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AI Case Study

The US Department of Defense aims at increasing drone effectiveness by analysing collected footage with machine vision

The United States Department of Defense has partnered with Google to use machine learning and vision to analyse drone footage. Project 'Maven' was initially designed to automate detection and identification of objects however, Google has announced that after March 2019 when its current contract ends it will not be renewing it. This is a result of a dozen employees resigning in protest and 4,000 employees signing a petition against the collaboration with the DoD on this project.



Aerospace And Defence

Project Overview

The reporters state that "the project’s first assignment was to help the Pentagon efficiently process the deluge of video footage collected daily by its aerial drones—an amount of footage so vast that human analysts can’t keep up, according to Greg Allen, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who co-authored a lengthy July 2017 report on the military’s use of artificial intelligence. Although the Defense Department has poured resources into the development of advanced sensor technology to gather information during drone flights, it has lagged in creating analysis tools to comb through the data.

Maven was tasked with using machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage, taking that burden off analysts. Maven’s initial goal was to provide the military with advanced computer vision, enabling the automated detection and identification of objects in as many as 38 categories captured by a drone’s full-motion camera, according to the Pentagon. Maven provides the department with the ability to track individuals as they come and go from different locations." (Gizmodo)

Reported Results

Results undisclosed: In June 2018, Google announced that it would not renew the 'controversial' contract with the Department of Defence after the end of the current one in March 2019. The announcement followed after a dozen employees resigned in protest and 4,000 employees signed a petition demanding 'a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology' (CNN).


"Project Maven is a DoD initiative that focuses on the computer vision aspect of machine learning. 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."


R And D

Core Research And Development


"Project Maven, a fast-moving Pentagon project also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT), was established in April 2017. Maven’s stated mission is to “accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning.” In total, the Defense Department spent $7.4 billion on artificial intelligence-related areas in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported" (Gizmodo).



Drone footage, moving or still imagery

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