The Transportation Department is Funding Autonomous Drones

The Transportation Department is funding research to build artificial intelligence-powered drones and trying to get a better understanding of how autonomous vehicles could be manipulated to harm the public.

The agency’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center on Thursday began soliciting teams to develop open-source artificial intelligence tools that allow drones to fly without a human operator. The team would ultimately build a drone capable of locating targets and dodging obstacles without outside intervention.

Selected vendors would also need to provide secure facilities where government engineers can store and test autonomous drones and cars. The 12-month contract is only open to companies and universities located within 25 miles of Arlington, Va., according to the solicitation.

While the vendors would primarily explore ways AI could augment drones, officials said they’re also curious how the tech might be manipulated to threaten the public.