What is FDL?

The Frontier Development Lab (FDL) applies AI technologies to space science to push the frontiers of research and develop new tools to help solve some of the biggest challenges that humanity faces. These range from the effects of climate change to predicting space weather, from improving disaster response, to identifying meteorites that could hold the key to the history of our universe.

FDL is a public-private partnership with NASA in the USA and ESA in Europe. We work with commercial partners such as NVIDIA, Intel, and Google Cloud, IBM, Lockheed Martin, SpaceResources Luxembourg, KBRWyle, XPrize, Kx, and Miso Technologies who provide expertise and the computing resources necessary for rapid experimentation and iteration in data intensive areas, as well as partners such as the SETI Institute, Satellite Applications Catapult, USC MASCLE, and the University of Oxford.

FDL is hosted by the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California - in partnership with NASA Ames Research Center.

We have established an impressive success rate for research output over accelerated time periods over the time since we launched the Frontier Development Lab. Research papers are regularly accepted to respected journals, presented at scientific conferences (in both AI and space science domains) and have been featured in multiple media outlets.


How does it work?
FDL brings researchers from the cutting-edge of AI and data science, and teams them up with their counterparts from the space sector for an intensive eight-week research sprint, based on a range of challenge areas. The results far exceed what any individual could develop in the same time period, or even in years of individual research.

A key aspect of our success is the careful formation of small interdisciplinary teams focused on tackling specific challenges. Each team is composed of at least two space researchers and two data science or AI researchers, selected by our world-class network of mentors. During the research and development sprints, the teams are supported by mentors and experts from NASA, ESA and our other partners.

FDL has a global presence, in previous years the residential research sprint has been at the SETI Institute/NASA Ames, Mountain View, California, US and the University of Oxford, England, UK.

The support from our partners in the public and private sector allows us to offer PhD and post-doctoral researchers the opportunity to work on real-world problems in an interdisciplinary environment, supported by leading experts, and cutting-edge hardware.

What topics do you focus on?
Over the past three years, FDL’s research teams have worked on challenges under five key mission areas: Planetary Defence, Living with our Star, The Moon for Good, Mission Control for Earth, and Are we Alone?

For the 2019 research sprint we are developing challenge questions that build on previous missions, and also looking at new areas including Climate Toolbox, Mission Support, Astronaut Health and Connecting our Planet.

How do you select the challenges?
In order to ensure that we are tackling questions that have the potential to have a real-world impact, we have developed close links with scientists, researchers, industry and humanitarian organizations. We invite our partners and network to the “Big Think”, where they can share their thoughts on the latest developments in their fields, issues that need attention, as well as network with other members of the community. The Big Think meetings take place at the start of the year in the US and Europe, and provide the initial ideas for challenges, data-sets and resources.

Following the Big Think, we invite key partners and experts to help us distill these ideas into distinct challenge questions for the teams to work on during the research sprint.

How can I get involved with the Frontier Development Lab?
The main way to get involved with Frontier Development Lab is to apply to be a participant and take part in one of our research sprints, but there are plenty of other opportunities to stay in touch and support the program.


Detailed overview of FDL outputs

FDL: The Work



You can read in more detail about the proceedings of FDL 2016 - 2017 in the Proceedings Document here.


FDL Steering committee

James Parr | FDL Executive Producer

Bill Diamond | CEO The SETI Institute

Sara Jennings | FDL Deputy Director

Shyla Spicer | FDL Assistant Producer

Bruce Pittman | NASA Space Portal

Lisa Vestal | NASA Space Portal

Dan Rasky | NASA Space Portal

Victoria Friedensen | NASA HQ

Lika Guhathakurta | NASA HQ / ARC

Alison Lowndes | Nvidia AI relations

Jonathan Knowles | Ideation Director

Graham Mackintosh | Project Manager

Armine Saroian | HR Director SETI Institute

Debbie Kolyer | Director of Grants Administration & Contracts, The SETI Institute

Jason Kessler | Partnership Director

Chiara Miele | Coordinator

Leo Silverberg | Digital Design

Chaneil James | Community Coordinator


FDL Science Committee

Jessie Dotson | NASA AMES

J.L. Galache | Astronomy Advisor

John Karcz | NASA HQ

Sangram Ganguly | NASA AMES

Nathalie Cabrol | NASA / SETI Institute

Peter Jenniskens | NASA / SETI Institute

Michael Busch | SETI Institute

Phil Metzger | UCF

Eric Dahlstrom | NZSpaceBase

Mark Cheung | Lockheed Martin

Chris Rapley | UCL

Alan O'Neill | Reading University

Daniel Angerhausen | University of Bern

Mark Doherty | ESA

Dietmar Backes | University of Luxembourg

Franck Marchis | SETI Institute

FDL AI Technical Committee

Alison Lowndes | Nvidia

Ian Goodfellow | Google

Francois Chollet | Google

Greg Renard | XBrain

Chedy Raissi | Inria

Yarin Gal | University of Oxford

Lorien Pratt | Quantellia

Mark Cheung| Lockheed Martin

Naeem Altaf | IBM

Amir Khosrowshahi | Intel

Troy Hernandez | IBM

Atilim Gunes Baydin | University of Oxford

Franck Marchis | SETI Institute

Siddha Ganju | DeepVision

Nagib Hakim | Intel

Mark Sykes | CTO Kx

Sylvester Kaczmarek | Imperial College London