Google Halts A.I. Drone Deal With Pentagon Following Staff Protests

The head of Google Cloud confirmed that the Pentagon drone contract will not be renewed after expiring in March of 2019.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google will officially not renew its contract with a Pentagon drone project after it expires, according to Bloomberg, following protests by the tech company’s staff and the ensuing publicity. 

Head of the Google Cloud, Diane Greene, told Google employees on Friday that the tech giant won’t seek renewal, and will let the protested Pentagon contract expire in March of next year. The contract, signed last September, allows the Department of Defense to use Google’s artificial intelligence software to analyze drone footage, in a program that the DoD calls Project Maven. 

Greene was reportedly eager to compete with Amazon and Microsoft’s business relationships with the government, the resulting drone tech projects of which have cloud computing at their core. Unfortunately for Greene, mass upheavals forced her to tactfully reassess. 

“We’ve always said this was an 18-month contract ... so it ends in March of 2019,” she said. “And there will be no follow-on to Maven.” 

More than 4,000 Google employees signed a letter demanding the contract be canceled, and urging the tech company not to use its sophisticated artificial intelligence programs for the war business. As it stands, over 12 employees have resigned over this particular issue. 

On the other hand, Greene’s cloud division is currently vying for a different, far bigger deal with the Pentagon. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure would essentially bridge the same gap as Project Maven, and allow the government to employ Google’s artificial intelligence tech, anyway.