Developer Spotlight: Defending the Planet Against Asteroids with Artificial Intelligence

James Parr, co-director of the NASA Frontier Development Lab (FDL) shares how NVIDIA GPUs and deep learning can help detect, characterize and deflect asteroids.

The FDL hosted 12 standout graduate students for an internship to take on the White House’s Asteroid Grand Challenge, an ongoing program that aims to get researchers to “find all asteroid threats to human populations and know what to do about them.”

“When an near-earth object is coming toward earth, it’s really useful to figure out its shape. At the moment, we use radar to do that and we get a very low-res radar image,” mentions Parr. “We used machine learning to figure out how to turn the two-dimensional, very sparse data into something that is actually three-dimensional so we can figure out the shape of the object in an extremely quick amount of time. Doing this by hand would take weeks and we managed to do it in a few hours.”

To help find meteorites in the field, the students designed an autonomous drone, equipped with a Jetson TX1 to enhance the machine vision capabilities of the device. Then using TITAN X GPUs, the researchers developed deep learning models to build an automated meteorite detection system. Read more about the challenge on the NVIDIA blog.

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About Brad Nemire

Brad Nemire
Brad Nemire is on the Developer Marketing team and loves reading about all of the fascinating research being done by developers using NVIDIA GPUs. Reach out to Brad on Twitter @BradNemire and let him know how you’re using GPUs to accelerate your research. Brad graduated from San Diego State University and currently resides in San Jose, CA. Follow @BradNemire on Twitter
  • Robert Miles

    Another project for studying asteroids, with the public allowed to volunteer time on their computers:


    Appears to study mainly the rotation period, though.

    Two of my computers are participating.

    • Yan Bellavance

      what we also need is a mulyi gpu rig in every home!

      • Robert Miles

        And more power available in each room to allow an air conditioner to remove the heat produced by such a rig!

        • Yan Bellavance

          lol yes! With that said let’s not forget an overclocking feature for those cold winters.