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 2016, IDP conducted an extensive North American Test of the complete system just outside of Madison, WI. The drill system was deployed to Pirrit Hills, Antarctica for the 2016-2017 field season where it 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 have completed necessary modifications and upgrades to the system that were postponed following the 2016-2017 deployment to Antarctica. In 2019, IDP engineers completed air drop testing to quantify parameters that may create a hydrofracking situation in ice. A pressure relief valve has been implemented to prevent system and borehole damage in such situations. A shaker table has been implemented for separating ice chips and drill fluid, and engine maintenance was completed. A longer wireline cable was procured and spooled in 2022 to allow for collection of cores through the inside of the drill pipe down to 600 m depth. The Operations and Maintenance Manual for the drill system has been updated to reflect the latest modifications. The system will be shipped in two 20-foot shipping containers to Greenland in June 2022.
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.
|Tanner W Kuhl, Chris J Gibson, Jay A Johnson, Grant Boeckmann, Elliot Moravec, Kristina R Slawny (2021) Agile Sub-Ice Geological (ASIG) Drill development and Pirrit Hills field project. Annals of Glaciology, 62, (84), 53-66. doi: 10.1017/aog.2020.59. https://doi.org/10.1017/aog.2020.59||2021|
|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) 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) 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) 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|
|2023 Arctic - Collaborative Research: GreenDrill: The response of the northern Greenland Ice Sheet to Arctic Warmth - Direct constrains from sub-ice bedrock|
|2016-2017 Antarctic - Exposed Rock Beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet|
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Intermittent ice coring possible by replacing non-coring bit with core barrel assembly