 kilometers: Micius satellite
  • Manufacturing closer to stabilizing in January: report
  • China Opens Solar Highway, Closes in Under a Week
  • First anti-icing wind turbine blades will power Quebec community
  • Manufacturing sector faced difficult conditions in September: survey
  • SNC-Lavalin to build $4.2 billion Champlain Bridge in Montreal
  • Mexican oil and gas re-opened to foreign companies after 76 years
  • Offshore wind costs will fall significantly if development continues: study
  • New GO buses will be assembled in GTA
Scroll to Top