Google's artificial intelligence drone project pursued in collaboration with Pentagon may turn into a $250 million business, the company expects, according to a number of leaked emails from the tech giant obtained by The Intercept. The endeavor in question already prompted controversy amid Google's ranks, having reportedly led to resignations of about a dozen employees earlier this spring. While the firm previously claimed the Pentagon contract is only worth some $9 million and is hence insignificant for the technology juggernaut the size of Google, the leaked emails suggest that figure is now closer to $15 million, with certain executives expecting the collaboration to become much more lucrative in the future.
The value of the so-called Project Maven is said to have been discussed in an email exchange between Google Cloud Vice President Fei-Fei Li and two other officials from Alphabet's subsidiary. The endeavor was also described as being "directly related" to a cloud computing contract worth billions that many firms are competing for, with Google winning Project Maven despite interest from Amazon. Amazon Web Services are still understood to be involved in the initiative, with the leaked email chain disclosing "some work loads [sic]" are handled by the cloud computing arm of the Seattle, Washington-based company. The exchange in question occurred last September, with Google repeatedly stating the initiative isn't meant to enable AI weaponry, having done so once again in a statement issued to The Intercept after the publication published the correspondence outlined above.
The multi-billion contract mentioned by the leak may be a reference to the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) plan seeking to migrate a significant portion of the U.S. Military's data to a private cloud provider, with the program being worth some $10 billion and having a ten-year completion timeline. Google has been embracing AI on a wide variety of fronts in recent times, positioning machine learning and related solutions as the backbone of its long-term strategy, though questions about ethics in the field are now becoming more numerous by the day. Google is presently understood to be working on policies geared toward preventing AI weaponry but the company's commitment to Pentagon continues, much to the dismay of some employees.