IDDO maintains and operates existing drills and borehole logging winches, and develops new systems with two principal foci:
1. to provide high quality ice cores, and
2. to produce boreholes that provide access to the interior and beds of ice sheets and glaciers for such purposes as embedding instruments, collecting gas samples, setting seismic charges, studying subglacial processes, studying subglacial geology, collecting subglacial bedrock core, and borehole logging.

Rapid Access Ice Drill (RAID)

** For the most current information about RAID, visit the offical RAID website. **


John Goodge at the University of Minnesota Duluth and Jeff Severinghaus at University of California San Diego received funding from NSF to develop the drill, and DOSECC Exploration Services (DES) has been contracted to build the drill.


During the April 2011 Ice Drilling Science Community Planning Meeting, the need for a rapid access ice drilling (RAID) system was articulated. The objective behind the RAID system is to drill through 3.3 kilometers of ice in a week, taking pieces of ice core along the way, and then recover up to 25 meters of bedrock core. Such a drill has long been desired by the glaciology and geology communities; after the April workshop, John Goodge (University of Minnesota-Duluth) asked for IDPO/IDDO assistance in generating information that could support a Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) proposal for a RAID drill that he will submit in January 2012. In October 2011, IDPO held a meeting in Madison, WI attended by scientists John Goodge and Jeff Severinghaus (UC-San Diego), IDDO engineers, industry experts, and IDPO to discuss possibilities and tradeoffs of technologies associated with development of a RAID system. The science requirements, initially compiled during the April 2011 IDPO Community Planning workshop, have been subsequently refined by John Goodge and Jeff Severinghaus as part of the scientist-engineer-logistics discussions in biweekly IDPO-organized webteleconferences following the October meeting. An IDDO team led by Michael Gerasimoff evaluated the feasibility of several possible technologies on the basis of meeting science requirements, cost and logistical burden. By the end of December 2011, IDDO had substantially developed a concept for the drill that would meet the science requirements at a reasonable cost and logistical burden. By January 2012, IDDO produced a Prospectus document describing the drill system concept, estimate of the cost, and schedule for development. In early 2012, IDPO and IDDO contributed to a proposal that PIs John Goodge and Jeff Severinghaus submitted for development of the drill. In October 2012, NSF funded PIs John Goodge (University of Minnesota Duluth) and Jeff Severinghaus (Scripps Institution of Oceanography) to oversee and manage the development of the RAID. In October 2012, the University of Minnesota Duluth released a request for proposals (RFP) to design and build the RAID. For various reasons, IDDO decided not to submit a proposal in response to the RFP. The University of Minnesota Duluth has contracted with DES to design and build the RAID.

Update: June 2014

The Division of Polar Programs at the National Science Foundation has recently awarded an $8.97M grant to the University of Minnesota Duluth to begin construction of the Rapid Access Ice Drill (RAID). This new drilling system will be able to penetrate the Antarctic ice sheets in order to take cores of the deepest ice, sample across the glacial bed, and continue coring into bedrock below. This new technology will provide a critical first look at the interface between the major ice caps and their subglacial geology.


RAID borehole scheme. Credit: John Goodge, University of Minnesota Duluth

RAID is a mobile drilling system capable of making several long boreholes in a single field season in Antarctica. The projected long-term research use of the RAID system is planned to begin in late 2017 by traversing to East Antarctica via the Amundsen-Scott station at the South Pole. The RAID system is designed to be self-sufficient once leaving a fixed U.S. research base, and it is compact enough to be operated by a 3-person drilling crew.

DOSECC Exploration Services, LLC, a drilling and engineering company based in Salt Lake City, is the lead contractor to construct and test the drilling system. DES took the lead in development and engineering of the drill design, which began in June 2013.

John Goodge, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is the lead principal investigator on the project. He studies geotectonic evolution of continental crust in East Antarctica and the Transantarctic Mountains. Jeff Severinghaus of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, co-principal investigator, conducts research on Antarctic paleoclimate by study of ice cores.

Construction of the drilling system began in June, 2014. Initial field tests of the system in North America are scheduled for early 2015, to be followed by a set of field validation trials in Antarctica in the 2016-17 austral summer.

The RAID platform is designed to address a wide range of interdisciplinary research goals of the international scientific community. These include a search for polar paleoclimate records in ice greater than 1 million years old, observation and sampling of the base of the Antarctic ice cap, and recovery of rock cores from ice-covered geologic provinces of Antarctica, a virtually unknown continent larger than the continental U.S. By keeping the boreholes open with a stabilizing fluid after drilling is complete, researchers will also be able to lower instruments and logging devices into the boreholes in order to measure thermal gradient, heat flow, ice accumulation history, and ice deformation processes. RAID will also sample for extremophile micro-organisms that may be present at the base of the ice sheets.

This new drilling system is based on modification of an industry-standard diamond rock-coring system as used in mineral exploration. Threaded metal drill pipe sections will be assembled at the surface as the drill cuts its way downward through ice using customized metal bits. A special circulating fluid will be used to lubricate the drill pipe, maintain proper temperature at the cutting surface, and return ice cuttings to the surface, where they will be separated from the recirculating fluid. Near the bottom of the ice sheet, diamond tools will be lowered through the drill string to enable coring of ice, material in the glacial bed, and the solid bedrock below. These cores will be returned to the surface in sections by use of a wireline retrieval system. Once drilling is complete, the boreholes will be maintained with a stabilizing fluid, capped, and made available for future down-hole measurements.

RAID is designed to penetrate up to 3,300 meters of ice (nearly 11,000 ft) and take sample cores in less than 200 hours. This rapid performance will allow a drilling crew to operate from start to finish in about 10 days before moving on to the next drilling site.

RAID is unique because it can provide fast borehole access through thick ice; short ice cores at the base of the ice sheet for paleoclimate study; cores of the glacial bed to determine flow conditions; cores of subglacial bedrock for age dating and crustal history; and create boreholes that can be used as an observatory in the ice sheets. Together, the rapid drilling capability and mobility of the drilling system, along with ice-penetrating imaging methods, will allow scientists to build a 3D picture of the interior Antarctic ice sheets in a way that has never been done before.


RAID operational layout. Credit: John Goodge, University of Minnesota Duluth

Relevant Documents

Questions or Comments

John Goodge
Professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences
University of Minnesota-Duluth

Jeff Severinghaus
Professor, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
UC-San Diego