Artificial Intelligence and Drones
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Apr 01, 2018
I went shopping after Christmas. Right
there, on sale, I spotted a drone. I
couldn’t take my eyes off of the box and
for whatever reason, I felt compelled
to buy it. I gave it a test flight so that I
can better understand the pros and cons of
drones in the security industry. I’ve learned a
thing or two since that day.
Google has partnered with the Department
of Defense (DoD) to help build
Artificial Intelligence (AI) for analyzing
drone footage. Oddly enough, Google’s involvement
didn’t go over so well with some
Wait a minute; employees are outraged
that the company would offer resources to
DoD? Enter Project Maven.
“There’s a general concern in the tech
community of somehow the military-industrial
complex using their stuff to kill people
incorrectly,” said Google’s Eric Schmidt.
This is close enough to the dumbest thing
I’ve ever read that I’m shaking my conservative
head. Having been involved with the Air
Force in my younger days, I don’t remember
learning about the proper way to kill someone.
Project Maven is a fast-moving project
also known as the Algorithmic Warfare
Cross-Functional Team; a mission to “accelerate
DoD’s integration of big data and
machine learning.” The Defense Department
spent about $7.4 billion in AI-related
programs in 2017.
Like numerous other technologies and
security solutions, drones are quickly becoming
an equal partner in securing facilities,
perimeters, pipelines, and even along
the Southern U.S. border and surrounding
environments. The military uses drones in
numerous ways, some of which protect the
very troops that are in a hostile environment.
That also means military drones are collecting
vast amounts of footage, so much so that
human analysts cannot keep up. Until now,
the military, or anyone else for that matter,
has had a difficult time combing through the
data gathered during drone flights.
AI is the game changer. Machine learning
enables vehicle identification, which takes
the burden off analysts. Project Maven’s goal
has been able to provide the military with advanced
computer vision, enabling automated
detection and identification of objects in at
least 38 categories captured by a drone’s fullmotion
camera. Project Maven also has the
ability to track individuals as they come and
go from different locations.
The real problem isn’t with DoD having
drones, AI or the resources provided by private
companies. It is not a new situation for
a private firm to partner with the military,
especially to develop policies and safeguards
for use, because it happens all the time. The
military uses some of this information in the
fight against terrorism, and whether you like
it or not, there is truly a fight between good
The concern over drones and AI should
be with the weekend drone flier, like me, who
is more likely to crash a simple drone in the
middle of soccer practice at the local park.
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 issue of Security Today.