Federal contractor taps Google Cloud AI and ML to inspect US Navy vessels

Simple Technology Solutions will be working with Google Cloud to modernize the maintenance and repairs inspection process for Navy vessels and facilities.

Google on Thursday announced that it will be working with a federal government contractor to help the US Navy modernize the way it maintains and repairs its vessels and facilities. More specifically, the contractor, Simple Technology Solutions (STS), will use Google Cloud's AI and machine learning technologies to analyze drone-captured images of vessels and facilities. 

STS is a small business that specializes in building multi-cloud systems for the federal government. It won the deal with the US Navy through the Small Business Innovation Research program, which is open to US businesses with no more than 500 employees. 

Google declined to say how much the deal was worth to STS or to Google. However, it noted that the Navy currently spends billions per year on maintaining and repairing its fleet of vessels and other platforms like aircraft and facilities. 

During the first phase of the project, STS will use Google Cloud AutoML to build models to identify corrosion on vessels. They'll use tens of thousands of images from the public domain as well as images captured by drones. Then, STS will work with corrosion experts within the Navy to label and train data using Google Cloud's AI Platform Data Labeling Service. From there, STS will iteratively train, validate and improve the models using custom inspection drone flight data. It plans to use Google Cloud Storage for processing the data. 

"This is about automation, saving time and money, and keeping inspectors out of harm's way," STS CTO Aaron Kilinski, said in a statement. "The initial goal for Phase I is to build a model that detects corrosion in drone images with a very high degree of accuracy. The ultimate goal, however, is to move from detection to prediction by expanding the subjects and sensors, and eventually integrating with Navy systems."

While Google is a subcontractor for this particular project, the cloud company does have multiple contracts with branches of the US Defense Department. In May, for instance, Google Cloud announced that a unit within the DoD would use its Anthos platform to build a multi-cloud management platform for detecting and responding to cyber threats across the globe.

In spite of Google's close work with the US government, Republican members of Congress used an antitrust hearing last month to question Google's patriotism. Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and other Republicans questioned why Google in 2018 pulled out of the Pentagon's Project Maven but works with the Chinese military. Google CEO Sundar Pichai called the allegations that it works with the Chinese military "absolutely false." The Google chief executive added that the company is "deeply committed" to supporting the military and the US government.