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Deep within the five-pronged Pentagon building lays a cutting-edge science division known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Those crazy cats are hard at work on refining and advancing the weapons utilized in today’s modern warfare landscape. One of the most prominent weapons at our disposal is drones, which are capable of performing stealthy reconnaissance missions and devastating bombings, all performed by pilots thousands of miles away. To make drone warfare even more technologically advanced, DARPA is working on a neural microchip that could allow drones to think like humans.

Collaborating with a group of Uber-geniuses at MIT, DARPA wants to apply the analytical and critical thinking of the human brain into drones by creating a neural network to facilitate “deep learning.” The hope is that this will allow drones taking photos to comprehend the images they gather and even take action without the need of human analysis. Eyeriss is the proposed solution – a microchip smaller than a cell phone that acts as a processing unit for drones, enabling them to learn with no human touch required.

By establishing a neural network within a drone, the microchip will serve as a computer memory bank of sorts that is based on the human brain, allowing drones to call up this network in order to learn and adapt. If a drone is able to capture a photo of a terrorist base, one equipped with DARPA’s microchip could identify it and simply alert nearby soldiers on the ground, rather than having the images sent back to base and analyzed by humans. If a drone is capable of identifying what it’s capturing in photos and relaying that information, location and data directly to the appropriate place without needing human eyes to scan the images, it could drastically expedite action in both combat and rescue missions.

Eyeriss is quite the chip off the old block – a processing unit that boasts this type of power could enable drones and satellites to perform and function without the need for human analysts or massive server warehouses to support their capabilities. It’s just shy of artificial intelligence, as the drones equipped with DARPA’s neural microchip won’t become sentient. Still, a flying machine capable of causing mass destruction from above that also possesses the ability of human critical-thinking and analysis would prove extremely advantageous to whatever forces have these drones in their arsenal.

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