Controversial Google Project Maven Pentagon AI Drone Defense Contract Could Net A Whopping $250M

predator drone
Google caused a bit of a firestorm after details leaked that it was forging a relationship with the United States Department of Defense to develop AI software for aerial drones. However, it's important to note that Google wasn't going to be involved with developing AI that would power killer Skynet robots on the battlefield; instead its AI would be used to examine images and video footage captured by the drones.

Google's involvement in the program, called Project Maven, prompted more than a dozen employees to resign. In addition, another 4,000 employees signed a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai urging him to abandon the program.

Further complicating matters are comments that Google has made about the program. In a recent companywide TGIF gathering, Google Cloud Chief Diane Greene reportedly said that Project Maven was a small-scale contract with the Pentagon that was only worth about $9 million. However, newly uncovered documents examined by The Interceptshow that Google stands to earn a lot more with Project Maven: $250 million/year.


"Total deal $25-$30M, $15M to Google over the next 18 months," wrote Aileen Black, who works on the Google team responsible for procuring contracts with the Pentagon, in an email exchange with Google Cloud scientists Dr. Fei-Fei Li and Scott Frohman. "As the program grows expect spend is budgeted at 250 M per year. This program is directly related to the Sept 13 memo about moving DOD aggressively to the cloud I sent last week."

The Google Cloud team was well aware that Project Maven wouldn't play well with employees or the press if details were to come to light (which they inevitably did). "I don't know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry," wrote Dr. Li in another email exchange. "Google Cloud has been building our theme on Democratizing AI in 2017, and [we] have been talking about Humanistic AI for enterprise. I'd be super careful to protect these very positive images."

Despite the controversy surrounding Project Maven, Google insists “the new artificial intelligence principles under development precluded the use of A.I. in weaponry.”

If you want to take a look at a DoD presentation regarding Project Maven, you can take look at a 27-page document that was obtained by Lauren Weinstein, a technology activist.