The Agile Sub-Ice Geological (ASIG) Drill was the first sub-glacial access rock coring drill in the IDP inventory. The drill system design is based on a commercially-available minerals exploration rig, which IDP adapted for drilling through ice and for ice coring. The system is designed to drill access holes through ice less than 700 meters thick and subsequently collect bedrock cores from beneath glaciers.
A minerals exploration rig was purchased from Multi-Power Products Ltd., and IDP designed auxiliary systems for fluid handling. In early 2016, IDP conducted an extensive North American (NA) Test of the complete system just outside of Madison. Following minor modifications and upgrades, the drill system deployed to Pirrit Hills, Antarctica for the 2016-2017 field season. The ASIG Drill system was successfully used to drill through approximately 150 meters of ice and collected 8 meters of 39 mm (1.5-inch) diameter excellent quality rock core. Nearly 5 meters of ice core was also collected near the ice-bedrock transition, however, the core quality was poor.
In preparation for a project in northern Greenland beginning in 2023, IDP engineers are completing necessary modifications and upgrades to the system that were postponed following the 2016-2017 deployment to Antarctica. In spring 2019, IDP engineers completed air drop testing in a prototype well near Madison to quantify parameters that may create a hydrofracking situation in ice. In such situations, borehole fluid circulation would be lost, halting drilling. This was experienced in one of the two holes drilled at Pirrit Hills and a number of times with the RAID Drill at Minna Bluff. IDP Engineers have reviewed fluid pressures tables to try and mitigate this risk on future projects. The Operations and Maintenance Manual for the drill system has also been updated to reflect the latest modifications.
The ASIG Drill is much less logistically intensive than the Rapid Access Ice Drill (RAID) deep drilling system developed by the University of Minnesota Duluth.
For information on another sub-glacial rock coring drill in the IDP inventory, see the Winkie Drill.
|Name||Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill|
Rock coring; ice coring/augering
|Number in Inventory||
Number in Inventory
|Max. Practical Depth||
Max. Practical Depth
700 m (maximum drilling depth through ice)
|Rock Core Diameter||
Rock Core Diameter
|Rock Core Length||
Rock Core Length
|IDP Driller Required?||
IDP Driller Required?
Yes, 2 drillers (4 people required for drill assembly)
|Drill Fluid Required?||
Drill Fluid Required?
120 V, 5 kW generator
|Estimated Drilling Time||
Estimated Drilling Time
|Time to Move (breakdown and setup)||
Time to Move (breakdown and setup)
Yes (see system weight/cube below)
|Light Aircraft Transportable?||
Light Aircraft Transportable?
Yes (see system weight/cube below)
19,000 lbs (200 m);
|Shipping Volume (Cube)||
Current drill capabilities require ice at the drill site to be free of cracks and frozen to the bed.
Intermittent ice coring possible by replacing non-coring bit with core barrel assembly
|Pavel Talalay, Hong J (2021) Perspectives for development of ice drilling technology: continuation of the discussion. Annals of Glaciology, 62, (84), 143-156. doi: 10.1017/aog.2020.81. https://doi.org/10.1017/aog.2020.81||2021|
|Mary R Albert, Kristina R Slawny, Grant Boeckmann, Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Keith Makinson, Julius Rix (2020) Recent Innovations in Drilling in Ice. Chapter 6 of Advances in Terrestrial Drilling: Ground, Ice and Underwater, Bar-Cohen and Zacny, eds., 157-220. https://www.routledge.com/Advances-in-Terrestrial-Drilling-Ground-Ice-and-Under…||2020|
|Allie Balter, Lucas H Beem, John W Goodge, Sean Gulick, Chloe Gustafson, David Harwood, Jennifer Lamp, Amy Leventer, Amelia Schevenell, Matthew R Siegfried, Perry Spector, John Stone, Slawek Tulaczyk, Sophie Warny, Paul Winberry, Dale Winebrenner, Duncan Young (2019) White Paper: Assessment of East Antarctic Ice Sheet sensitivity to warming and its potential for contributions to sea level rise. Ice Drilling Program Subglacial Access Working Group Science Planning Workshop, March 29-30, 2019, Herndon, Virginia, USA, 1-18.||2019|
|Chris J Gibson (2019) ASIG‐Air Drop Test Report. Document #8323‐0025, 1-9.||2019|
|Kristin Poinar, Jennifer Lamp, Allie Balter, Perry Spector, Dale Winebrenner, Slawek Tulaczyk (2019) White Paper: Subglacial Access Working Group (SAWG): Access Drilling Priorities in Greenland. Ice Drilling Program Subglacial Access Working Group Science Planning Workshop, March 29-30, 2019, Herndon, Virginia, USA, 1-7.||2019|
|Perry Spector, John Stone, Nathaniel Lifton, Robert Ackert, Brent Goehring, Greg Balco, Bill McIntosh, Seth Campbell, Matt Zimmerer, Trista J Vick-Majors, Dale Winebrenner (2019) White Paper: Drilling priorities to determine the past extent of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Ice Drilling Program Subglacial Access Working Group Science Planning Workshop, March 29-30, 2019, Herndon, Virginia, USA, 1-10.||2019|
|U.S. Ice Drilling Program (2019) Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill Operations and Maintenance Manual. 1-23.||2019|
|IDDO (2015) Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill System Design Review. 1-72.||2015|
|John Stone, Jaakko Putkonen, Edward Brook, IDPO (2014) Science Requirements: Agile Sub-Ice Geological Drill. 1-2.||2014|
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