Anduril Industries, the surveillance startup founded by Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey, received a U.S. Marine Corps contract this month. The defense technology company and Project Maven contractor is two-years-old. Project Maven was the secretive Pentagon program that aimed to use artificial intelligence from the private sector for military purposes.
Marine Corps Installations Command announced on July 15th that Anduril Industries had been awarded a $13.5 million sole source contract. Some additional information has been made public through documents published by the organization Mijente under the Freedom of Information Act.
The new defense contract is for an Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) that will be used to help secure installations with the use of artificial intelligence against any intrusions. This will be able to operate without the use of humans. The new system is set to be used at four Marine Corps bases. Two of them are in Japan, one is in Hawaii, and the last is in Yuma, Arizona close to the U.S. border with Mexico.
The ASCIC system uses Anduril’s existing perimeter-monitoring system called Lattice that uses sensor towers, drones, and machine learning to automatically identify movements and intruders.
Palmer Luckey spoke about the project all the way back in November 2018 at a summit in Lisbon, Portugal.
“What we’re working on is taking data from lots of different sensors, putting it into an AI-powered sensor fusion platform so that you can build a perfect 3D model of everything that’s going on in a large area. Then we take that data and run predictive analytics on it, and tag everything with metadata, find what’s relevant, then push it to people who are out in the field.”
According to Anduril, the system can “detect, classify, and track any person, drone or other threat in a restricted area,” and it can “help identify terrorist threats faster and allow troops to instantly spot potential threats with confidence.”
Anduril combines the virtual reality systems at Oculus, another project from Palmer Luckey, with advanced sensors from the Pentagon. These together create a simple mobile platform that is intelligent and can monitor whatever the installation needs.
In March, the MCICOM command was looking for a system that provided “24/7/365 autonomous situational awareness and actionable, real-time intelligence of surrounding air, land, and sea, through all-weather conditions.”
“The system shall autonomously detect, identify, classify, and track humans on foot, wheeled and tracked vehicles on land, surface vessels and boats,” according to the original contract. “It must be a scalable federated network of sensors (EO/IR/RADAR) with capacity to expand into acoustic, seismic, and other sensors that operate across the electromagnetic spectrum.”
Anduril was able to take all of this and create a single system. MCICOM has said that Anduril is the only company on the market able to deliver this kind of system. This is the reason Anduril was awarded the contract so quickly. It is abnormal for a defense contract to be awarded with so little competition from other defense firms or private companies.
Despite the controversy that surrounds the use of AI in the military, it is becoming increasingly prominent in defense technology. In the past, Google stopped helping the US military use artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage in what was part of the Pentagon’s Project Maven. There were concerns from within the program as well as controversy in the media. There is going to be an increasing amount of competition among private companies looking to score defense contracts.
With the increasing development of artificial intelligence in all areas of society, it was only a matter of time before the U.S. government began to use it in the defense sector. Just like in almost every other sector, AI can greatly increase the effectiveness of many aspects of military defense for the U.S.